An exceptional day this, as befits the birthday of our beloved bear, Barnaby Rudge. Routines have given way in the wake of recent turns of event, and we were left alone this morning after breakfast, to consider the journey we have all come on over recent months. Upstairs, much attention is being paid to the room vacated by Ten Blankets, and we could smell the new paint which nosey I alone have seen being applied and is a tranquil shade called Fawn. Wriggling round about the furniture, now clustered together as in Tutankamen’s tomb, I can see the corners previously beyond my reach when diving for biscuit bits or snatching up torn tissues. How disturbing it is when somebody vacates one’s life; how the haunting goes on, even when the distance isn’t great. The perspective has changed such a lot, though: gone is the mark of the armchair against the wall; gone is the fluff behind the bed; gone the great bookcase with shaving impedimenta and ginger creams; gone the dressing table which held the towels. Round the edges, so much has altered and become clear while in the centre so much remains complex. Yet, despite all that, Barnaby is here – four years old today – and since my arrival, of course, no longer the youngest in the family, though I know that in a way he would still like to be; he shows impatience when others are embraced, slightly insecure lest he might be overlooked. Why, I cannot imagine: he is by far the most mature and low maintenance of the Dickens Dogs! Reliable; authoritative when needs must; protective, with a deep, manly bark; yet also soft as butter, pretty as a picture and other such cliches. Loved by all but devoted to only one: that’s our Barnaby. We raised a toast to him with our share of the local butcher’s steak pie – a little party to give thanks for his daily presence in our little lives. Bless you, sweet boy!