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Nonchalant is the word

Nell: Thank goodness Tony came to visit.

Me: Why?

Nell: David needs a friend and distraction. He’s starting to suspect that something is wrong. At Morning Thoughts today he said Poppy was giving Sally a hard stare.

Me: And was she?

Nell: Of course. I’ve had to ask Malcolm to prepare Sally’s food after I saw Poppy cutting toast with her sword and sprinkling chilli on Sally’s scrambled eggs.

Me: That sounds quite nice.

Nell: That’s not the point. And as for Gladys and The Cat.

Me: Do they know too?

Nell: I blame Handsome. I think he and The Cat had one dry Martini too many and he spilt the biscuits.

Me: You mean beans.

Nell: I do not. Handsome hates beans. Anyway, it definitely knows and so does Gladys.

Me: They mustn’t let Bad Sally know they know.

Nell: Stop calling her that. You all need to be discreet. Nonchalant is the word.

Me: They probably don’t know what it means.

Nell: Well, I haven’t seen anything less nonchalant than Gladys in a full length ball gown and The Cat in a sequinned jumpsuit dancing to ‘Evil Woman.’

Me: I did wonder.

Nell: And I saw Alejandro spit and he hardly ever does that now.

Me: Any more news from Henry?

Nell: Yes. I’m not sure you can deal with it.

Me: What did it say?

Nell: ‘Sadie Hunter.’

Me: Who is she?

Nell: Someone very dangerous.

Me: Not a member of The Black Claw?

Nell: I am afraid so.

Me: Do we know her?

Nell: Yes, we do.

Me: You don’t mean Bad Sally is Sadie?

Nell: Yes. Stop calling her that.

Me: Henry said Sadie Hunter.

Nell: Yes.

Me: Hunter. We all need to run.

Nell: I told you. Nonchalant is the word.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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I have something to tell you

Nell: Close the door. I have something important to discuss with you.

Me: What’s happened?

Nell: You are not going to believe this.

Me: I just might.

Nell: What I’m about to tell you is in the strictest confidence.

Me: That’s a bit difficult.

Nell: If you tell anyone they will have to swear to keep it to themselves.

Me: Ok.

Nell: Henry has been in touch with Horst using Louse Code.

Me: What’s Louse Code?

Nell: I think it’s done with leaves, sticks and vibrations but I am not sure. Anyway, that’s not the point. Henry is alive.

Me: What did Henry say?

Nell: It was rather shocking.

Me: Please just tell me what he said.

Nell: ‘It’s not Sally.’

Me: What?

Nell: That’s all, apart from ‘Min’ at the end.

Me: Min?

Nell: Min is Henry’s nickname because he’s so small. It’s a family secret so Horst knows it’s definitely him.

Me: Clever.

Nell: The question is, what does it mean?

Me: Sally didn’t do it?

Nell: Or, Sally isn’t Sally.

Me: But if Sally isn’t Sally, then who is she? And how come she looks like Sally?

Nell: That is what we mean to find out.

Me: But how are we going to do that?

Nell: Handsome is in a meeting right now with Charlie, Horst and Knitwear Wolf.

Me: But we have to tell Dave. My Big Brave Beautiful Boy is in danger.

Nell: Harriet has been informed and is watching over David until we know more.

Me: But Dave needs to know.

Nell: There is a high probability that David will reveal the truth if he’s told. We have to consider Henry and Sally’s safety too.

Me: True.

Nell: Don’t worry. We will come up with a plan. We always do.

Me: You’re right. Sorry.

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Missing but not lost

Nell: I blame myself.

Me: You mustn’t do that.

Nell: I should have stayed focussed.

Me: Let’s go over what happened again. We might have missed something.

Nell: The picnic was all set up on the beach and the weather was perfect.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Knitwear Wolf wanted everyone to appear relaxed, so Mutley had a little sleep on a blanket in the sand dunes and Sally stayed with him.

Me: That was kind of her.

Nell: The Welsh Corgi choir sang sea shanties while the Whippets Institute passed round sandwiches and flasks of tea.

Me: Yes.

Nell: The cheese board was in the middle of the beach with the Cornish Yarg on prominent display.

Me: What happened next?

Nell: David was coming back from a swim when he noticed a dark shadow over the cheese board so he gave a warning bark.

Me: Yes. I saw Handsome move towards it. You have to admire the way cats can slink.

Nell: I crept in on soft paws and Harriet focussed on it intently.

Me: We were all fairly focussed to be fair.

Nell: And that’s when Sally screamed so we all ran towards her.

Me: It was shocking.

Nell: Apparently a wild Beefy had attacked her but it had gone by the time we got there.

Me: And so had the Cornish Yarg.

Nell: Yes. We only took our eyes off it for a moment but it was long enough for it to be taken.

Me: But it wasn’t only the Cornish Yarg.

Nell: No. It was Henry too. He had bravely positioned himself on the outside of the cheese. It’s wrapped in nettles so a woodlouse is easily camouflaged.

Me: Poor darling Henry.

Nell: Until we know differently Henry is just missing not lost.

Me: You are right. Sorry.

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Poor David

Me: What’s wrong, Nell? Dave looks very upset.

Nell: Charlie had a chat with David and if Sally is expecting puppies they are definitely not David’s.

Me: Oh my poor Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Yes, and there’s more. Can you be trusted to keep this to yourself?

Me: Not really, but tell me anyway.

Nell: You know the evil Black Claw are trying to turn animals bad?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Handsome says their leader Hunter is in our area.

Me: Crikey.

Nell: Fortunately Handsome has a plan. Gary is on his way now to help him and he’s bringing his cheeses.

Me: I’m not sure now is the time to be eating, Nell, although Dave probably wouldn’t say no to a slice of cheddar.

Nell: It’s not about cheddar. It’s all about Cornish Yarg.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Handsome has it on good authority that Hunter is partial to Cornish Yarg.

Me: Is that why the sporran wearing Beefy bought some?

Nell: Exactly. The Beefies are working for The Black Claw.

Me: The villains.

Nell: So we are going to have a picnic on the beach.

Me: In this weather?

Nell: Yes. Knitwear Wolf has thick woollen sweaters and hats for anyone needing them. Attendance is compulsory.

Me: Why?

Nell: We need to see who goes for the Cornish Yarg.

Me: But I like Cornish Yarg.

Nell: We know it isn’t you. Do keep up. Handsome thinks Hunter may show his hand when he sees the cheese.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Now, I can’t sit here talking to you when I have invitations to write. We need to make sure everyone knows about the picnic.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Remember, tell nobody.

Me: I thought we were inviting everyone.

Nell: Good grief. Tell them where but not why.

Me: I see. Sorry.

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Expecting

Nell: So when will you be home?

Me: Late afternoon. Are you coming with Kev to collect me?

Nell: Of course. Did you learn anything new while you were away?

Me: Yes. Did you know Belgians aren’t keen on negotiating?

Nell: Are we talking about the Belgian Malinois, or the Belgian Shepherd?

Me: I’m not sure. How is Hamish managing without his sporran?

Nell: Myfanwy has taken him under her paw. He was a guest soloist at Morning Songs.

Me: With the Welsh corgi choir?

Nell: Yes. It’s Sunday. Hamish isn’t a singer so he joined Gladys in a Highland Fling while the choir sang ‘I love a Lassie’.

Me: I see what you did there.

Nell: One of the Beefies tried to join in on the bagpipes but a well aimed scone soon put a stop to it.

Me: Poppy?

Nell: No. Knitwear Wolf. He has taken to wearing a kilt and I must say it really suits him.

Me: I can imagine.

Nell: David’s kilt is in the Anderson tartan but Sally refused to let him wear his sequinned waistcoat.

Me: It’s a shame Sally won’t let him wear what he wants. That’s not like her.

Nell: Yes. To be honest we’re all finding Sally rather difficult.

Me: Really?

Nell: She seems like a different dog.

Me: Has she been speaking Swedish?

Nell: No. Only a little Spanish with Alejandro.

Me: You don’t think she could be expecting, do you?

Nell: Expecting what? Personally I never know what to expect.

Me: I meant expecting the patter of tiny feet.

Nell: Are you referring to Gladys, or a corgi?

Me: I’m talking about puppies. Her puppies. Well, hers and Dave’s I suppose.

Nell: What? David would never take advantage of Sally. He is an honourable boy.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Handsome has a lead

Me: My darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy looks awfully tired.

Nell: Waiting can be extremely exhausting you know.

Me: Who is Dave waiting for?

Nell: You, of course. What a silly question. We don’t like it when you are away.

Me: So when were you going to tell me Henry was hiding in my scarf?

Nell: Was he?

Me: Don’t play the innocent.

Nell: We thought you would like the company. I hope you’re looking after him.

Me: Yes, he’s on the balcony. He loves the sea views, especially the sunsets.

Nell: He can’t stay out there too long. He’s a house woodlouse.

Me: I know.

Nell: Just keep him warm and safe.

Me: I will. How are things?

Nell: We have had a development.

Me: Tell me more.

Nell: Handsome has a lead and it’s all because of Cornish Yarg.

Me: That’s a cheese wrapped in nettles.

Nell: I know. May I continue?

Me: Yes.

Nell: So Gary was delivering the cheeses as usual and he got talking with Handsome who was admiring his Somerset Brie.

Me: Who is Gary?

Nell: You must know Gary the Goat. Long hair and a beard. He runs the farm shop near the Garden Centre. He is one of Poppy’s suppliers.

Me: I don’t think I know him.

Nell: Anyway it turns out that a Beefy wearing a sporran bought a piece of Cornish Yarg from Gary’s shop yesterday so Handsome is following it up.

Me: Was it Scottish?

Nell: No, it said ‘Thanks, Buddy’ so it’s clearly a local.

Me: Very interesting.

Nell: Funnily enough Gary is convinced that Cornish Yarg is named after him.

Me: Why?

Nell: He thinks it’s Gary spelt backwards.

Me: It isn’t.

Nell: I know but Gary is dyslexic. Don’t be so judgemental.

Me: I see. Sorry.

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I know that face

Me: Oh dear. I know that face.

Nell: How are you enjoying your retreat?

Me: It was lovely to wake up to the sound of the sea. Time to pause and reflect.

Nell: Not something I will be doing as long as that animal is around.

Me: Are you talking about Handsome?

Nell: I certainly am.

Me: He’s arrived then?

Nell: With a flourish. I can accept the dinner jacket, or tuxedo as he calls it, although I told him the dress code was smart casual, but I don’t want guns in the house.

Me: Quite right, too.

Nell: He said he is never without one but I insisted he deposit it at the front door. This is Devon not Chicago.

Me: He’s from South Carolina.

Nell: That’s not the point. And he keeps asking for dry martinis.

Me: Shaken not stirred?

Nell: Exactly. He insisted on fresh lobster for dinner and then snapped at David for getting it all over him.

Me: It’s easily done. Lobsters are quite difficult to shell.

Nell: Yes they are. Poppy provided hammers but David was a little too vigorous with his.

Me: Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Malcolm helped. He’s an expert with shellfish.

Me: Any sign of the sporran wearing Beefy?

Nell: No. A few of them were wearing kilts and one was playing the bagpipes badly but we ignored them.

Me: Wise decision though probably quite difficult to do.

Nell: It was. Another one threw a haggis at Gladys but she hit it back with her baseball bat.

Me: Does she play then?

Nell: Oh yes, although not usually with a haggis. She scored a home run, though.

Me: Was anyone else playing?

Nell: Yes, we all joined in. You can’t play baseball alone you know.

Me: Of course not. Sorry.

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Handsome is on the case

Nell: I’m afraid we had no choice.

Me: What are you talking about?

Nell: When we went down to the beach and noticed a Beefy wearing a sporran we had to call for back up.

Me: Owl Pacino?

Nell: No. Handsome.

Me: Handsome?

Nell: Yes. The Cat’s cousin Handsome from South Carolina in the United States. Do keep up.

Me: I didn’t know The Cat had a cousin.

Nell: The Cat has cousins everywhere. None of them, however, are quite like Handsome.

Me: He certainly has a determined look in his eye.

Nell: I definitely wouldn’t want to cross him.

Me: When does he arrive?

Nell: Later today. His private jet is landing in a few hours. Knitwear Wolf is collecting him on his motorbike.

Me: Is Rupert still wearing a loose cardigan?

Nell: No. He is in an Argyle sweater this morning and corduroy trousers in a rather fetching forest green with a matching beret.

Me: He sounds very dashing.

Nell: Where are you going? Your case is packed.

Me: To the Writers’ Retreat. I told you about it ages ago.

Nell: So just when everything starts happening you go on holiday?

Me: It’s not a holiday as such. I’m going there to write.

Nell: Leaving me to cope with a sporranless corgi and an international hit cat.

Me: I didn’t know that when I booked.

Nell: Not to mention Sally who is behaving very strangely at the moment.

Me: What do you mean?

Nell: Charlie says she seems different.

Me: How odd.

Nell: And Knitwear Wolf isn’t sure about her either.

Me: How do you know?

Nell: He keeps muttering ‘Really?’ to himself.

Me: Really?

Nell: Exactly.

Me: Keep me posted and please look after Kev.

Nell: You know I will. Now go and write.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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World Kindness Day

Nell: How many times do I have to tell you to wear socks when you are downstairs writing?

Me: But Kev lit the fire and I’m warm.

Nell: It’s not enough. It’s a cold day.

Me: Where are the puppies?

Nell: In the kitchen Keeping an Eye on Poppy. She is baking shortbread for Hamish. He needs a little taste of home.

Me: Is he staying with us now then?

Nell: Of course he is. We can’t let him wander the cold lanes of Devon without his sporran. Let me warm your legs.

Me: You are very kind.

Nell: You know how much I value the importance of kindness. It is the first thing one should look for in someone and vastly underrated.

Me: I agree.

Nell: And today is World Kindness Day of course.

Me: Knitwear Wolf is awfully kind.

Nell: I agree. You know he spent all day looking for that sporran? To no avail I might add.

Me: I wonder what worldly goods Hamish had in there.

Nell: The usual I expect. Wallet, drivers licence, keys. Maybe an old tissue. They always seem to creep in.

Me: It might just have been a marmalade sandwich. Worldly goods mean different things to different people you know.

Nell: Honestly, I despair of you sometimes I really do. A marmalade sandwich indeed.

Me: You would be surprised.

Nell: I’ll tell you who did surprise me, though.

Me: Who?

Nell: Sally. She’s gone off bacon. Poppy made her a sandwich this morning and she refused it.

Me: But Sally loves bacon.

Nell: Not anymore. David had to eat it for her.

Me: He is such a kind Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Just put some socks on. Rupert brought us all thick angora ones so wear yours, please.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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A trying morning

Nell: Do you want the rest of that toast?

Me: Yes, thank you.

Nell: I was just Keeping an Eye. I’ve had rather a trying morning.

Me: Why?

Nell: Let’s just say, don’t be surprised if you open the door and find a k…

Me: Kangaroo?

Nell: Don’t be silly.

Me: A Komodo dragon?

Nell: What on earth would they be doing in Devon?

Me: Stranger things have happened.

Nell: Where was I?

Me: Is it a King Penguin?

Nell: Now you’re being ridiculous. Everyone knows King Penguins have excellent manners and would never arrive unannounced.

Me: So what will I find?

Nell: A kilted corgi.

Me: Is that all?

Nell: Yes. His name is Hamish and he’s lost his sporran.

Me: Isn’t he in danger of losing his kilt as well?

Nell: No. A sporran doesn’t hold up a kilt, it is like a pouch, or a pocket. Somewhere you can keep your things.

Me: I suppose it is.

Nell: Anyway, Hamish is very distressed. All his worldly goods were in that sporran.

Me: We can’t just leave him outside, Nell. All lost and sporranless.

Nell: Fortunately Knitwear Wolf arrived with the papers so he’s taken Hamish with him on his motorbike to search for it.

Me: I suspect the Beefies.

Nell: Yes, it certainly sounds likely.

Me: Is Hamish related to the Welsh corgi choir then?

Nell: Of course not. Do you think I am related to that rude Golden Labrador who shouts at cyclists near the quay?

Me: No.

Nell: Well then. Hamish is here on holiday. I’ve invited him to tea.

Me: I’m sure Poppy has some shortbread.

Nell: We will be having a selection of finger sandwiches with the crusts off, followed by scones, jam and cream. We have standards to maintain.

Me: Yes. Sorry.