Our praises are our wages, as Shakespeare said. And today I have been praised. Exhausted from my passive endeavours I now lie asleep, having discharged myself with honour and smelling literally of roses. Today the boys and I have been on a quest, a seventy-mile round trip at the mid-point of which I was bathed, shampooed and cut, very carefully and very thoroughly, by a nice woman called Julia who said I was one of the very best dogs she had ever worked on – better even than her own. Her astonishment at my behaviour – which I didn’t think that singular – makes me think that some beasts must be very intractable indeed. I took great pleasure in having a professional, with the utmost patience and very sharp scissors, unknot the fur beneath my Charles II ears, as thick as carpets. I now smell delightfully fresh and clean but without overpowering anyone (by contrast, a product called ‘Hiz’ of which I have experience is not recommended in that regard). This all took place in a low-lying spot beside the River Coquet, just across a little bridge from quite deep woods. There Newman and Barnaby climbed up from the river until they breasted the top of the valley where they ate blackberries from brambles beneath bright red hips, and delightedly dashed by gorse and small blue scabious into broad fields the harvester had recently shaved. They filled their lungs with air less salty and rolled in the grass, considering the blessed unexpected change. Praise indeed.