I’d like a Word with you, please.

Nell: I’d like a word with you, please.

Me: Oh dear. What have I done now?

Nell: It has come to my attention that you and Alice were at the Cottage Hotel yesterday.

Me: We went there for lunch with Charlotte.

Nell: Your sister?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Without me?

Me: You were booked in for massage and hydrotherapy with Chloe so you couldn’t have come with us.

Nell: Convenient.

Me: We had to go then, Nell, because Charlotte was free and Alice flies back to Germany tomorrow.

Nell: The Cottage Hotel is my favourite place.

Me: Your session was booked weeks ago and we couldn’t change it.

Nell: Excuses.

Me: On a positive note, Chloe says you’ve lost 700g and you didn’t just float in the hydrotherapy tank but did some actual walking.

Nell: Just float?

Me: We both know you’ve worked out the life jacket supports you, so you lift all four paws off the ground and float instead of walk.

Nell: I might rest my legs now and again.

Me: You fell asleep on the warming mat, too.

Nell: Can you blame me?

Me: Not at all.

Nell: At least I’m sensible. What were you doing climbing those cliffs?

Me: I have to get my steps in, Nell.

Nell: Not up the side of a cliff.

Me: It was Alice’s idea.

Nell: Don’t blame other people.

Me: I was proud when I got up there because the steps were quite high.

Nell: Madness. You could hardly move later.

Me: I know but the view was amazing and I had a sense of achievement.

Nell: It was a cliff walk not Mount Everest.

Me: I think I should get bonus steps for climbing upwards.

Nell: And I think you owe me lunch at the Cottage Hotel.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Tuesday is not a Bacon Day

Me: Look at my darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy. Who could resist that little face?

Nell: David needs to stop begging for bacon.

Me: He’s a Labrador.

Nell: Tuesday is not a bacon day.

Me: But Alice is visiting.

Nell: Poppy is far too busy. Boiled eggs and soldiers will have to do. David knows that.

Me: What’s Poppy doing this morning?

Nell: Lassoing llamas, if you must know.

Me: Seriously?

Nell: Yes, and the wretched creatures aren’t cooperating.

Me: I don’t blame them.

Nell: Two of them actually cartwheeled away.

Me: How clever.

Nell: And several others simply fell over.

Me: Did anyone spit?

Nell: A couple of cowboys, but I don’t know where they came from.

Me: Is there any particular reason why Poppy is lassoing llamas?

Nell: I should have thought it was obvious.

Me: Not to me.

Nell: You can’t be Indiana Bones without knowing how to lasso a llama.

Me: Are you sure about that?

Nell: Yes.

Me: Well, David’s definitely going to need a bacon sandwich before he masters that skill. Everyone knows you can’t lasso anything on an empty stomach.

Nell: Very funny.

Me: How many Indianas are there?

Nell: More than we started with and more than we need, if you ask me.

Me: Is that lion still involved?

Nell: Lionel is part of the group.

Me: I think Jim the Farm Dog would make a wonderful replacement Indiana if Dave’s having an off day.

Nell: Funny you should say that.

Me: Why?

Nell: Bumper said the same thing at our management meeting.

Me: Has anyone spoken to Harriet yet?

Nell: Yes. Sally had a word with her last night.

Me: I mean about her crush on Bumper, not spying.

Nell: So do I and she took it well.

Me: Good. Sorry.


Sara’s been Overdoing It and Rupert thinks Harriet might have a Crush on Bumper

Me: What have I done now?

Nell: You know.

Me: No, I don’t.

Nell: You completely overdid it yesterday.

Me: Not really.

Nell: Dashing around like a mad thing changing beds and washing cushions.

Me: I want everything to be nice for Alice.

Nell: The cushions were absolutely fine.

Me: They were a bit doggy.

Nell: Doggy? They were just right.

Me: You might think so.

Nell: We all do. David was shocked when he got on the sofa last night.

Me: Bumper will be pleased with me.

Nell: Never mind, Bumper. I’ve told him he can’t take that stuffed tiger everywhere with him but he won’t listen.

Me: I think it’s rather sweet.

Nell: He’s a grown animal. Anyway, we were talking about you.

Me: Alice should be texting soon to let us know which train she’s on.

Nell: Stop changing the subject. Why all this walking in such hot weather? You are exhausted.

Me: It’s for Cancer Research, Nell.

Nell: When Alice gets here it’s time to put your feet up and have a cup of Earl Grey.

Me: Are you coming to the station?

Nell: Of course. Now, we need to discuss Harriet.

Me: Why?

Nell: Rupert thinks she might have a crush on Bumper.

Me: I suppose Knitwear Wolf would know all about crushes.

Nell: What do you mean?

Me: Half the Whippets Institute are in love with him and as for the Welsh Corgi Choir.

Nell: Enough.

Me: He’s a very handsome wolf.

Nell: We aren’t talking about Rupert.

Me: You were.

Nell: I was discussing Harriet and Bumper. Rupert thinks someone needs to have a word with her. Bumper obviously doesn’t feel the same way.

Me: He only has eyes for the stuffed tiger.

Nell: He sees her as a friend.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


An English Sunday

Me: Gosh, that was a thunderstorm and a half last night, wasn’t it?

Nell: Half what? Monsoon?

Me: The rain will have done the garden good and washed away some of the Saharan dust that’s been everywhere recently.

Nell: Is that what we’re calling it now?

Me: It really is from the Sahara. I’m not making it up.

Nell: That’ll make a change.

Me: Have you seen Dave?

Nell: David is outside enjoying a gentle chew on his favourite toy. Let him be. It’s Sunday.

Me: I thought he might want a cuddle after all the excitement of last night. The thunder was very loud.

Nell: I was there. He had nothing to fear.

Me: You were all very good. Harriet sat and watched the lightning with me and Poppy retired to Sandringham.

Nell: Having two palaces is useful. Now, I know Sunday is a day of rest but we have things to do.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Alice’s room must be made ready and Bumper wants everything neat and tidy.

Me: Our house is never tidy. Alice would be shocked if it was.

Nell: That’s what I said but the Welsh corgi choir have brought their feather dusters so who are we to complain?

Me: Won’t they be tired after Sunday Songs?

Nell: Nothing a cup of tea and some shortbread won’t fix.

Me: Is Poppy still cooking a Sunday roast?

Nell: Of course. Roast Beef with all the trimmings. Harriet wants Bumper to experience a proper English Sunday.

Me: What about Jim the Farm Dog? He must be feeling a little left out.

Nell: Poppy will make him some beef sandwiches to take into the fields.

Me: I meant left out of Harriet’s life. She’s barely noticed him recently.

Nell: Bumper’s just a pen pal. Stop fussing.

Me: Sorry.


Harriet is Happy and Sara has an Interesting Thought about Bumper

Me: Harriet seems awfully happy at the moment.

Nell: She’s just been for a swim and Bumper’s still here.

Me: I’ve had a thought about Bumper.

Nell: The field has certainly never been tidier.

Me: Even the Beefies are wearing napkins round their necks.

Nell: The Beefies?

Me: I noticed it this morning when they threw some mackerel at Malcolm. One of them wiped his beak.

Nell: Are you sure they weren’t scarves?

Me: Romeo was wearing that black wig but otherwise they looked like white linen napkins.

Nell: How odd.

Me: I thought Bumper must have spoken to them. He’s very persuasive.

Nell: I know.

Me: Anyway, coming back to my interesting thought about Bumper.

Nell: Must we?

Me: Harriet would love it if he could stick around.

Nell: Do you mean extend his visit?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Tell me more.

Me: What do you think about Bumper applying for stage manager?

Nell: That is an idea.

Me: He’s likeable, organised and not afraid to speak his mind when needed.

Nell: True.

Me: He’s even organised the Beefies.

Nell: Yes. That is impressive.

Me: Why don’t you run it by Snoopy and Lucy on your next zoom call?

Nell: Run it by? What’s the matter with you this morning?

Me: I’m in a doing mood.

Nell: Yes. It isn’t only Harriet who’s happy.

Me: Guess who’s coming to visit us on Monday?

Nell: It’s not that bear, is it?

Me: No, but it’s someone from Germany.

Nell: Who?

Me: Alice. She’s at a conference in Manchester and is going to stay with us afterwards until Thursday.

Nell: That’s wonderful.

Me: I know.

Nell: Why am I only hearing about this now? There’s so much to organise.

Me: Maybe Bumper can help?

Nell: Alice is my girl.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Miss Em is Fourteen

Nell: I need you to explain all this to me again, please.

Me: The weather is very hot at the moment.

Nell: Yes.

Me: And you are an elderly dog.

Nell: I am aware of that.

Me: We can’t go on the main beach yet because it’s closed to dogs until October.

Nell: I know.

Me: And the walk to River Beach is too far for you.

Nell: Is it?

Me: Yes. If you remember, Kev had to fetch the car and collect you and I from the bottom of the hill.

Nell: So?

Me: He wasn’t actually allowed to do that. He just did because you were struggling.

Nell: I see.

Me: And he can’t do that again.

Nell: I don’t see why not.

Me: It’s private access.

Nell: They wouldn’t mind.

Me: We’re going to take you all down to the river later when the sun eases off. It’s safer for me, too.

Nell: This getting old isn’t much fun, is it?

Me: No, it isn’t.

Nell: My friend Emily was 14 yesterday.

Me: Yes, I know she was. I love Miss Em and I thought we could feature her today.

Nell: Everyone loves Emily.

Me: They do.

Nell: Especially Janet.

Me: True. You and Emily have a lot in common.

Nell: Wisdom?

Me: It wasn’t the first thing I thought of.

Nell: Beauty?

Me: Definitely, but I was going to say stubborn and strong willed.

Nell: We know what we like.

Me: Yes.

Nell: And we know what we don’t.

Me: You certainly do.

Nell: And we’re both greatly loved.

Me: Without doubt. And by so many.

Nell: You know you should have featured Emily yesterday, don’t you?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Because yesterday was her birthday.

Me: I didn’t know until later.

Nell: Just saying.

Me: Sorry.


Talking Under the Gazebo

Me: It’s going to be very warm again today.

Nell: Don’t forget your hat and sunscreen.

Me: I won’t. The lovely thing about this weather is you can sit outside in the evening.

Nell: Yes. Kev enjoys doing that.

Me: I noticed Dave joined him last night.

Nell: Were you snooping?

Me: No. I thought they looked rather sweet together under my party gazebo so I took a photo.

Nell: The party bit was for Kev’s birthday. Jonathan Sky decided where the flags should go.

Me: Do you know what Dave and Kev were discussing?

Nell: Boy talk, I expect.

Me: But my Big Brave Beautiful Boy looked awfully serious.

Nell: Probably because he saw you snooping.

Me: I wasn’t.

Nell: We both know you were.

Me: I thought Dave would talk to me if he had any serious worries.

Nell: Serious worries? What are you talking about? They were probably discussing football.

Me: I don’t think they were.

Nell: Well, if they were discussing something serious then it’s good they were talking about it.

Me: I suppose so.

Nell: It doesn’t matter who you talk to, it’s the talking about it that’s the main thing.

Me: Yes, you’re right.

Nell: We all have our worries but sharing them can be scary.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Sharing yours last year was one of the bravest things you’ve ever done,

Me: Thank you. I thought it might help others.

Nell: I’m sure it did.

Me: And then it helped me.

Nell: Yes.

Me: All the messages of support really kept me going.

Nell: I know. David was talking to Kev about sausages, by the way.

Me: What?

Nell: They want a barbecue this evening.

Me: And I thought Dave was worried.

Nell: He was. There weren’t enough last time.

Me: Right. Sorry.


It’s All About Participation

Nell: What do you mean we can’t stay here?

Me: My Wednesday Writers workshop is scheduled on Zoom soon, Nell.

Nell: And?

Me: I can’t have you barking at the farm dogs.

Nell: They bark at us too, you know. Jim the Farm Dog is particularly loud at the moment. Ask Harriet.

Me: I need to be able to hear what’s going on.

Nell: So do I.

Me: I’m sure you and Harriet have got lots of things to be getting on with this morning.

Nell: Not particularly.

Me: Wasn’t Bumper organising a Keep Our Fields Tidy session?

Nell: A ridiculous waste of time. Nobody will attend apart from that stuffed tiger.

Me: The llamas and the sheep are gathering already.

Nell: Llamas are notoriously fickle and sheep never listen.

Me: Actually they do. They’re famous for getting involved.

Nell: Without ever really doing anything.

Me: If one sheep started tidying up they probably all would.

Nell: If one sheep walked over to a banana skin they would all walk over.

Me: There you are.

Nell: But they wouldn’t pick anything up. They’d just eat grass and watch.

Me: It’s a form of participation.

Nell: Well, I’d like to participate in your workshop. I shan’t be eating grass but I’m happy to watch.

Me: That’s not the idea.

Nell: I’m hoping there might even be a cup of Earl Grey and a biscuit in the break.

Me: We write in the break and then read out what we’ve written afterwards.

Nell: Excellent. I’m extremely good at critiquing as you know.

Me: You can’t join in. You’re not registered.

Nell: Don’t worry. I’ll give you my notes later. I’d put the kettle on if I were you. The workshop’s starting soon and we’ll need a pot of tea.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Tony’s Back and Bumper Makes Changes

Me: Well, that’s made Dave’s day. We haven’t seen Tony for ages.

Nell: He was on holiday.

Me: It’s sad news about Tony’s shanty crew breaking up.

Nell: He said it was all too much for them. They were victims of their own success.

Me: A bit like Dave.

Nell; What are you talking about?

Me: He’s rushed off his paws being the Mayor of Kingsbridge and a major Hollywood star.

Nell; We haven’t even started filming yet. Stop getting ahead of yourself.

Me: Did you notice anything strange at breakfast?

Nell: Apart from the fact that Bumper insisted the stuffed tiger had a seat at the breakfast table?

Me: Everyone was wearing napkins round their necks.

Nell: Yes, one of Bumper’s better ideas. He likes to wipe his mouth after eating and we thought we’d try it too.

Me: You looked awfully sweet.

Nell: Thats not the point.

Me: I know.

Nell: It won’t last, of course. David dipped his napkin in his boiled egg instead of toast and ended up with egg everywhere.

Me: I thought he looked a bit messy.

Nell: Harriet tried to lick the egg off and then he said it was his egg and if anyone was going to lick the egg off it should be him so she went and sat at the other end of the table with Bumper.

Me: What does Jim the Farm Dog think about it all?

Nell: He’s far too busy to be eating boiled eggs. He’s out ploughing the fields, or whatever farm dogs do.

Me: I meant about Bumper.

Nell: He’s being kind and welcoming.

Me: But actually he’s consumed with jealousy at the arrival of such a handsome pen pal.

Nell: Do calm down. This isn’t one of your stories.

Me: Except it is. Sorry.


Meet Bumper

Me: You’re not going to believe this.

Nell: I was going to say the same to you.

Me: There’s a handsome chocolate Labrador in the field.

Nell: I know.

Me: I’m not talking about Harriet. He’s a boy and he’s clearing up after the llamas.

Nell: I know.

Me: You do?

Nell: Yes. His name is Bumper. He’s from Hudson, Wisconsin in the US and he’s Harriet’s pen pal.

Me: Pen pal?

Nell: Well, Zoom Buddy or whatever they call it nowadays. What’s wrong with good old fashioned pen and paper? In my day we would write letters.

Me: You’re only 11.

Nell: And your point is?

Me: Harriet never said she had a pen pal.

Nell: No, and she never told us she’d invited him to stay either.

Me: He’s ever so good at tidying, Nell.. Look at the field now. You wouldn’t know Gladys and the llamas had been gliding all over it. No banana skins at all.

Nell: I wish they’d stop eating those awful things.

Me: Llamas can’t resist a banana. It’s a well known fact.

Nell: Harriet says Bumper is quite the people sort of dog and ever so popular in his neighbourhood.

Me: That’s nice. I shall enjoy having a chat with him.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: I thought I would go and welcome him.

Nell: That’s fine, but conversations are with me.

Me: Not all conversations, Nell. I’m allowed to talk to other dogs.

Nell: What is he doing?

Me: Who?

Nell: Bumper. He’s got Beaumarchais in his mouth and he’s dragging him across the field..

Me: I don’t think that’s wise. He’s a tiger. He won’t like that at all.

Nell: I’m talking about Beaumarchais the stuffed tiger not Beauregard the real one. Do keep up.

Me: Oh yes. Sorry.