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Harriet is exhausted

Me: Harriet’s exhausted. It’s all that running yesterday.

Nell: Yes. Let her sleep, please. Poppy has put her bacon in the oven to keep warm. She can have her sandwich later.

Me: Unless somebody eats it by mistake.

Nell: David will carry it up to her when she wakes with a nice cup of tea.

Me: Are you sure that’s wise? The temptation might be too much for my Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: David assures me that he has turned over a new biscuit on the Eating by Mistake front. He is three now and can deal with Temptation.

Me: Don’t you mean turned over a new leaf?

Nell: Certainly not. Why would David be turning over leaves? He’s not a woodlouse. Leave that to Henry and Horst.

Me: There seems to be a lot of excitement in the air this morning.

Nell: I’m afraid it’s a case of Birds Behaving Badly.

Me: Oh dear. I hope Malcolm wasn’t involved.

Nell: Malcolm?

Me: Wasn’t he taking Our Penguin and Princess to do some filming with Count Bingo Flamingo and the boys?

Nell: Are you referring to the Flamingo Foreign Legion?

Me: Yes.

Nell: I wondered for a moment. You’re making them sound like a boy band.

Me: My mistake.

Nell: Anyway, according to the cows there was an awful rumpus at the Hard Rook Cafe last night.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: A group of young blackbirds got into a disagreement with a family of visiting crows. Feathers flew.

Me: I hope nobody was hurt.

Nell: Walter will know the details.

Me: Walter Pigeon?

Nell: Yes. He works nights at the Hard Rook Cafe.

Me: As a barbird?

Nell: Certainly not.

Me: It was just a joke.

Nell: Walter is on the door. He’s a bouncer.

Me: Of course. Sorry.

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Can I have a word, please?

Nell: Can I have a word, please?

Me: What have I done now?

Nell: I thought you went to the hairdressers.

Me: I did. Look at my hair.

Nell: Who are those animals then?

Me: Hope and Leo. They run the salon with Sophie. I met them just before the pandemic, don’t you remember? Lovely boys.

Nell: Oh yes. I thought they were Dartmouth Dachshunds for a moment.

Me: No. I wasn’t in Dartmouth, just Kingsbridge.

Nell: You can find Dartmouth Dachshunds anywhere in my experience. They are very sociable creatures.

Me: That’s true.

Nell: Nowadays they are having to zoom, of course, due to social distancing but where there’s a virtual party you are likely to find a Dartmouth Dachshund.

Me: Well, Hope and Leo were very welcoming, and it was so lovely to finally have my hair cut and my colour back. I feel like me again.

Nell: Yes. Kev and I are rather glad to have you back, too.

Me: It was getting me down, Nell. Unfortunately bad hair can affect your self confidence.

Nell: Yes. I’m thankful for my glossy coat. Talking of hair, Poppy says she’s booked in for a cut on Friday.

Me: Yes. I still don’t think she should take her sword with her, though. Could you talk to her?

Nell: I can try but you know what she’s like.

Me: It gives the wrong impression.

Nell: Poppy rarely travels without her sword. You know that.

Me: At least she’s not a Doberman.

Nell: What’s that supposed to mean?

Me: A Doberman arriving at the groomers with a sword would be much more worrying than a small Maltese cross.

Nell: You have nothing to worry about. John will be waiting outside and Dobermans don’t do clipping anyway. Do keep up.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Most Undignified

Me: Dave is looking rather magnificent today.

Nell: He’s trying to copy John the Doberman.

Me: John the Doberman? What do you mean?

Nell: Haven’t you seen the way John sits when he is waiting for Poppy?

Me: Oh yes. He is just like a noble soldier on guard duty.

Nell: Yes. He likes to keep Poppy safe.

Me: Do you remember when we first met him and we weren’t sure if he was good or bad?

Nell: Stop right there. Remember some people haven’t read the book yet.

Me: Yes. Of course.

Nell: Talking of the book. We need to say a big thank you for all the reviews which are coming in now. People have been most kind.

Me: They certainly have. I hope they keep them coming as they really do make a difference.

Nell: They will. We couldn’t have done it without them as you say in the Acknowledgements at the end of the book.

Me: I hope people know I meant every word.

Nell: They know.

Me: As soon as I’ve worked out how to do it I’ll start gathering names and addresses for the signed book plates and work out costs for sending them out.

Nell: Well, I have enough time on my paws to help as I’m confined to home.

Me: You’re not confined to home, Nell. We had a gentle walk down to the pond and around the orchard yesterday. You enjoyed it.

Nell: The grass was lovely and soft underpaw but none of it made up for the indignity of the dressing gown belt.

Me: Kev was out with everyone and all the leads were in the car. I had to think fast and that was all I could find.

Nell: Most undignified. It was white and fluffy.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Sunday sulk

Me: Are you sulking?

Nell: I never sulk.

Me: That’s not true.

Nell: I’m just extremely disappointed in your cruel and heartless behaviour.

Me: That’s a bit harsh.

Nell: Denying me the pleasure of a walk.

Me: You were limping badly and it wasn’t your usual stiff leg. I think you pulled a muscle playing Shenanigans with the puppies.

Nell: I could have managed a gentle walk.

Me: It’s best to take it easy for a few more days.

Nell: A few more days?

Me: You are already a little better today so it’s working. How about a swim in Princess’s pool?

Nell: It’s full of llamas.

Me: Oh yes. I’d forgotten. They’ve probably only booked for an hour.

Nell: Who bathes in pyjamas anyway?

Me: I think they might be a little shy.

Nell: Llamas aren’t shy. They’re lazy. I know for a fact that Rupert supplied them with knitted swimsuits. They simply couldn’t be bothered to get changed.

Me: I don’t want to be mean but a knitted swimsuit isn’t really practical.

Nell: They are very popular with the larger animals. Wetsuits can be extremely unflattering for the bigger boned.

Me: Tell me about it.

Nell: Talking of larger animals did you see John arrive?

Me: No. Is he performing at Sunday Songs?

Nell: I don’t think so, although he has a pleasant baritone voice. He was carrying flowers.

Me: You can still sing when you’re holding flowers, Nell.

Nell: That’s not the point. He’s visiting Poppy.

Me: Was he wearing a velvet jacket?

Nell: No. Shorts and T shirt as usual. Poppy prefers casual.

Me: But not flip flops I hope.

Nell: Don’t be silly. No self respecting Doberman would ever be seen in a pair of flip flops. He’s wearing canvas shoes.

Me: Of course. Sorry.

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Sunny Saturday

Me: What a beautiful sunny day. Look at our darling Harriet.

Nell: Yes. The puppies are allowed sun lounger time first thing in the morning and late afternoon but definitely not at midday.

Me: Understood.

Nell: Bowls of fresh cool water will be made available to all animals throughout the house and there is the distinct possibility of ice cream later.

Me: Sounds good to me.

Nell: Swimming classes with Princess will resume at 3pm for the smaller animals and 5pm for the larger ones.

Me: What about the middle sized ones?

Nell: 4pm of course. Do keep up.

Me: What if you’re not sure of your size?

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: Well, Dave thinks he’s smaller than he really is and Poppy definitely thinks she’s bigger.

Nell: Uncertain Animals will be measured by The Cat.

Me: I’m definitely not an Uncertain Animal then. I don’t want to be measured.

Nell: Yes. The Cat is most unforgiving with its tape measure. Shouting it out to all and sundry like a town crier.

Me: Dreadful.

Nell: It accused me of having a barrel chest.

Me: All Labradors do, don’t they? It can make you look bigger than you are. Dave’s chest is enormous.

Nell: David clearly belongs with the larger animals. He stepped over a visiting pony the other day.

Me: It was a Shetland pony, Nell. To be fair. They are very small.

Nell: If John the Doberman arrives he is most definitely not welcome. Poppy’s orders.

Me: I think he can swim already.

Nell: No. Not for swimming class. He wants to see Poppy. She’s refusing to answer his calls.

Me: He might be innocent, Nell.

Nell: A velvet jacket and a shop bought scone have guilt written all over them.

Me: You might be right. Sorry.

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A step too far

Me: You two look so sweet together. I was going to come over but Poppy’s giving me one of her hard stares.

Nell: She’s not in the best of moods. In fact I should warn you that somewhere in this basket she has concealed her sword.

Me: What have I done?

Nell: It’s got nothing to do with you.

Me: Surely it’s not the puppies? They’re ever so sorry for barging her yesterday.

Nell: No. It’s John the Doberman.

Me: Poppy’s fiancĂ©?

Nell: Of course. I know Dobermans usually travel in twos but I haven’t seen any others recently.

Me: Actually, I haven’t seen John in a while.

Nell: Exactly.

Me: What’s happened?

Nell: According to the cows and my friend Pamela..

Me: The large Pyrenean Mountain Dog?

Nell: Less of the large, please. No need to be sizeist.

Me: Apologies.

Nell: Where was I?

Me: Listening to gossip.

Nell: Do you want to know, or not?

Me: Yes.

Nell: According to Pamela, and confirmed by the cows, John was seen enjoying a shop bought scone with a flamboyant feline down at the quay.

Me: Has Starbarks reopened then?

Nell: That’s not the point. There’s more.

Me: Surely not.

Nell: John was wearing a velvet jacket.

Me: That’s not like John at all. Knitwear Wolf can carry it off but John’s more of a t shirt and shorts type.

Nell: Poppy is understandably furious.

Me: I don’t think that’s entirely fair of her. If John wants to dress up now and again in inappropriately warm formal wear then it’s up to him.

Nell: It’s not the jacket.

Me: Well, the feline is obviously Zsa Zsa The Paw. She’s probably just trying to drum up business.

Nell: It’s the shop bought scone. It’s a step too far.

Me: Of course. Sorry.

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Unnecessary Barging

Me: What’s wrong?

Nell: We received another petition from the smaller animals this morning.

Me: Oh no. What about this time?

Nell: Unnecessary Barging. Poppy was the victim.

Me: Unnecessary Barging?

Nell: Yes. David is very prone to this, of course. Jonathan has been barged on a number of occasions. Unfortunately in this particular case Harriet was the ringleader.

Me: Oh dear. I don’t see Harriet as a natural barger. I know my Big Brave Beautiful Boy can be over keen at times.

Nell: It also took place in an extremely dangerous location which makes matters much worse.

Me: Are you sure? Mightn’t there have been some exaggeration?

Nell: I’m afraid not. There’s photographic evidence. Our Penguin caught it all on camera.

Me: Was Our Penguin filming a new documentary?

Nell: That’s not the point. Poppy was at the top of the stairs when the puppies heard a delivery van and barged past her.

Me: They get awfully excited about deliveries.

Nell: Fortunately you had left a bag of washing at the top of the stairs which cushioned Poppy’s sideways fall.

Me: What can we do about it?

Nell: Both Harriet and David were questioned by the small animals’ representative at Morning Thoughts.

Me: Are we talking about Poppy now?

Nell: No. Gladys. Poppy is Chief Executive but she was involved in the incident so could only be called as a witness.

Me: I see.

Nell: Anyway, the upshot of it all is that both puppies are Extremely Sorry and showed Great Remorse.

Me: Good.

Nell: They have promised to try and be more careful in future and to look before leaping.

Me: Maybe the smaller animals should shout ‘Small Animal Passing Through’ in future?

Nell: There is no time to shout when you are being barged.

Me: No. Sorry.

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Small animal speaking

Nell: Morning Thoughts was a little tense today.

Me: Why?

Nell: Poppy presented a petition from the smaller animals.

Me: What did it say?

Nell: It was rather long-winded to be perfectly honest but the gist of it was that they are being Overlooked in favour of middle sized and larger animals who are Stealing the Limelight.

Me: Oh dear. Anyone specifically?

Nell: You’re going to laugh but they particularly mentioned David, Harriet and me.

Me: You?

Nell: Quite. Whoever heard of such nonsense?

Me: Well, I suppose the book does have your name on the front.

Nell: Of course it does. The conversations are with me.

Me: And my Big Brave Beautiful Boy just loves attention. But Harriet is quiet.

Nell: According to the smaller animals Harriet is Secretly Demanding.

Me: Really?

Nell: Yesterday, for instance, when Kev was working on the terrace, Harriet demanded stroking.

Me: You all do that, to be honest.

Nell: She was the most persistent. Poppy was trying to discuss something important with Kev and ended up having to stand on her back paws in order to be seen and heard.

Me: What was the important something?

Nell: That’s not the point. Scones, if you must know. PC Panda suggested cheese scones for a change. Poppy’s not keen and wanted Kev’s opinion.

Me: Kev loves cheese.

Nell: Yes, but he said if pushed, he would go for a more traditional scone with jam and cream and have his cheese melted on toast as a starter.

Me: Fair enough.

Nell: Anyway, it’s all resolved. If a smaller animal is feeling ignored they just need to shout ‘Small Animal Speaking’ and the others will listen.

Me: I’m going to try that myself next Zoom meeting.

Nell: I wouldn’t if I were you.

Me: No. Sorry.

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Buck Moon Velvet

Me: Did I wake you?

Nell: Certainly not.

Me: You’ve got a floppy eared face and velvet eyes. So you’ve definitely been asleep.

Nell: How can anyone have a floppy eared face? Ears aren’t on your face.

Me; You know what I mean. You were napping. Admit it.

Nell: Harriet has been very unsettled over the past few days so David and I have been sleeping badly. I suppose I might have drifted off briefly.

Me: Maybe we should ask Harriet to sleep in the kitchen?

Nell: In the kitchen? All alone? This is Harriet. My niece. She’s sleeping on the sofa. David and I will cope.

Me: I wonder what’s wrong with her.

Nell: It’s all this velvet business if you ask me. It’s unsettling everyone.

Me: I think it’s the full moon. I always sleep badly then.

Nell: You might be right. It was the Buck Moon.

Me: Why Buck Moon?

Nell: It’s the time of year when young deer start growing antlers.

Me: You don’t think Harriet is growing antlers do you?

Nell: Don’t be silly.

Me: I’ve just had a strange thought.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: Young deers’ antlers are covered in velvet.

Nell: No. They feel like velvet. There’s a difference.

Me: It’s still velvet. Maybe that’s why we are all wearing velvet even though it’s the wrong time of year?

Nell: Good grief.

Me: Because it isn’t the wrong time of year for deer. It’s a velvet time of year for them.

Nell: Have you quite finished?

Me: I’ll ask Olive. She’s a reindeer.

Nell: I worry about you sometimes. I really do.

Me: The new Glamourpuss clothing line should be called Buck Moon Velvet and you’ve got Buck Moon Velvet eyes.

Nell: Can I go back to sleep now?

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Dave v Walter

Me: What on earth is Dave doing out there? He’s been staring at something for ages.

Nell: He’s playing Cheeky Animals with Walter.

Me: Walter Pigeon?

Nell: Yes, it’s not going to be your friend Walt, is it? He lives in Australia.

Me: Can pigeons even stick out their tongues?

Nell: They open their beaks. Walter is very skilled.

Me: How is Dave going to see him from there?

Nell: He can see. Don’t you worry. He has a keen eye.

Me: My darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy. I do hope he wins.

Nell: It’s thirty all at the moment in the second set. Walter won the first one but David is fighting back. The first set went to a tie break so it could go either way.

Me: Thirty all? How many times do they have to play?

Nell: It depends. If it keeps going to deuce it can take ages.

Me: How many sets?

Nell: Just three.

Me: Don’t they ever get bored?

Nell: David has been known to wander off for a bacon sandwich, but he always shouts ‘Rain stops play’ so that’s alright.

Me: But what if it isn’t raining?

Nell: It doesn’t matter, it is simply what you say. Cricketers don’t always really stop for tea you know. Some have coffee.

Me: Gosh. I didn’t know. I’ve always imagined scones, finger sandwiches and pots of tea.

Nell: Yes, well you would.

Me: One of my favourite childhood games was ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ So exciting trying to get near the wolf before it shouted ‘Dinner time.’ If Rupert agreed to play we could change it to ‘What’s the time Knitwear Wolf?’

Nell: I have never heard anything more inappropriate in my life. You’ll be pinning the tail on a llama next.

Me: Yes. Sorry.