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Watching llamas

Me: What are those three doing?

Nell: Watching llamas I expect. Gladys is trying to teach them to be Dartmoor ponies.

Me: Why?

Nell: The larger animals were simply too large. Olive has antlers and Monty’s face is too moose like. At least the llamas have a touch of the pony about them.

Me: More camel than pony.

Nell: It’s for the pantomime. Snow Bite is lured onto Dartmoor by evil Mrs Snow. The Seven Woofs alert the good Ranger, Jim, and his trusty Junior Ranger, Ollie, who save her.

Me: What have the Dartmoor ponies got to do with it?

Nell: When the sheep start singing the ponies dance. Do keep up.

Me: Sheep aren’t very good at singing, Nell. They have surprisingly gruff voices.

Nell: Apart from Lady BaBa.

Me: Yes. She is an exception.

Nell: Don’t worry. They aren’t real sheep. The Welsh corgi choir are playing the sheep.

Me: In woolly jumpers?

Nell: No. In woolly jumpsuits if you must know. All I can say is, thank goodness Manuel can knit.

Me: Do you think the real sheep are going to be offended by the false sheep?

Nell: Good grief.

Me: You wouldn’t like it if a sheep put on a jumpsuit and pretended to be a Labrador.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: Just saying.

Nell: The sheep are used to the Welsh corgi choir. They’ve been singing in their fields every Sunday for years.

Me: Not in disguise. Wait. I’ve just had a wonderful idea.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: What about a pantomime cow? Every pantomime has one.

Nell: Not this pantomime.

Me: Kev and I could play it.

Nell: Kev is our sound engineer and you are a Talking Bowl.

Me: But my part is recorded.

Nell: No cow.

Me: Ok. Sorry.

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A Spicy Monday

Me: I’m not sure if I’m cut out to play a Talking Bowl. I don’t have the necessary oomph.

Nell: Oh for Goodness Sake. When did a Talking Bowl need oomph and what is oomph, anyway?

Me: You know. Va va voom.

Nell: I certainly do not. What has brought this on?

Me: Harriet yawned when I was practising my lines.

Nell: She was up early rehearsing her sword fight with Poppy, so she’s probably genuinely tired.

Me: Sword fight? Gosh. I wish I had a sword fight.

Nell: You do not. Especially with Poppy. She’s in a fighting mood this morning. She served David’s eggs devilled, instead of dippy.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: As I said to The Cat, ‘Nobody likes too much spice on a Monday morning. ‘

Me: No.

Nell: David had to have two ice creams to take the taste away.

Me: I don’t think ice creams are meant for breakfast, Nell. Couldn’t he have had a quick lassi?

Nell: Don’t be silly. I worry about you sometimes. How on earth would a long haired collie help?

Me: It’s an Indian yoghurt based drink.

Nell: Why didn’t you say so? Manuel loves a devilled egg, by the way. Gobbled them up.

Me: He’s from Barcelona.

Nell: Yes, of course. I’m afraid the spice theme is continuing. Poppy’s cooking chilli con carne for dinner.

Me: I wonder why?

Nell: It’s Alejandro’s turn to choose the menu.

Me: Oh, I thought Poppy might be one of those method actors who stay in their role all the time, so she’s serving fiery food.

Nell: I certainly hope not. If she offers you an apple, make sure you refuse.

Me: Because I’ll fall into a deep sleep?

Nell: No, because Malcolm needs the apples to make a pie.

Me: I see. Sorry.

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Sunday Morning

Nell: It’s Sunday morning.

Me: I haven’t even said anything yet.

Nell; I’m trying to rest before Sunday Songs. It’s been a very busy week.

Me: I know it has.

Nell: I don’t want to listen to a Talking Bowl.

Me: I was only going to practice a few lines.

Nell: You don’t need to learn them. You will be reading and recording them in Kev’s studio. Remember?

Me: Yes. I’m just excited.

Nell: Sundays are for Rest, Recuperation and Roasts.

Me: The word is out that you might have been having a few problems with the Seven Woofs.

Nell: Yes. I’m afraid Woolly Woof has been leading Wibbly Wobbly Woof astray.

Me: Are you talking about Alejandro and Manuel?

Nell: Of course, I am.

Me: What happened?

Nell: They’re always speaking in Spanish for a start. I realise Manuel’s English is poor but we can’t have a Woof saying ‘Que?’ at every opportunity.

Me: He’s from Barcelona.

Nell: I know. Anyway, the flamenco was the last straw.

Me: Flamenco?

Nell: In the middle of a serious and, quite frankly, extremely intense scene where the Seven Woofs are trying to decide whether Snow Bite can stay with them, Alejandro whipped out his castanets and Manuel started dancing.

Me: Gosh. I wish I’d seen that.

Nell: To make matters worse all the other Woofs join in. Henry and Horst were particularly animated and even Malcolm shook a leg.

Me: What about Babycakes Gillespie?

Nell: He did a slow depressed shuffle but livened up when Princess started clapping. I wish she wouldn’t do that.

Me: It’s a seal thing.

Nell: Our Penguin filmed it all, of course, and now Gladys wants to keep it in the show.

Me: I can’t wait.

Nell: Well, you are going to have to.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Listening is awfully Tiring

Me: Dave fell asleep when I was talking to him.

Nell: He’s probably tired.

Me: One minute he was sitting up listening to me and the next he was fast asleep.

Nell: He has to do an awful lot of listening in his job as a councillor you know. Listening isn’t easy. Trust me.

Me: I don’t suppose it is.

Nell: What were you talking about?

Me: I was practising being a Talking Bowl.

Nell: Oh dear.

Me: Why did you say that?

Nell: It doesn’t bode well for the pantomime, does it? We can’t have the audience falling asleep.

Me: I thought Dave would be interested in biscuits.

Nell: David had a large breakfast. It’s Saturday, so Poppy always makes bacon sandwiches. Nobody is interested in biscuits on a Saturday.

Me: But there are probably biscuits in the Talking Bowl, aren’t there?

Nell: Certainly not. Have you even read the story?

Me: Not yet, but I have an idea from what you told me.

Nell: Evil Mrs Snow looks into the Talking Bowl and says ‘Who is the fairest of them all?’

Me: Yes. That’s what I thought.

Nell: How can she see anything in a bowl of biscuits?

Me: You might have a point there.

Nell: The Talking Bowl is full of water.

Me: Of course. Silly me. The Cat is going to have an awful lot of work getting my costume right, isn’t it?

Nell: What costume?

Me: My Talking Bowl costume.

Nell: You don’t have one.

Me: I can’t just stand there, Nell.

Nell: You don’t need a costume. You’re not on stage. You are just the voice.

Me: I didn’t know.

Nell: Kev will record you. He’s been doing a lot of that recently and is awfully good at it.

Me: Oh, I see. Sorry.

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Little Ollie auditions for a part

Me: Hasn’t Little Ollie grown?

Nell: Yes, he is such a lively, happy pup.

Me: Tony says he’s a Mummy’s boy.

Nell: You can see that he is well loved by the whole family.

Me: Yes, you can.

Nell: Anyway, Ollie is auditioning for the pantomime, so we are considering him as a Junior Ranger.

Me: He won’t have to trek across Dartmoor will he?

Nell: I beg your pardon? This is a pantomime, not a full length feature film. We aren’t going on location.

Me: Of course not. I was getting carried away.

Nell: We’re hoping to use the fields for some of the scenes and Princess’s pool will be the sea, but most of it will be in The Barn.

Me: Where are the larger animals going to sleep?

Nell: There’s plenty of room. Don’t fuss.

Me: I was thinking about the Seven Woofs.

Nell: No. You are the Talking Bowl. The Seven Woofs are already cast.

Me: Who are they then?

Nell: Henry and Horst are Wise and Witty Woof.

Me: But we can never hear anything they say.

Nell: David can. Anyway, they are going to have head mics. Where was I?

Me: The Seven Woofs.

Nell: Yes. Princess is playing Wilful Woof and Alejandro is Woolly Woof.

Me: Rather unusual names.

Nell: Malcolm has been persuaded to play Whimsical Woof and Babycakes Gillespie has been cast as Weary Woof.

Me: Because of his sad ears?

Nell: Yes, and generally low demeanour.

Me: We are missing a Woof.

Nell: That’ll be Wibbly Wobbly Woof.

Me: Wibbly Wobbly?

Nell: Yes. Manuel is perfect in the part.

Me: But he’s an octopus. Only one of the Woofs is a dog.

Nell: None of the Snows are polar bears, but that doesn’t seem to bother you.

Me: No. Sorry.

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Pantomime Plans

Me: Harriet and Poppy seem exhausted.

Nell: Yes. They’re awfully tired of being rivals. They would much rather be friends.

Me: Is it about ‘Snow Bite and the Seven Woofs’?

Nell: Yes. As you know, Knitwear Wolf and I are directing the pantomime and we have to make a decision soon on the cast.

Me: I don’t envy you.

Nell: No. Now, Snow Bite is dreadfully naughty.

Me: Yes. It sounds like she is.

Nell: But she’s not evil. Could Harriet ever be evil?

Me: No, but Poppy definitely could.

Nell: That’s what I said to Rupert.

Me: I still don’t understand. Can you explain?

Nell: Well, Snow Bite is naughty but she isn’t evil. Her stepmother Mrs Snow is the evil one.

Me: Oh, I see. What is the story?

Nell: Naughty Snow Bite is the pride of her kind father Mr Snow’s life but is sent away to Devon by her jealous stepmother Mrs Snow.

Me: Poor Snow Bite.

Nell: Fortunately she is taken in by the Seven Woofs who look after her well.

Me: Thank goodness.

Nell: She learns how to surf with a dashing lifeguard.

Me: That has to be Dave.

Nell: Obviously. But it is only when she is abandoned on Dartmoor that she meets the love of her life, a handsome ranger.

Me: Jim The Farm Dog?

Nell: Exactly.

Me: Will Poppy be furious if she isn’t Snow Bite?

Nell: Maybe not if we cast John the Doberman as Kind Mr Snow.

Me: Good idea. Poppy will make an excellent villain. I was wondering if the evil stepmother has a talking mirror.

Nell: A talking mirror? Certainly not.

Me: Oh well.

Nell: She has a talking bowl, though. We thought you might play that.

Me: Really?

Nell: Is that a yes?

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Slide and Sly

Me: The puppies are sharing the dog bed under the kitchen table again. Bless them.

Nell: I know. When exactly are you going to stop calling them puppies? They are three years old now.

Me: They’ll always be puppies to me. Harriet seems to be watching Dave closely and he is pretending to be asleep. My darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: It’s probably about the antler.

Me: What antler?

Nell: David was having a morning chew when Harriet asked if she could have a turn.

Me: I hope he let her.

Nell: Of course he didn’t. When a Labrador needs to chew, it must be left to do so at its own leisure.

Me: That’s rubbish, Nell. Those two are always sharing antlers and even you and Poppy take them sometimes.

Nell: You are talking about ‘Slide and Sly.’

Me: No. I’m talking about taking antlers.

Nell: ‘Slide and Sly’ is a game. If you have an antler, or some other treasured chew, and you lose concentration and let it drop, your opponent is allowed to slide over slyly and take it away.

Me: That’s just stealing.

Nell: No. It is a game. If you are aware of your opponent’s plan and catch them in the act, you win. David is particularly good at both pretending to be asleep and being sly.

Me: I’ve noticed him do that with Kev’s socks. For a big dog he can move really quietly when he wants to.

Nell: Yes. It’s most impressive.

Me: The times he has stolen a sock out of the laundry basket when we weren’t looking.

Nell: Clever animal.

Me: Poppy isn’t sly. If she wants something she just marches up and takes it.

Nell: Nobody argues with Poppy. She carries a sword. You know that.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Back on our Beach

Me: It was wonderful to be back on our beach again, wasn’t it?

Nell: Yes, it was.

Me: Look at you with your ears flapping in the wind.

Nell: They weren’t flapping. They were gently blown forward.

Me: Harriet just adores the water.

Nell: I know.

Me: Dave can cover the whole beach in a matter of minutes. Did you see him run and run?

Nell: David is a large animal.

Me: Talking of large animals. Are they going to be in the pantomime?

Nell: Of course.

Me: Good.

Nell: There’s a slight question mark over Olive the Other Reindeer, as she has a number of commitments during the festive season, but we’re hoping she can join in.

Me: Now, you might not like this idea, Nell, but I wondered if you could include Babycakes Gillespie?

Nell: Good grief.

Me: I think he’s a little bit lonely. I saw him wheeling his bagel cart into town yesterday and his ears were quite low.

Nell: I suppose he can audition. No harm in that.

Me: What about me?

Nell: What about you?

Me: Will there be something for me to do? Only I’m often not included and Kev is.

Nell: Kev used to be an actor. He’s trained. You just concentrate on doing what you do best.

Me: Singing?

Nell: Definitely not. Quietly observing in the background and writing things down.

Me: I was hoping for a part. Just a little one. I know I can’t be one of the Seven Woofs as they are all dogs, but I could be a Huntsman.

Nell: A Huntsman? You can’t be allowed a weapon. The mere idea. Anyway, there’s no Huntsman in this story and the Woofs are not all dogs, by the way. Henry and Horst are auditioning.

Me: I see. Sorry.

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Showing their Teeth

Me: Something strange is going on.

Nell: Surely not.

Me: Poppy and Harriet are in the field.

Nell: There’s nothing strange about that.

Me: Looking at the sky and showing their teeth.

Nell: Are there any Beefies around?

Me: I can’t see any.

Nell: What do you mean by showing their teeth?

Me: Harriet is staring open mouthed at the sky and Poppy is waving her muddy paws in the air.

Nell: Are you sure they aren’t singing?

Me: Actually, they might be.

Nell: That explains everything then.

Me: But Sunday Songs was yesterday, Nell.

Nell: Well, yes. The name rather gives it away.

Me: So, why are they singing?

Nell: They’re probably practicing for the auditions.

Me: What auditions?

Nell: For the pantomime. Do keep up.

Me: Have you decided what you’re putting on?

Nell: Yes, after a lot of discussion and a family vote.

Me: I didn’t vote.

Nell: Why not? Kev did.

Me: I didn’t know there was a vote.

Nell: You were probably writing. We all know there’s no point in disturbing you.

Me: You should have told me.

Nell: We thought you’d seen the emails.

Me: What emails?

Nell: It’s not my fault if you never check your Inbox when you’re writing.

Me: Which panto did you all choose then?

Nell: ‘Snow Bite and the Seven Woofs’.

Me: Don’t you mean Dwarfs?

Nell: No. I hope you’re not referring to the vertically challenged amongst us.

Me: Never mind. What’s the story?

Nell: Snow Bite lives in the Frozen North. She is very naughty so she is sent to live Down South with the Woof Family who live by the sea.

Me: I’ve never heard that version.

Nell: Kev knows it. Anyway, both Harriet and Poppy want to play Snow Bite.

Me: Oh, I see. Sorry.

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It’s ever so foggy outside

Me: Can I have a quick word?

Nell: It’s Sunday morning. I thought we agreed that today would be a day of rest.

Me: I know, but it’s ever so foggy outside.

Nell: And?

Me: I can hardly see the Welsh corgi choir.

Nell: They’re Welsh. They’re used to rain.

Me: That’s a bit harsh. I was wondering if Sunday Songs could take place in The Barn during these colder months.

Nell: I don’t know how many times I’ve told you this. Singing can only take place outside. At a distance.

Me: It’s just they look so lonely and cold.

Nell: Do stop. Poppy has organised mugs of hot tea and shortbread biscuits after the singing and they all have warm scarves and thick socks courtesy of Manuel.

Me: Talking of Manuel. Is there any reason why he is wearing an owl on his head?

Nell: Beefies hate owls.

Me: I know.

Nell: We found one of our owl hats so we thought it might deter them.

Me: It’s worth a try, I suppose. Maybe The Cat could make him a feathered cloak.

Nell: The Cat has other things on its mind at the moment.

Me: What?

Nell: The Christmas Pantomime.

Me: Is it still going ahead?

Nell: Apparently.

Me: How exciting. That’s something to look forward to.

Nell: Personally, I am looking forward to one of Poppy’s roast dinners with all the trimmings.

Me: By the way, did you know Rupert Bear is 100 years old today?

Nell: I did actually. Rupert and I were discussing it over breakfast.

Me: Do you mean Rupert Bear was here? Having breakfast? In our kitchen?

Nell: Rupert Bear is a fictional character. I was talking to Prince Rupert. Knitwear Wolf. Do try and be a little more realistic.

Me: Of course. Sorry.