Category: Dogs

Robin’s nest

Robin’s nest

When we returned from living in Asia, we brought a Spirit House with us. It’s a bit of a leap for hard-headed Westerners, but most Asians believe we live alongside spirits, many of whom are malevolent. To combat these pesky intruders, houses are built on different levels as apparently ghosts aren’t good at stairs. And outside just about every residence and business you’ll find a Spirit House, neatly kept and with enticing food and drink, all in an effort to tempt the spirits out of your house and into their own cosy home.

I’m afraid we haven’t kept our Spirit House as neatly as we might, as we don’t seem to have spirits; only mice. The little wooden structure lay dormant until a few weeks ago when a pair of Robins started building a nest inside.

We watched as they brought sticks and grass to make a perfect cup-shaped nest. Then bewilderingly they vanished. We figured the location was too close to our back door and our comings and goings had persuaded them to find lodging elsewhere.

But suddenly they were back bearing grubs and worms, which could mean only one thing. It’s very dark inside the Spirit House, but Mrs Preen swears she could see three tiny beaks.

I suppose we are typical soppy Brit animal lovers, but we felt blessed to have them and would sit around watching the parents bring tasty tit-bits to the little ‘uns. A moments research revealed that once the eggs hatch there are only fifteen days before the chicks fly the nest so it wouldn’t be long before they were gone.

Last Sunday morning, at around 8.30, I was in bed sound asleep when suddenly Mrs Preen burst into our bedroom in floods of tears.

She had let our dog Rusty out into the garden and was pottering about in the kitchen when she heard the Robins tweeting in alarm and saw them dive bombing our dog. They were sending up distress flares.

Rusty had caught a fledgling and killed it. Bucket can’t catch a damn thing, she half-heartedly goes after squirrels and gives our mice a wide berth, but a little bird, probably on its first flight, just couldn’t get away in time.

I love our dog and I know nature is red in tooth and claw, but the death of that little bird left us feeling forlorn. It may be ridiculously sentimental, but we felt we had a duty of care to the Robin family and we flunked it.


 

What is the most loathed retailer on the high street?

What is the most loathed retailer on the high street?

As this blog now seems obsessed with all things retail I thought I’d share the answer to the above question along with findings from the latest Which? magazine shop survey. They asked more than 7,700 shoppers which high street shops are top of the pops and which are dangling in the dirt.

Say what you like about WHSmith, but they are nothing if not consistent and for two years straight find themselves bottom of the plie. Customers slammed them for their poor value for money, poor service, and criticised the ‘cramped and messy’ stores.

WHS responded: ‘This survey accounts for the views of only 586 Which? subscribers and is neither statistically relevant nor meaningful relative to our loyal customer base.’

I put their response into Google translate and it came back with this: ‘You can take your minuscule little survey and shove it up your arse.’

At the other end of the scale, home entertainment specialist Richer Sounds came top scoring an impressive 89% customer approval rating.

Customers praised Richer Sounds for its in-store experience, which included having purchases carried to their cars and the retailer paying for customer parking.

Specialist shops tended to score well with John Lewis, the only non-specialist making it into the top ten.

Other highly ranked shops include Apple, toiletries shops Bodycare (both 83%), women’s clothing store Seasalt and bookshop Waterstones (both 82%).

Shoppers told Which? that Homebase/Bunnings was difficult to navigate and that it was ‘hard to find anything in overcrowded shelves’ and it was ‘difficult to find staff for guidance’.

Sports Direct was described by one shopper as having ‘a very oppressive atmosphere’. Perhaps the atmosphere was created by the staff on zero-hour contracts.

Which? Magazine editor Harry Rose, vying for the most bleeding obvious quote ever to make it into this blog, said: “Giving shoppers a great in-store experience is more important than ever if brands want to thrive on the high street. Our findings go to show that, if retailers can deliver great value, quality products and first-class customer service, customers will keep coming back.” Way to go Harry.

Here are the scores on the doors.

Top-rated shops

  • Richer Sounds (89%)
  • Rohan (87%)
  • John Lewis (86%)
  • Hotter Shoes (84%) = Lakeland (84%) = Toolstation (84%)
  • Apple (83%) = Bodycare (83%) = Crew (83%)
  • Screwfix (82%) = Seasalt (82%) = Waterstones (82%)

Bottom-rated shops

  • Clinton Cards (61%)
  • Peacocks (59%) = House of Fraser (59%)
  • New Look (58%)
  • River Island (56%) = JD Sports (56%)
  • Sports Direct (54%)
  • Homebase/Bunnings (53%)
  • WHSmith (50%)

Massive outbreak of Pétanque in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

Took Bucket for a quick lunchtime spin to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens today only to discover a major outbreak of boules or Pétanque or whatever you call it.

Has this been a thing for a while, and I’ve missed it or has there been a massive influx of Frenchman come to laugh at us about Brexit? There must have been half a dozen teams playing, all taking it very seriously. Bucket and I stopped to drink it in.


 

Hold the phone: Rusty is a Patterjack

Hold the phone: Rusty is a Patterjack

Crossbreed dogs are incredibly popular these days and cost thousands of pounds, but you can keep your cockerpoos, your spandoodles, labradoodles, puggles and schnoodles because our dog Rusty is a PATTERJACK!

Sometimes when out walking, fellow dog owners ask what sort of breed she is. I just laugh and say she’s a Heinz 57 rescue mutt from Battersea Dogs and Cats. But not any more I won’t.

Mrs Preen was at the local farmers market which does contain actual farmers and not just hipsters selling artisan yogurt. The lady from Marsh Farm (they’re from Essex and sell delicious meat and eggs) took one look at Rusty and said that’s a nice Patterjack you’ve got there. Cue an astonished wife. Apparently Patterjacks are a cross between a Patterdale Terrier and a Jack Russell and are bred by farmers to go after rats.

We all know Jack Russells, but I’d never heard of a Patterdale, so I did some in-depth research lasting minutes and found out the Patterdale originated from the North of England and is a descendent of the Fell Terrier (never heard of that one either). They were used to hunt and control foxes and eliminate vermin in homes and stables. The Patterdale was recognised as a breed in 1995, but are very small so were mixed with a JR to make them slightly bigger and the Patterjack was born.

One website describes the Patterjack as a ‘handsome dog, small yet muscular and stocky’ that’s Bucket to a tee. The only thing we knew about Rusty for sure was that she was brought up on a farm and there’s nothing she likes better than burrowing, Patterjack-style, into the sofa.

We’ve often wondered what ingredients went into making Rusty and even considered getting one of those dog DNA tests, but not anymore, because, let’s face it, if you own a Patterjack life can’t get any better.


 

Zen and the art of car hire

Zen and the art of car hire

As those who know me will testify, I’m not a violent person, maybe a little irritating at times but I don’t get into fights. The last time I laid a blow on someone must have been at school around 50 years ago. As a Frenchman I used to know once said: ‘I’m a lover not a fighter’. Well that’s the French for you.

Those paying close attention to the above paragraph will likely be expecting a connective but, so here it is, but on some occasions, I sure am tempted to sock someone on the jaw. Only last week if there had been a blunt object to hand, I’d have started laying into a certain person with both vim and vigour.

Let’s call him John, let’s call him that because it’s his real name and a more punchable person I’ve yet to meet.

The family went to the Isle of Wight over Easter, the weather was beautiful, the scenery was beautiful, but as the hymn I was forced to sing at school had it: ‘Every prospect pleases and only man is vile.’ Not everyone by any means, most were kind welcoming and friendly but there had to be an exception and the exception in this case was the guy who hired us a car.

Hertz, Avis and the other big boys were out of cars so Mrs Preen got in touch with a small independent hire firm and booked a car so we could trundle about the island to our heart’s content.

We showed up and immediately hit a problem. John took one look at Bucket the dog and Bucket took one look at John and it was clear it was not love at first sight.

“You didn’t tell me about the dog,” said John.

“It’s a small dog, very clean,” I said.

Secretly I was hoping Bucket would take a chunk out of his ankle, but Bucket is a well brought up dog and contented herself with spraying urine around the car lot.

‘Hmmnn,’ said John and left us to our own devices and went off to his shed.

Fifteen minutes later he came back from the shed, which I noticed he locked, though I was only 15 feet away.

By then I’d persuaded the family to leg it to a local Café, so unencumbered by dog I got down to the paper work.

I don’t know how often you rent cars, but one of the rituals is to go around the vehicle while the person from the hire firm notes down scratches and bumps on the bodywork. We ambled around with John pointing out the various marks, but what he wasn’t doing was noting them down, so very politely I challenged him on this.

This brought a swift response: “Look I’ve been in business on the Isle of Wight for 45 years, I wouldn’t have lasted 45 minutes if I’d tried to cheat people.”

Suitable chastened we went back to the shed and I signed on the dotted line.

As I was leaving, he said: “Oh the clutch is rather high and a red oil light comes on occasionally, but it’s nothing to worry about.”

In retrospect what part of that sentence made it seem like a good idea to drive the car away with my family for a few days sightseeing, but that’s what I did.

But my stupidity didn’t end there. On the way to our rental cottage, a massive electrical stink started coming from the engine and the clutch was slipping like an eel in mud.

Mrs Preen said: “I really think it would be a good idea to take the car back.”

I said well I can’t face seeing that bloke again, so I gave him a call and he said not to worry. I told Mrs Preen everything would be fine.

The next day we decided to drive to The Needles (see picture above) a picturesque spot on the western edge of the island.

En route the car was making pretty heavy weather and finally crapped out completely as we entered the visitors centre.

“You can’t park there,” said a man in a hi-viz jacket.

Scrabbling around trying to get a phone signal, I called John to tell him his lousy piece of junk was now an unwanted piece of street furniture.

Before I go any further, I want to add this. Until five years ago we lived in Asia and the one thing we learned there was that if you get angry, start shouting and generally reading the riot act to someone they just shut up shop and will have nothing to do with you. Since returning to the UK I’ve tried to maintain this sublime piece of Asian wisdom.

When I told John what had happened it was quite clear he was expecting the hairdryer treatment.

Something along the line of: “You’ve ruined our holiday, the wife is in tears, the daughter wants to go home, the dog’s been sick etc…”

In calm tones I made it clear we required another car as quickly as possible, but as the sun was shining and we’d inadvertently ‘parked’ in a prime spot we joined the rest of the tourist cattle and went about our tourist business.

John arrived with another clapped out piece of junk and said: “Thank you so much for not shouting at me.”

I said well I’m on holiday and don’t want to shout at anyone.

He said well, you’d be surprised most people do. (Bit of a giveaway there, John)

At the end of the holiday I returned the car and he was now my new best friend thanking me yet again for not screaming at him.

But let me say this, even with my Zen like calm just because I didn’t do it, doesn’t mean I didn’t feel like punching the little sod.