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Keep an open mind

Nell: I need you to listen very carefully and to keep an open mind.

Me: Why? You’re making me nervous.

Nell: Now, I know the house is fairly full.

Me: It’s completely full, Nell.

Nell: But as they say ‘There’s always room for a little one.’

Me: Is Gladys coming home then?

Nell: Yes, but in this case I wasn’t actually referring to Gladys.

Me: Who’s the little one?

Nell: Alejandro.

Me: He’s an alpaca, Nell. There’s nothing little about him.

Nell: I am aware of that but the nice man at the Ecuadorian Embassy says they need him to have a place of residency.

Me: What nice man?

Nell: He took a while to understand but when I said we would sign the forms he was happy to send them.

Me: Forms?

Nell: We all discussed it at Morning Thoughts and everyone is in complete agreement.

Me: They are?

Nell: This is the only way to get Gladys to come home. She’s not leaving Alejandro.

Me: It’s classic Stockholm syndrome. She’s fallen in love with her kidnapper.

Nell: He’s not a real kidnapper. The Beefies forced him into it. Gladys says he’s been wonderful to her.

Me: She would.

Nell: I think you will find him charming. His English is poor but he has a sweet smile.

Me: Does he spit?

Nell: No. He’s not a llama. Llamas are bigger with banana shaped ears. His are straight.

Me: Well, that’s a relief.

Nell: The Beefies will think they have a spy in our camp.

Me: Maybe they do.

Nell: Nonsense. Poppy and Malcolm are preparing an Ecuadorian feast. Langoustines and chicken. I drew the line at tripe.

Me: He’ll probably be happy with grass.

Nell: Poppy would never serve grass to a guest. You know that.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Sunday sombreros

Me: That sombrero suits Harriet, doesn’t it?

Nell: Yes. Fortunately The Cat had a whole selection.

Me: Good.

Nell: I wasn’t expecting to spend my Sunday in a large brimmed hat but needs must, I suppose.

Me: The Beefies seem pleased.

Nell: Poppy says they’re making a fortune selling them to tourists down at the beach.

Me: I bet they are.

Nell: Quite. Although Myfanwy said Pamela is swamped in hers.

Me: Do I know Pamela?

Nell: She’s a rather portly Pekingese from Paignton. Lovely singing voice, but definitely not a dancer.

Me: We’re all a bit like a walking advertisement for the Beefies.

Nell: That’s it. You’ve hit the snail on its head.

Me: You mean nail.

Nell: No, I don’t. Anyway, that text to David from Alejandro. The Beefies are behind it.

Me: So is he working with them?

Nell: Not by choice, perhaps.

Me: Why do you say that?

Nell: Well, you know he’s been identified as a suspicious alpaca?

Me: Yes.

Nell: I wonder if there is a problem with his visa.

Me: I don’t think we need to worry about that. Life is complicated enough without sorting out a South American alpaca’s visa requirements.

Nell: I think the Beefies are threatening to report him.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: They forced him to kidnap Gladys and send that text.

Me: The villains.

Nell: We need to speak to Alejandro.

Me: Good idea.

Nell: He needs to trust us, not the Beefies. I’m going to arrange to meet him. Harriet can come with me.

Me: What about Dave?

Nell: David can stay in the background.

Me: That might be difficult.

Nell: Why?

Me: He just walked past in a sequinned poncho.

Nell: He wasn’t wearing a false moustache though, was he?

Me: No, but The Cat was. Sorry.

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Spotted in Kingsbridge

Nell: That was the police. You are not going to believe this.

Me: I just might.

Nell: Gladys was spotted yesterday evening at a Mexican restaurant in Kingsbridge.

Me: That’s wonderful news.

Nell: Drinking tequila and wearing an oversized sombrero.

Me: Go Gladys.

Nell: When the police got to the restaurant they were told she had left with an alpaca in a sky blue waistcoat, carrying a handbag.

Me: At least we know she is ok.

Nell: Both appeared to be ‘slightly the worse for wear’. I quote. And were singing ‘Guantanamera’.

Me: Do we know what they had for dinner?

Nell: No, we don’t. That’s not the point. It doesn’t matter if she had fajitas, or tacos.

Me: Personally, I prefer fajitas every time. Tacos are too crunchy.

Nell: You can get soft tacos. Good grief. Now I’m discussing Mexican food with you.

Me: Tasty tortillas with some fresh guacamole and spicy salsa.

Nell: Enough. The question is, why hasn’t Gladys been in touch?

Me: Too busy having fun?

Nell: But she knows we will worry.

Me: There might be a reasonable explanation for all this.

Nell: I’m not holding my breath. What’s David waving at us now?

Me: His iBone. It’s a text in Spanish. ‘Si quieres ver a Gladys otra vez, todos deben usar un sombrero.’ Can anyone translate?

Nell: ‘If you want to see Gladys again, you must all wear a sombrero.’ Your accent is appalling, by the way.

Me: I didn’t know you spoke Spanish.

Nell: I was once engaged to an Andalusian hound. Don’t ask. It’s best left in the past.

Me: Who sent the text?

Nell: It’s from someone called Alejandro.

Me: Is that your Andalusian hound?

Nell: Certainly not. It must be the alpaca. It sounds South American.

Me: Of course. Sorry.

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Where is Gladys?

Nell: ‘What do you mean ‘Last seen riding an alpaca’?’

Me: Who are you talking to on your iBone?

Nell: The police. I am reporting Gladys as missing. It’s been 24 hours.

Me: Yes. Dave is ever so worried.

Nell: ‘No. Gladys was not riding the alpaca she was in my handbag. Yes, the alpaca was carrying it. I suppose it is handbag theft but I am more worried about Gladys.’

Me: We don’t actually know she was in there, Nell.

Nell: Of course we do. Her crutches were left on the floor and we haven’t seen her since. ‘Yes, that is correct. The alpaca was wearing sunglasses and a sky blue waistcoat.’

Me: It sounds odd when you say it like that.

Nell: ‘No, it is not a friend of the family. Yes, I realise our family is a little unusual and anything is possible.’

Me: I suppose Gladys might know it.

Nell: David has never seen it before and he and Gladys do everything together. ‘I know alpacas are South American. Maybe it’s here on holiday.’

Me: We do get a lot of holidaymakers in Devon.

Nell: Does anyone know if Gladys speaks Spanish?

Me: Dave says she has basic Spanish after her time as a flamenco dancer on the Costa del Sol.

Nell: ‘Yes. Basic Spanish. She is a black Pomeranian and she’s sprained her ankle. Of course Pomeranians have ankles. She was Kung Fu fighting a flock of Beefies at the time.’

Me: Brave little Gladys.

Nell: ‘Yes. Evil seagulls. Email it over. Goodbye.’

Me: What are they doing?

Nell: They are emailing over a photo of a suspicious alpaca taken near the tennis courts in Kingsbridge yesterday.

Me: I didn’t know alpacas played tennis.

Nell: That’s not the point. Just look at the photo. We might recognise it.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Just toast and marmalade this morning

Nell: Is Poppy flying somewhere, only the last time I saw her she was in bed with a hangover?

Me: A lot of people didn’t know she flew helicopters so I thought I would show them a photo of her. Is she ok?

Nell: She was watching Top Gun with Gladys until late. Her favourite film. I think whisky might have been involved.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: So just toast and marmalade for breakfast this morning as Malcolm has a fitting at The Cat’s for his wedding suit.

Me: Top hat and tails?

Nell: No. Sequinned cloak.

Me: Salmon pink?

Nell: No. Black. It compliments his flamingo colours.

Me: Will Susan be wearing sequins too?

Nell: No. She has chosen a soft grey cloak with a hood. She’s a very modest seagull.

Me: It’s a funny thing in the bird world that the males are often the flamboyant ones.

Nell: Yes. But look at David. Flamboyance is his middle name. He even has sequins on his wetsuit.

Me: I know. It says ‘Dave’ on the back.

Nell: Ridiculous animal and why is he wearing a bandana on his head?

Me: It really suits him, Nell, and it keeps the sun off.

Nell: Harriet has taken to carrying a parasol. A far more elegant solution.

Me: Yes, but Dave’s not a parasol kind of boy.

Nell: Perhaps not. Although nothing would surprise me with David.

Me: True.

Nell: I don’t believe it. The cheek of it.

Me: What’s happened?

Nell: An alpaca just walked past in a sky blue waistcoat.

Me: It’s not something I would expect to see, but each to their own. Maybe it’s been to The Cat’s for a fitting.

Nell: It was wearing sunglasses and carrying my handbag.

Me: Oh dear. That is rather cheeky. Sorry.

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Can turkeys fly?

Me: Those two. The best of friends. Dave nearly knocked Tony over.

Nell: Yes. David can be rather exuberant at times. We are hoping to meet little Ollie as soon as he’s had his vaccinations.

Me: I can’t wait. A darling little baby Labrador.

Nell: Don’t start. You and Kev have more than enough to be going on with. We five Martins plus Gladys and Charlie, a flamingo and a turkey.

Me: Aren’t you a Shepherd now that you and Charlie are married?

Nell: I decided to keep my name. It’s quite acceptable nowadays. It saves changing my passport, driving licence, credit cards etc.

Me: I didn’t know you could drive.

Nell: Of course I can.

Me: I didn’t know you had a passport either.

Nell: We’ve all got passports. How do you think Timothy went to Italy?

Me: I thought he flew there.

Nell: Yes. He did.

Me: Well, he wouldn’t need a passport then, would he?

Nell: Of course he would.

Me: He could just land where ever he wanted to.

Nell: You didn’t think he actually flew there himself did you? All the way to Italy? Under his own steam? Using his wings?

Me: I suppose I did.

Nell: That’s ridiculous. Everyone knows turkeys can hardly fly and Timothy isn’t exactly athletic.

Me: I didn’t know. How did he get there then?

Nell: He flew with EasyJet, of course. Like so many of us. No frills but reasonably priced.

Me: Oh, I see. Cheep and cheerful. See what I did there?

Nell: Very funny. I suppose you think Malcolm and Susan are going to fly to the French Riviera for their honeymoon themselves?

Me: Aren’t they?

Nell: Certainly not, Poppy is flying them down there in her helicopter. Do keep up.

Me: Of course. Silly me. Sorry.

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Malcolm in a wig?

Me: What on earth is Dave doing?

Nell: Looking for Beefies. We’re trying to have our morning discussion and they are being annoying.

Me: Why is he opening his mouth so wide?

Nell: To catch mackerel of course. He’s caught three already.

Me: It’s an awful waste of fish.

Nell: Not always. Poppy checks them for freshness and if they’re acceptable she makes mackerel pate for the Farm Dogs. They love it on toast with a squeeze of lemon.

Me: Has everyone recovered from yesterday’s battle?

Nell: Yes. Malcolm was quite the hero. When Rock threw that crab at him I thought he was in trouble but he swung his baguette and…

Me: Scored a six?

Nell: It was not a game of cricket.

Me: A home run then?

Nell: Enough. He batted it away in a fearless manner hitting a Beefy in the process. Count Bingo is thinking of giving him a medal.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: There have been a few injuries. Gladys is on crutches after a mistimed high kick. Fortunately it’s only a sprain.

Me: Crumbs.

Nell: Yes. There were a lot of those. Apparently Romeo says his heart is broken and there’s no other seagull like Susan.

Me: Malcolm would agree.

Nell: He is even considering giving up the black wig.

Me: Well, he is a seagull, Nell. Wearing a wig is a bit odd, to be honest.

Nell: But it’s his trademark. It makes him stand out. Susan actually likes it.

Me: You don’t think Malcolm is going to wear a long black wig do you?

Nell: What are you talking about?

Me: Only, with his pink feathers and little glasses it’s going to look all wrong.

Nell: I worry about you sometimes. I really do. Malcolm in a wig? Whatever next?

Me: Yes. Sorry.

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Baguettes at dawn

Nell: You’ve done it now.

Me: What have I done?

Nell: Making up stories. Putting words in people’s mouths.

Me: Why are you under the table?

Nell: Malcolm and Timothy have challenged Romeo and his friend to a fight.

Me: Swords?

Nell: No baguettes. But stale ones.

Me: Romeo’s friend isn’t called Mercutio, is he?

Nell: Certainly not. His name is Rock.

Me: Rock?

Nell: Yes. And he’s a really big Beefy.

Me: He’d need to be with a name like that. But Malcolm’s a lover not a fighter.

Nell: I know. It’s most unlike him. Apparently Romeo has been serenading Susan.

Me: She doesn’t have a balcony, does she?

Nell: No. She lives in a bungalow but that’s not the point. Romeo can’t just go around singing ‘Wake up little Susie’ outside her window. She’s an engaged seagull.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Malcolm asked him politely to stop and he refused. So here we are.

Me: Baguettes at dawn.

Nell: Well, at mid morning.

Me: My money is on Malcolm. These shy types can surprise you when provoked.

Nell: The worst thing is Romeo has Stephen Seagull’s blessing.

Me: Oh dear. I always forget he’s Susan’s biological father.

Nell: I know. Count Bingo is supporting Malcolm. He’s brought the troops.

Me: I wondered what all the flamingos were doing here.

Nell: Unfortunately Stephen has summoned the Beefies.

Me: This could be war.

Nell: You see what you started.

Me: But it’s got nothing to do with me.

Nell: Please stick to reporting the facts in future.

Me: Dave just walked past wearing a colander on his head carrying a giant sausage roll.

Nell: At least it wasn’t Gladys in my handbag.

Me: Gladys is already in position.

Nell: With, or without the Welsh corgi choir?

Me: With, and the Whippets Institute minibus has just pulled into the car park. Sorry.

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Poor Romeo

Me: Did I wake you?

Nell: Yes. I was having a nap while David kept watch. Malcolm was hit with a mackerel this morning.

Me: Those wretched Beefies.

Nell: It was the one in a long black wig. Calls himself Romeo. Ridiculous name for a seagull.

Me: Yes. They should be called Phil, or Pete.

Nell: I’m not going to ask why, but I know what you mean. Anyway, Romeo has taken a particular dislike to Malcolm.

Me: It’s about Susan, isn’t it?

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: I bet Romeo and Susan went to seagull school together.

Nell: Here we go.

Me: Romeo watched Susan from afar. Just biding his time until he could tell her how he felt about her.

Nell: Good grief.

Me: But it was too late. Susan met Malcolm, a shy but pink flamingo, and they fell instantly in love.

Nell: At least that part is true.

Me: So Romeo was left to wander the skies in a long black wig with nothing but a wet mackerel to comfort him.

Nell: He threw the mackerel at Malcolm so he can’t be that attached to it.

Me: Poor Romeo.

Nell: I worry about you sometimes. Living in a world of fantasy. For your information Romeo is back with a fresh mackerel and a couple of friends.

Me: They’re not called Benvolio and Mercutio are they? Only Mercutio might be in a bit of trouble soon.

Nell: That’s quite enough.

Me: Romeo never stood a chance against Malcolm and his pink, slim legged flamingoness.

Nell: There is no such word.

Me: No, but you are wondering about Romeo now and whether he is carrying a torch for Susan, aren’t you?

Nell: I have more than enough on my plate without worrying about lovelorn Beefies thank you.

Me: Of course. Sorry.

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Saturday heatwave

Me: You’ve just eaten something tasty. Admit it.

Nell: I may have.

Me: What?

Nell: Poppy made my Cream Tea ice cream for Gelato to try.

Me: I bet it’s delicious.

Nell: Yes. Poppy’s scones are essential, though, which is why she’s invited Gelato to tea.

Me: She wants a piece of the action.

Nell: She wants to discuss working together. Stop talking like an American gangster.

Me: It’s the hot weather. It makes people act strangely.

Nell: Yes. The Beefies have started wearing sombreros.

Me: Probably wise in this heat.

Nell: Beefies don’t get sunstroke. They are doing it to draw attention to themselves.

Me: It rather suits them.

Nell: That’s not the point. They want people to look up.

Me: Why?

Nell: So they can drop a mackerel on their heads.

Me: Dastardly.

Nell: They have been targeting the ice cream queues.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Gelato is shocked. He thought they were his friends.

Me: Why?

Nell: You know the way they shout ‘Mine’ all the time?

Me: Yes. Greedy gulls.

Nell: He thought they were saying ‘Hi’.

Me: Oh dear. So you want to help?

Nell: Yes. We discussed the problem at Morning Thoughts and decided that we are going to have to use pistols.

Me: I thought you said violence wasn’t the answer.

Nell: Water pistols. Gladys will be in command.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Several of the more level headed Welsh corgis will have pistols concealed about their persons.

Me: Where? They’re only little.

Nell: Under their hats, if you must know.

Me: Clever.

Nell: When a Beefy approaches Gladys will shout ‘Fire’.

Me: I’m not sure the tourists are going to enjoy this.

Nell: I disagree. It’s better than a wet mackerel and might actually be rather fun to watch.

Me: You are right. Sorry.