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Welcome back and Happy New Year!

Regular readers may recall that, during December, I kept suggesting to Gill that she smuggle either an owl or a baby penguin into her baggage to bring home to me. There were such creatures being cared for at the ‘rescue unit’ of her local zoo in Bristol and thus readily available. Now, you must keep in mind that, to normal families, such a request would be met with derision, laughter, or cries of, ‘you’ve got to be kidding’. Not our lot. Gill knew I was deadly serious. And being a thoughtful daughter, she set out to see if she could satisfy my desires.

In keeping with this thematic Christmas, I decorated the tree with only bird ornaments — including silver penguins and many, many owls fashioned from pine cones, sequins and straw. I had to keep in mind that, with Mr. Pants (Crazy D’s puppy) in residence, no tinsel or ornaments that would break into sharp shards on the rug would be allowed. I had learned these precautions the hard way when Poochie was young and pooped tinsel for a week. This year’s tree has no ornaments on the lower two feet of branches to tempt curious mouths and nothing above the five foot level since I can’t reach that high to put them up. Makes for a compact area of glitz…

I knew that Gill hadn’t smuggled penguins or owls in her luggage since she didn’t immediately ask for a cold bath to be run (to welcome the penguins) or a place to be made in The Canary Refugee Camp for the owl. So I thought she had failed at her task — the one time I made specific requests, she apparently had ignored my pleas or failed to execute her mission. How, I wondered, would she explain away her failure?

And then I opened my gifts. First, accompanying a bottle of my favorite perfume (cheap as chips, as Gill said when she took advantage of a great sale at Boot’s, her local drugstore) was a magnificent card featuring owls. It is museum quality art work. Owls in flight, swooping, wings in full spread. I will frame it to go with my collection of Crazy D’s gorilla and snow monkey photos from his travels.

And then came the piece de resistance — a box of dark chocolate penguins, all sitting in rows in a box. Delightful! I will probably never eat them, they’re so cute.

And so, Gill did give me owls and penguins for Christmas! Well done you, Gill.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Pants gave me a Christmas surprise as well. One night, as he was sitting on the foot of my bed with me, Mrs. Beeton flew over us and landed on the pillows behind me. She often sits there of an evening watching television or ‘our stories’ on Netflix on the laptop with me. When the kids come to ask me something, all they see from the door is a bright, fluorescent blob of pink peeking from behind my head. Mr. Pants wasn’t familiar with our routine and he raised his head at her swoop and the puppy ears twitched with curiosity as the bird flew over him. Expecting him to lunge at her, I grabbed his collar and held him down. But he didn’t try to attack, just seemingly took it in his stride…because why wouldn’t Grandma have a pink bird flying loops around her bedroom?

Mr. Pants did register the incident, however, and the next morning we came downstairs to find the mutilated feathers of a pink bird that had been on the Christmas tree. It was mangled, denuded, dog slobber all over it. I haven’t told Mrs. Beeton that her ‘stand-in’ took one for the team on her behalf. She doesn’t need to know. That would ruin Christmas.