The Man from Maryport contrived to get himself here from Heathrow (considerably harder, in the present state of things, than getting himself half-way across the world), bearing with him a variety of useful and acceptable gifts, striped cotton, things made with chillies, and ostrich biltong, to which the Northern Gentleman and I have become mildly addicted. There is this to be said for biltong: it is low fat. One of the more unfortunate sequelae of the Trailhound’s presence has been that Miss Best Friend, mildly unsettled by his presence, has rather tended to go in for competitive eating: she now looks a bit like a black-fur-lagged boiler on paws. The humans, also, are markedly less lissome than is strictly desirable. In my case, I am inclined to think that the wind changed and I stuck like that, but the Professor seems to be a bit better at shedding weight than I am, so we are all, regardless of species, taking up Health. The Trailhound and his keeper disappeared down the high road to England this morning, so steps have been taken. The Professor discovered, by recourse to the kitchen scales, that he has been feeding Miss Best Friend approximately twice what she is supposed to get according to the Dog Food packet, a discovery which has been greeted with deep gloom in dog circles, but from now on, she is rationed. On the human end, I have made my last pie for quite some time, and onion bhajis have been discontinued: I despise lo-cal substitutes, but I am proposing to discontinue the Christmas indulgences of cream, puddings, pastry, etc. and revert to the less intrinsically fat-laden end of my repertoire. Soy, chili, garlic, lemon, herbs, tomatoes … all wonderful things. Don’t expect reports, but we may be pursuing the wilder shores of gastronomy for a bit.