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Let’s appreciate what we have

Nell: You could have edited out my nose in that first photo.

Me: I love your nose.

Nell: At least Harriet looks lovely as always.

Me: So does your nose. I enjoyed our walk together so much.

Nell: Yes. It is interesting how precious everything becomes when we can’t just have it whenever we want to.

Me: It is.

Nell: Like Nature and the countryside.

Me: I’m afraid we’ve taken it for granted in the past.

Nell: Or spending time with our family and friends.

Me: Yes. Thank goodness for social media and the internet.

Nell: We need to look out for each other as much as we can.

Me: We really do, Nell, because the world is a little scary at the moment.

Nell: It’s a lot less scarier if we face it together.

Me: True.

Nell: We are all going to be much changed when this is over, you know.

Me: Yes. I think we are.

Nell: I’m sure of it. There is a strange healing going on. In Nature and in ourselves. We are becoming aware of what really matters.

Me: Like kindness?

Nell: Exactly.

Me: And cake.

Nell: Indeed.

Me: Did I tell you I talked to the publishers yesterday evening?

Nell: No. What did they say?

Me: The books are on their way to the US and will hopefully be with everyone at the end of next month as planned.

Nell: Excellent.

Me: If people haven’t preordered they can get them through their local bookshops, or directly from Schiffer Publishing in the US, or Gazelle Book Services in the UK.

Nell: What about Amazon?

Me: Probably, but they are having to prioritise.

Nell: I’m sure people will find the book a great comfort.

Me: I do hope so.

Nell: I know so.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Trust in Spring

Nell: I was sitting outside in the front garden this morning…

Me: Looking very lovely, if I may so.

Nell: Why, thank you.

Me: Especially the crossed paws.

Nell: A lady remains elegant at all times. May I continue?

Me: Of course.

Nell: And I was marvelling at the colours of spring.

Me: Yes.

Nell: It is an optimistic season and we need a little more optimism in our lives at the moment.

Me: It’s very hard to be optimistic, Nell.

Nell: I know, but sometimes it’s the little things that can lift your spirits. An unexpected kindness, a phone call from a friend, or a fresh egg.

Me: A fresh egg?

Nell: Yes. Knitwear Wolf and the Farm Dogs have managed to track some down.

Me: How wonderful.

Nell: So Poppy and Malcolm have been busy making cakes.

Me: Wonderful.

Nell: As I explained to the puppies at Morning Thoughts, there are times when we eat healthily and times when we need cake.

Me: We definitely need cake.

Nell: Do you remember visiting your mother in the hospice during her last days when those ladies came in to the room with cake and tea?

Me: Yes, I do. They were smiley and kind and the tea was in a proper teapot and there were pretty cups and saucers and a selection of cakes to choose from.

Nell: Yes, there were.

Me: It meant a lot to us. Their kindness.

Nell: I know it did. Cake can do that.

Me: It can.

Nell: So, I think a little cake is called for at the moment.

Me: It is.

Nell: And kindness. To ourselves as well as to others. Trust in spring and its optimism. It knows better times are ahead if we just weather this storm together.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Happy Birthday dear Chris

Me: That’s Chris with Baby Dave and Baby Harriet.

Nell: Yes, as it’s his birthday today I thought you might like to see these photos.

Me: Gosh. So much has happened since those photos were taken.

Nell: To be perfectly honest so much has happened in the last week.

Me: True. I can’t get my head around it all.

Nell: Then don’t try. Just stay home and stay safe and if you are in the garden wear sunglasses and a hard hat.

Me: Really?

Nell: Yes. The Beefies are throwing eggs. Gladys managed to catch one with her lacrosse stick.

Me: How can you catch an egg with a stick?

Nell: A lacrosse stick has a net on the end. Do keep up.

Me: I didn’t know Gladys played lacrosse.

Nell: Oh yes. She and Poppy are both in the Whippets Institute team.

Me: But they aren’t whippets.

Nell: Do you think Manchester United only have players from Manchester?

Me: When you put it like that.

Nell: Now, I’ve written a poem for Chris. Would you like to hear it?

Me: Yes, please.

Nell: ‘Happy Birthday dear Chris, I think it’s fair to say

That you will be having an odd sort of day.

You can’t party with friends, or go to the lake

But you have Marvin and Shannon

And there is definitely cake.

And even though Toronto is a long way away

We are with you in spirit on your special day.

Our paws are around you and we need you to know

That you are our Chris and we all love you so.

This too will pass.

It isn’t for ever.

Stay safe and stay strong

We are in this together.’

Me: We can do this, can’t we Nell?

Nell: We are doing it.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Me: Nell and I would like to wish all you mothers, near and far, a Happy Mother’s Day. Even if it is a little different this year.

Nell: What on earth are you wearing?

Me: It’s my new spy hat. Not as all encasing as the other one, but still effective.

Nell: It’s a monkey.

Me: I thought it was a sheep.

Nell: I despair of you sometimes. I really do.

Me: Well, we’re only going for a walk in the meadows. You look lovely as always.

Nell: Thank you. Now, I know this is going to be a difficult day for many mothers as they won’t be spending it with their families.

Me: Unless they are lucky enough to have an animal family too, like me.

Nell: Correct, but it is important for you all to know that people are showing their love for you by keeping away and staying home.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Because by doing that they are keeping you safe.

Me: It’s ever so hard, though.

Nell: Important things usually are.

Me: True.

Nell: So you may not be seeing your children or grandchildren today but, as I told you before, if you close your eyes for a moment you will feel their paws around you.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Now, Poppy is preparing a special Mother’s Day breakfast for us all.

Me: We don’t have any eggs.

Nell: We have something much more exciting, thanks to Knitwear Wolf.

Me: We can’t eat cardigans.

Nell: No. Bacon.

Me: Bacon?

Nell: Didn’t you hear David’s triumphant bark earlier?

Me: I did wonder.

Nell: So how about a bacon sandwich and a nice cup of tea by the fire?

Me: That sounds lovely. Will there be cuddles?

Nell: There are always cuddles. Just close your eyes.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Out of the Ordinary

Me: Harriet seems focussed.

Nell: Yes. She’s on duty.

Me: Is she spying?

Nell: She is keeping an eye out for anything Out of the Ordinary. It might help us in our search for The Hunter.

Me: Is anything ever ordinary around here, though?

Nell: It is all relative. What may seem extraordinary to some is perfectly normal to others.

Me: I noticed Our Penguin isn’t filming today.

Nell: It’s having tea and toast with Timothy.

Me: Some people would say a penguin having tea with a turkey was out of the ordinary.

Nell: Then they would be wrong. There are no eggs, by the way.

Me: No eggs? There are always eggs.

Nell: Not at the moment. Someone has stolen them.

Me: What about Dave’s breakfast?

Nell: He had some cereal earlier and Poppy is making him toast and marmite for elevenses. If we stagger his feeding times he will cope.

Me: But who stole the eggs?

Nell: We suspect the Beefies are behind it. They’ve got fat faces and are being very quiet.

Me: Did you just say they’ve got fat faces?

Nell: Yes. If you had an egg in your mouth you’d have a fat face, too.

Me: Why are they stealing eggs?

Nell: Who knows? To make cakes and omelettes, or just simply to annoy.

Me: Wretched creatures.

Nell: It’s Romeo and the toilet paper all over again, if you ask me.

Me: Do you mean Romeo the Beefy in a long black wig? I didn’t know he stole toilet paper.

Nell: He does it all the time. It’s a Beefy thing. Do keep up.

Me: So nothing Out of the Ordinary?

Nell: No.

Me: No wonder Harriet is focussed.

Nell: Did David just walk past carrying Gladys in my handbag? Wearing hats?

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Making Do

Me: My Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: David thought a photo of him might lift your spirits.

Me: He’s right. Sweet boy with his film star looks.

Nell: Anyway, now that everyone is home safely we can turn our attention to the job at hand.

Me: What job?

Nell: Finding The Hunter. He, or she, is definitely out there and up to no good.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Some animals are behaving very badly indeed.

Me: Really?

Nell: Two Weimaraners had a fight in the supermarket over some pasta.

Me: Spaghetti?

Nell: No. Penne if you must know, but that’s not the point.

Me: No.

Nell: There is no need to fight.

Me: Certainly not. If you can’t get Penne, there’s always Fusilli, or those shell ones.

Nell: That’s not the point either.

Me: Oh.

Nell: Life is too short for fighting. If you can’t have something then you need to make do. Make the best of what you’ve got.

Me: If life gives you lemons make lemonade.

Nell: I’m not very keen on lemonade. If life gave me lemons I would ask Poppy to make a lemon drizzle cake.

Me: That’s a good idea.

Nell: David, for instance, is coping with a lack of bacon for breakfast.

Me: Good boy.

Nell: He had cereal and two boiled eggs instead.

Me: Dippy ones with soldiers?

Nell: Of course. And he didn’t complain. We were discussing ‘Making Do’ at Morning Thoughts and he obviously took my advice to heart. Unlike The Cat.

Me: What’s wrong with The Cat?

Nell: The supply of sequins is running low and it is being ridiculously hysterical about it.

Me: Yes, but sequins are like bacon to The Cat.

Nell: Don’t be ridiculous. The Cat hates bacon. It’s smoked salmon or nothing.

Me: Never mind. Sorry.

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Another Goodbye

Nell: Now, today is another difficult day.

Me: Yes, it is.

Nell: These photos say it all.

Me: They are lovely, Nell.

Nell: Yes, the first one of Alice and me is from the book but I don’t think anyone will mind me using it.

Me: It’s one of my favourite photos. You both have the same expression on your faces.

Nell: We love each other and in the end that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

Me: Yes.

Nell: Now, I know it’s going to be very hard saying goodbye to them at the airport but they need to be at home now, as do we all.

Me: Yes, they do.

Nell: Home is our safe place and by staying there we are all keeping each other safe.

Me: Yes, we are.

Nell: In times of trouble communities come together because together we are so much stronger.

Me: Yes.

Nell: The difficult part is that coming together means we have to be apart because that’s the only way we can beat this.

Me: Yes.

Nell: People all over the world have had to say goodbye to loved ones.

Me: I know they have.

Nell: But just because they aren’t there physically doesn’t mean you can’t speak to them.

Me: No, it doesn’t.

Nell: We have our iBones and we can FaceTime and WoofsApp.

Me: Yes.

Nell: And if we don’t have those, there are always telephones and we can write letters.

Me: Yes, we can.

Nell: And we carry those we love in our hearts all the time, anyway.

Me: We certainly do.

Nell: So when you wave goodbye today just remember that.

Me: I will.

Nell: And wash your hands with soap and water.

Me: I know.

Nell: ‘Clean paws every day keep the virus away.’

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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It was on my paw

Nell: I need to talk to you now.

Me: Why? What’s happened?

Nell: You know Morning Snuggles with the children?

Me: Yes. It’s my favourite time of the day.

Nell: And you know you asked Poppy and I to do some puzzling with Faye and Jonathan?

Me: Yes. I thought you could have some special time with them as they are leaving tomorrow.

Nell: Well, I have to tell you that Faye is an extremely strong willed young baby.

Me: She is only 9 months old, Nell.

Nell: That’s as maybe, but she insisted on playing her way. She put a piece of the puzzle on my paw instead of on the board.

Me: I’m sure it was just by accident.

Nell: That’s where you are wrong. When I asked her to remove it, she silenced me with a wave of her hand.

Me: That was brave of her. Was Poppy playing?

Nell: Poppy was no help at all. She just turned over and went back to sleep.

Me: She was up early baking bread with Malcolm. I think Dave’s organising a picnic to the beach to lift spirits. Knitwear Wolf brought us all blankets.

Nell: He is such a kind and handsome wolf. Sometimes I think Myfanwy takes him for granted.

Me: Why?

Nell: Joyce was telling me that she orders him around.

Me: Joyce is a gossip.

Nell: She just enjoys a chat.

Me: Well, I don’t trust her. Gladys said she was snooping in Harriet’s notebook.

Nell: I’m sure there was a good reason. Anyway, I’m not puzzling with Faye again. It’s too risky. Fortunately Jonathan distracted her and I was able to move out of the danger zone.

Me: It was only a piece of puzzle, Nell.

Nell: It was on my paw.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Saying Goodbye

Me: I hate saying goodbye.

Nell: I know.

Me: I’m just not very good at it.

Nell: David has been demanding cuddles from Chris all morning.

Me: I thought we decided not to tell him that Chris and Shannon have to leave early.

Nell: We did. He just wants cuddles.

Me: You and Harriet joined in and you aren’t even a cuddly kind of dog.

Nell: Of course I joined in. When somebody is going away you need to have as many cuddles as you can.

Me: Why?

Nell: If you close your eyes and simply remember you can still feel their paws around you.

Me: I must try that.

Nell: Now, David will be distraught this evening when he realises Chris and Shannon have gone so Poppy thinks a spaghetti bolognese is the best idea.

Me: Ok.

Nell: It’s comforting and messy and Jonathan and Faye love it too.

Me: It’s one of my favourites.

Nell: I knew that.

Me: Of course you did.

Nell: Did you know Malcolm and Susan have invited Our Penguin to stay with them at The Nest?

Me: How kind. Have you seen Henry and Horst? Chris wanted to say goodbye.

Nell: They had to answer a distress call over at The Barn.

Me: Is there something wrong with the larger animals?

Nell: Apparently Alejandro had a sudden craving for pickled fish.

Me: Oh no.

Nell: It turned out to be a false alarm. He was just yearning for Peruvian sea fish.

Me: You mean ceviche. It’s raw fish marinated in tiger’s milk.

Nell: Don’t be ridiculous. A tiger would never agree to that.

Me: No. It’s a citrus marinade.

Nell: Why mention tigers then? Now, go and give Chris a goodbye hug. He’ll be back as soon as he can.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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We are all in this together

Nell: Now, today is the last day we are all going to be together for a while. Chris and Shannon leave tomorrow and Alice and the children on Thursday.

Me: I know.

Nell: But the sun is shining and the sky is blue so we are going to make some wonderful memories.

Me: Yes, we are.

Nell: Our Penguin might even do some filming.

Me: You just called it Our Penguin.

Nell: Well, that’s its name.

Me: I see.

Nell: I realise it is very hard for you that the children are having to leave early but we need to keep everyone safe.

Me: Yes, we do.

Nell: It is all about looking out for each other now, young and old.

Me: Yes, it is.

Nell: We animals have an extremely important part to play in all of this.

Me: You do?

Nell: Yes. We were discussing it at Morning Thoughts. We need to make sure you get fresh air and exercise.

Me: How thoughtful.

Nell: Harriet and the Farm Dogs are creating a fitness plan and Gladys is offering dance classes.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: The larger animals have signed up already. We also need to make sure you eat healthily and well.

Me: Dave’s area of expertise.

Nell: David will be assisted by Poppy and Malcolm. Knitwear Wolf and The Cat are covering fashion.

Me: That’s a relief.

Nell: Our main concern, however, is your happiness. So Mutley will be available to listen.

Me: He can’t hear.

Nell: Exactly. The rest of us will keep you occupied with regular chats, good advice, cuddles and singing.

Me: Singing?

Nell: The Welsh corgi choir insisted.

Me: Will I have time to write?

Nell: Of course. We’ll get through this together, you know. You and me. Always. Remember?

Me: Yes. Sorry.