Me: It’s a difficult day today, Nell.

Nell: Yes, it is.

Me: Remembering all those we have lost and who gave up their lives for others.

Me: Yes.

Nell: And it still goes on.

Me: It does. There is so much sadness in the world.

Nell: I’m afraid there is.

Me: It’s heartbreaking.

Nell: That’s why we have to hold on to what is good and always look for the light wherever we can.

Me: Yes. You’re right. Can you see the sea tractor in the distance making its way over to the island?

Nell: I can.

Me: It’s a bit like us. Even though the sea is rough we aren’t giving up. We’re quietly making our way forward and shining our little light.

Nell: Yes, we are.

Me: And if we can be of comfort to anyone, or put a smile on their face, that’s something, isn’t it?

Nell: It’s a lot. More than you realise.

Me: I think today is a curl up in front of the fire sort of day.

Nell: Yes. Time to remember your sister Alex.

Me: And our darling Poppy.

Nell: They’re together now you know, with Mutley, your mother and my dear Charlie.

Me: I’d like to think so.

Nell: Poppy says that’s enough, by the way.

Me: What is?

Nell: Enough gloom and doom. We should be celebrating those we have lost.

Me: Can we do it quietly then?

Nell: We can do it any way we like.

Me: “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.”

Nell: Beautiful words.

Me: I felt they needed to be said. Sorry.

Nell: No sorries. Not today.


Nell has a Soft Side

Me: Do you know what I’ve noticed about you recently?

Nell: No, but I know you’re going to tell me.

Me: You’re developing a soft side.

Nell: What are you talking about?

Me: Snuggling into cushions and resting your head on Harriet.

Nell: Harriet doesn’t mind.

Me: Both puppies love snuggling because they’ve never known anything else. You were always different.

Nell: You mean special.

Me: You’re all special, Nell, but yes, you’re my soul dog. I can’t deny it.

Nell: I should hope not.

Me: You’ve changed. Along with being even more demanding…

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: You bark orders at everyone nowadays, even strangers. You should hear yourself.

Nell: I’m simply offering advice.

Me: Anyway, along with offering advice you have started letting your guard down a little more often and enjoying a cuddle. It’s lovely to see.

Nell: Everyone needs a cuddle now and again.

Me: They do. I think it might be part of getting older. I can be a bit prickly and impatient sometimes.

Nell: Tell me about it.

Me: But I appreciate the beauty and the love around me so much more than I used to.

Nell: I know what you mean. Grief plays a role too.

Me: Yes. It’s been a hell of a year. I shall be glad when it’s over.

Nell: Don’t wish the days away.

Me: No, you’re right.

Nell: We need to think positively and look towards a happier future.

Me: Maybe we should try and see moving house as a big adventure instead of a sad farewell?

Nell: Yes. Kev was saying the same thing.

Me: We can do this, can’t we?

Nell: Of course we can. You and me. Always.

Me: Do you want a cuddle?

Nell: Appealing to my soft side?

Me: Yes. Sorry.


A Good Day

Me: Yesterday was a good day, wasn’t it?

Nell: It was, indeed.

Me: My sister Charlotte came for lunch and Herr Hoffmann made us leek and potato soup with crunchy fresh rolls and lots of butter.

Nell: Soup is the perfect lunch on a cold day.

Me: Yes, and we ordered the Christmas turkey.

Nell: Poppy says it’s too small, by the way.

Me: How does Poppy know what size turkey we ordered?

Nell: Poppy’s a Guardian now. She knows everything.

Me: I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Nell: Quite.

Me: Later Kev and I looked at another house which was all wrong.

Nell: Completely wrong. Awful dark place.

Me: I’m not even going to ask how you know that.

Nell: Best not.

Me: On the way back Kev and I stopped at our favourite farm shop and bought homemade cake and some other treats.

Nell: Just essentials.

Me: And then we all went down to the beach.

Nell: Which was an invigorating experience to say the least.

Me: Yes, the wind was rather bracing. I’m going to need a thicker coat next time. I wish Dave hadn’t eaten my all encasing hat.

Nell: Harriet ran straight into the sea.

Me: How she can swim in this cold weather is beyond me. It must have been freezing.

Nell: Yes, David paddled a little but I kept to the sand.

Me: The waves were magnificent though, weren’t they?

Nell: They were certainly wild.

Me: I love the feel of the salty wind. It makes my face tingle.

Nell: If you say so.

Me: And then we drove home and had tea and cake in front of the fire.

Nell: And we all fell asleep.

Me: Our new home must have a fire.

Nell: It will. Don’t worry.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Sara Wins

Me: Harriet seems on edge this morning.

Nell: How was the house viewing yesterday?

Me: It’s a definite potential.

Nell: Nice views of Kingsbridge town?

Me: How would you know that?

Nell: Just guessing.

Me: Guessing?

Nell: Views are important to you.

Me: When Kev and I arrived at the house there was a seagull on the roof.

Nell: It’s Kingsbridge. There are seagulls everywhere.

Me: It looked remarkably like Miss Penny Lane.

Nell: They all look the same to me.

Me: She ducked down when she saw us.

Nell: Beefies are sly.

Me: She wasn’t a Beefy.

Nell: They’re recruiting females now, you know.

Me: Another odd thing happened when we were in the garden.

Nell: A Beefy attack?

Me: No. A helicopter flew over.

Nell: That’s not odd. They fly over all the time. We’re by the sea. It’ll be the RNLI rescuing someone, I expect.

Me: It wasn’t the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Nell: How do you know?

Me: It was being flown by a chocolate Labrador.

Nell: How on earth could you have seen that?

Me: I knew it.

Nell: It’ll be the Royal National Labrador Institution then.

Me: It was Harriet.

Nell: Don’t be silly. Harriet was here all the time.

Me: I thought you were going to say Harriet can’t fly helicopters.

Nell: No. She can fly helicopters. Poppy taught her and she got her licence recently.

Me: Why didn’t you tell me?

Nell: You’d only have worried.

Me: So, what were they doing there?

Nell: Who?

Me: Harriet, Miss Penny Lane and Henry and Horst.

Nell: How did you know Henry and Horst were there too?

Me: They’re not going to miss out on a surveillance mission, are they?

Nell: Okay, you’re right. We wanted to see the house.

Me: I win. Sorry.


Can Sara be Trusted?

Me: Why have you and Dave got such serious faces?

Nell: You’re looking at houses again, aren’t you?

Me: Kev and I are seeing one today and one tomorrow.

Nell: We should be going with you.

Me: You can’t turn up to a house viewing with three large dogs.

Nell: It’s one large dog and two medium sized dogs.

Me: It’s actually one giant dog and two large ones.

Nell: Potato potahto.

Me: You always say that when I’m right.

Nell: Take Henry and Horst in your hat. They can report back.

Me: I’m not wearing a hat.

Nell: It’s cold and rainy. A hat must be worn.

Me: I wouldn’t wear it inside anyway.

Nell: Wear an Alice band then.

Me: I’ve never worn an Alice band in my life.

Nell: I suppose Owl Pacino could sit on your shoulder.

Me: If you think I’m walking around a house with an owl on my shoulder you’re much mistaken.

Nell: I could lend you my handbag but Gladys isn’t to be trusted. She might leap out and start performing an interpretive dance.

Me: I’m not taking any animals, birds or insects. I’m perfectly capable of reporting back myself.

Nell: Are you really?

Me: What does that mean?

Nell: Somebody ate Kev’s ice cream while he was out at karate class yesterday evening.

Me: Did they?

Nell: And it wasn’t David.

Me: How do you know?

Nell: It wasn’t any of us dogs.

Me: Why are you so sure?

Nell: It was Belgian chocolate ice cream and even David knows not to eat chocolate.

Me: Okay, I confess. It was me.

Nell: Ha! I knew it.

Me: The urge came upon me and I couldn’t resist it.

Nell: You were prepared to let an innocent animal take the blame.

Me: Sorry.


Calling, Corgis and Christmas Jumpers

Me: There’s something exciting about calling Harriet when she’s at the bottom of the activity field and watching her run full pelt towards you.

Nell: Yes, because she might knock you over.

Me: She always swerves at the last minute.

Nell: Not always.

Me: Almost always.

Nell: I’m just relieved you don’t call David.

Me: I do, but Davey tends to lollop his way over to me.

Nell: Stop calling him Davey, please. His name is David.

Me: Sally does.

Nell: Sally is his fiancé. She’s allowed.

Me: He’s my Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: He’s the size of a small pony.

Me: I know. It’s adorable.

Nell: Not when he sits on you.

Me: He loves to be loved.

Nell: I found a small corgi on your chair on Sunday morning.

Me: What?

Nell: David sat on it by mistake.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: Goodness only knows how long it had been there.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: It needed lots of sweet tea before it was strong enough to join the others.

Me: There were more of them?

Nell: It was one of the Welsh Corgi Choir. Do keep up.

Me: I see.

Nell: I don’t think it’ll be trying that again in a hurry.

Me: I expect Dave felt terrible.

Nell: He wanted to give it a cuddle but it ran away.

Me: Once sat on, twice shy.

Nell: Exactly. Now, what’s your opinion on Christmas knitwear?

Me: I love a good Christmas jumper.

Nell: The Cat is not a fan.

Me: Christmas should be fun.

Nell: Rupert agrees and is consequently offering festive sweaters, cardigans and hats as part of his Knitwear Wolf Christmas range.

Me: Did you say sweaters?

Nell: Jumpers are sleeveless dresses to our North American friends and that would never do.

Me: No. Sorry.


Missing Someone is Awfully Tiring

Me: You dogs are funny.

Nell: What do you mean?

Me: You went crazy when I got home.

Nell: We were rather pleased to see you.

Me: Harriet couldn’t even speak because she was so overcome.

Nell: She pined while you were away.

Me: Bless her. But once you saw I was really home and not going anywhere, you all fell asleep.

Nell: We were exhausted. Missing someone is awfully tiring.

Me: Sometimes I think I’m never going to not be tired again.

Nell: It will pass.

Me: I’m so glad I went on the writers’ retreat. It was truly inspiring.

Nell: Good.

Me: They’re running them again next year at the end of February and November.

Nell: You should reserve your place.

Me: Can we afford it?

Nell: We’ll find a way.

Me: What do you think of Miss Penny Lane?

Nell: She’s nice enough for a seagull.

Me: Not all seagulls are bad. Susan’s lovely even if her father is Stephen Seagull.

Nell: I know.

Me: And Terry’s a really helpful seagull.

Nell: Yes. If I’m Booking a Beefy I always ask for him.

Me: Susan’s taken Penny under her wing. See what I did there?

Nell: Very droll. Yes. The Nest is the best place for her to stay and Malcolm doesn’t mind.

Me: Malcolm is such a polite flamingo.

Nell: He wasn’t very polite when he saw David had drunk most of the gravy.

Me: He thought it was soup. It’s an easy mistake to make.

Nell: It was in a gravy boat.

Me: Easier to drink.

Nell: Roast beef isn’t the same without gravy.

Me: The Yorkshire puddings weren’t too bad.

Nell: They were dry and crunchy.

Me: I suppose some gravy might have saved them.

Nell: We’ll never know, will we?

Me: No. Sorry.


Time to Come Home Now

Me: The sunsets are so magical here and look at the sky this morning.

Nell: Who is that young animal, please?

Me: Dave’s giving you the side eye. Darling Big Brave Beautiful Boy.

Nell: Never mind David. Who is that terrier?

Me: Her name’s Daisy and she’s here with Vicky, one of the writers.

Nell: At the Cottage Hotel?

Me: Dogs are allowed to stay in certain rooms.

Nell: I know. I’ve stayed there myself. It’s in your book. Remember?

Me: I think you’d like Daisy. She’s a bit like you. Well spoken and obsessed with men.

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: I’m always being told off but you listen to Kev.

Nell: You just need more guidance than Kev does.

Me: Why is Dave looking at you like that?

Nell: He doesn’t want to go to Sunday Songs.

Me: Is he feeling unwell?

Nell: No, he wants to wait for you and work on his Yorkshire puddings. He can’t seem to get them quite right.

Me: Couldn’t he work on them after Sunday Songs?

Nell: Exactly what I said.

Me: I hope working on them doesn’t only mean eating.

Nell: There’s an element of cooking involved, but eating is a major part.

Me: How many has he had?

Nell: Don’t ask.

Me: Does that mean there will be a Sunday roast when I get home?

Nell: Absolutely. Poppy would expect nothing less.

Me: How is she?

Nell: A little exasperated. Life as a Guardian is somewhat quieter than she would choose.

Me: I miss her so much.

Nell: We all do and we’ve missed you too, so get that case packed.

Me: Are you coming to collect me?

Nell: What a ridiculous question. Of course I am. The writers will be wanting to meet me.

Me: Yes. Sorry.


Harriet is Waiting

Nell: Harriet is waiting for you by the window.

Me: Sweet girl. It’s not long now before I’m home.

Nell: I’ve told her you won’t be back until tomorrow but she says she wants to stay by the window just in case.

Me: Bless her little cotton socks.

Nell: How’s the writing going?

Me: I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.

Nell: Good.

Me: They’re all such interesting and talented people and they love words like I do.

Nell: Met any more dogs?

Me: Only one, but I need to tell you something about Miss Penny Lane.

Nell: The homeless chicken?

Me: The thing is, Nell, she isn’t actually a chicken. She’s a seagull.

Nell: Excuse me?

Me: A really good seagull. Not a Beefy.

Nell: How do you know?

Me: Erica and Meg told me in their letter. Penny and her family were chased up north by the evil Beefies.

Nell: Are you trying to tell me we’re taking in a whole family of seagulls?

Me: No. Just Penny, and she’s willing to work for her keep.

Nell: Doing what? Throwing mackerel?

Me: She’s an excellent photographer. I’m sure she will be a great asset.

Nell: Our Penguin is in charge of filming here.

Me: I know, but maybe Penny could help with promoting Indiana Bones and Raiders of the Lost Bark?

Nell: Maybe.

Me: I told the other writers about the animation series, by the way, and they’re crossing their fingers that it goes well.

Nell: It will. Trust me.

Me: It could change our lives, Nell.

Nell: I was only just saying to David that he’s going to be in great demand after the release of the film.

Me: Perhaps Penny could take some publicity shots of him?

Nell: Stop selling the seagull. It can come and stay.

Me: Sorry.



Me: Good morning from beautiful wild and windy Hope Cove.

Nell: How’s the Writers Retreat going?

Me: Really well. Spending time with other writers is exactly what I needed. They’re a lovely group of people.

Nell: Those two don’t look like writers.

Me: Ruby and Charlie?

Nell: On first names already I see.

Me: They were so well behaved during afternoon tea that I took their photos.

Nell: I love a cream tea.

Me: I know.

Nell: But it seems my cream tea days are over.

Me: I’m sure Dave could have another go at making Poppy’s scones.

Nell: David’s far too sad to make scones.

Me: You all look a bit down in the dumps, if I may say so.

Nell: Can you blame us? Condemned to sharing a bed under the kitchen table. Tealess and alone.

Me: You’re not alone.

Nell: It’s fine. Don’t worry about us. Enjoy your time with your new friends and their dogs.

Me: Ruby and Charlie were just visiting dogs. One of the writers has actually brought her dog with her but it wasn’t there for tea.

Nell: I beg your pardon? If any dog is joining the writers retreat it should be me. ‘Conversations with Nell’. Remember?

Me: I’ve talked about you an awful lot, if that helps.

Nell: Unbelievable.

Me: And guess what was waiting for me in my room?

Nell: Another dog?

Me: No. A parcel and a letter from Erica and Meg.

Nell: Do I know them?

Me: No, but they know you from our conversations.

Nell: What was in the parcel?

Me: Miss Penny Lane.

Nell: Who?

Me: It’s a long story, Nell, and probably best discussed another time.

Nell: Tell me now.

Me: She’s a chicken and she needs a home.

Nell: I knew it.

Me: Sorry.