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Brassica thought her heart would burst with pride when the semi-

transparent scrims revealed the symmetrical shadows of her pinioned

progeny.  She squeezed Cosmo’s hand, but his mind was elsewhere, as it

often was when she attempted such familiarities.  He was worrying what

havoc was being wreaked by Andy, their manic Border terrier, who had

been stair-gated in the kitchen for the duration.

When the boys raced out to meet their parents at the interval, they pulled

open the wicker hamper.

Don’t knock the candelabra over, darlings, said Brassie in her best operatic,

carrying voice.  She had just noticed another parent from the boys’ school.

She hoped the woman wouldn’t think she was a fan of Liberace.

But, Mum, where’s the pastrami and Serrano ham?

Mum, who ate the Balsamic Vinegar Kettle Chips?

Brassie looked into the hamper with horror.  The cylinder of Wasabi butter

which she had rolled in greaseproof paper bore the evidence of canine

dentition.  Some mushy strawberries lay squelched at the bottom of the

basket and the double cream had leaked everywhere.

There was nothing for it, but to crack open the warm bubbly- Andy had

even managed to knock the lid off the ice bucket.  The boys had Highland

Spring Mineral Water.

You know what this means, Dad? said Pollux ruefully.

What son?  Cosmo was grieving over the Kettle Chip loss; he had never

been a great fan of opera.

It means, clarified Pollux, that we can’t ask Mr Poskett if Andy can audition

for the lead role in Sobac’e Serdce, in next season’s programme.

Yes, added Castor, the new opera by Raskatov.

But Andy can’t speak Russian, joked their father.

No, but it’s all about a dog that loses its fur and tail and walks upright

and plays the balalaika.


Are you serious? asked Brassie, who was sucking a mulchy strawberry.

She remembered that Dr Johnson had made a remark to the effect that,

although a dog could walk on its hind legs, it didn’t necessary follow that it

should- or was he referring to a woman?  She couldn’t quite recall the exact


Well, replied their father, Andy certainly isn’t disciplined enough to be on



No, but now the caretaker’s ex- wife’s Samoyed will probably get the part,

mourned Castor.

Oh, that dog that’s called Putin? said Pollux.

It probably understands Russian, so it would have a head start, commented

Castor.  Mr Poskett is bound to choose it over Andy.

Pravda, Brassie said disconsolately, realising that the curtain was about

to descend on their familial spot in the limelight.