It was a dull Wednesday morning. The scorching British summer had finally gone on holiday. Nobody knew when, or even if, it was coming back before Autumn.
Ernie and Theo were sheltering from a heavy shower under a large tree near their favourite lamp post. The night before, they’d gone with their humans to the “Chews Day” evening event at The Blue Pig pub in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter.
“Why did we go to the Blue Pig last night Theo?” Ernie asked.
“Well, whilst you were sunning yourself in Northumbria I was thinking a lot about our business development plan,”
Theo replied. “Our humans do a good job handmaking our pet accessories,” he went on, “but getting them to think about our long-term growth strategy is like asking you to pass the treats.”
Ernie didn’t know much about strategy but he knew a lot about treats.
“I would pass the treats Theo, but I haven’t got any!” Ernie replied defensively. “Anyway,” he went on, “how does visiting the Blue Pig develop our business?”
Just once in a while, Theo was genuinely surprised by the perspicacity of Ernie’s questions.
“Well, it’s all part of my marketing strategy Ernie,” Theo replied. “ ’Ernie and Theo’ will only become better known if we visit many places and meet lots of people. The lovely people at the Blue Pig have started doing an evening when you can go for a drink, a bite to eat and take your dog along. That’s why it’s called ‘Chew Day’ – get it??!!”
“I think so,” Ernie replied. “I wondered why Morris the daschund, Ritchie the Staffordshire terrier and some of our other mates were there too. I have to hand it to you Theo, you are a marketing genius,” he said looking very proudly at his best mate.
“Thanks, Ernie – it’s not rocket science though,” Theo replied modestly. He instantly regretted saying “rocket science” and was braced for Ernie asking him to explain what it was. However, Ernie had other things on his mind.
“Well, I really enjoyed it there,” he said. “That pork dinner we both had was very tasty wasn’t it? And I don’t know how our humans managed to talk with all the lovely cheese and biscuits they were scoffing! Did you enjoy it Theo?” he asked.
“Ah yes, the cheese, it was a wonderful selection wasn’t it? Such a marvellous range of flavours and scents” Theo said wistfully, his eyes glazing over at the memory.
There weren’t many things that caused Theo to lose his cool and self-discipline but the smell and taste of cheese was one of them. Even Ernie had noticed that the usually calm Theo was constantly begging for bits of cheese off the humans’ plates. At one point, he seemed to remember Theo crying he was so keen for more. He decided to put his mate out of his misery by changing the subject.
“There was one thing about ‘The Blue Pig’ that puzzled me though Theo, so can I ask you a question?” he said.
Theo chuckled. “Only one question Ernie?”.
Ernie didn’t understand irony and went on unperturbed.
“Well, why is the pub called the Blue Pig? If you wanted us and our mates to go along wouldn’t you call it something like ‘The Dog and Duck’ or ‘Fox and Hounds’? And anyway, aren’t pigs pink?” he asked.
Theo counted two questions but as numbers weren’t Ernie’s strongest point he let it go.
“Well actually Ernie, not all pigs are pink. Indeed, a rare breed of blue pig was found in the Canterbury area of New Zealand in the early 20th century,” Theo explained. “Apparently they were the result of black and white pigs inter-breeding.”
“Well, I haven’t seen a blue pig before” Ernie replied.
“Ernie,” Theo impatiently pointed out “I was merely trying to answer your question. Blue pigs are not unheard of, although they are very rare.”
“Sorry Theo,” Ernie mumbled. “I still don’t know why the pub was called the blue pig though.”
Theo was famed for his calm demeanour – except, of course, when there was cheese about. However, Ernie was testing it to the limit. He took a deep breath, looked away from his little friend and counted to three.
“Well, I can’t answer all your questions at once Ernie,” he said, trying to keep the impatience out of his voice.
“Sorry Theo,” Ernie mumbled even more quietly than he had his last apology.
“Now, I’ll be quite frank with you,” Theo went on, “I don’t actually know the origins of the Blue Pig’s name. I need to do some digging to find it out. I’ll let you know what I discover.”
“Oooh, I could help you with the digging Theo,” Ernie chirpily chipped in.
“It’s not that sort of digging, Ernie,” Theo said, rather condescendingly he realisd on reflection.
“Sorry Theo, I was only trying to help” Ernie whispered.
Ernie thought he might cry so he turned from Theo and dropped his head onto the wet grass. He knew Theo was infinitely cleverer than him. But he was getting a bit fed up of constantly being reminded of the fact.
He also knew he’d pushed Theo’s patience to the limit with all his questions but he was desperate to find out one more thing about their visit to the Blue Pig.
“Theo, do you remember the nice men from Fred Aldous craft shop that we met at the Blue Pig?” he meekly asked.
"Oh yes,” Theo replied. “Now there were two chaps with a clear business strategy. Wasn’t it fascinating to listen to how they have continued to grow a business set up by their great, great grandfather? They’d even expanded to a new shop in Leeds. That takes some doing in our ever-changing world doesn’t it Ernie?” he said.
Ernie knew better than to question Theo’s pronouncements and pontifications on business strategy.
Anyway, it wasn’t really the discussion about business strategy that Ernie remembered from the meeting. There was clearly something else on his mind that he wanted to get to the bottom of. He decided to bravely venture another question to his good friend.
“Theo, do you remember that they had shorts on?” he asked.
Theo gave Ernie a puzzled look. “What a strange question Ernie,” he answered, “but now you mention it I do remember they had shorts on – it was a warm evening as I recall.”
Ernie took a deep breath and ploughed on “Oh, I know it was. But Theo there were lots of our mates there last night and yet you were the only one who started licking Mr Aldou’s legs under the table. Why were you doing that, our humans thought it was hilariousthat you wouldn't stop.”
Ernie didn’t spot Theo’s discomfiture at being reminded that he’d been licking a stranger’s legs. In fairness to Ernie though, Theo had almost instantly regained his almost regal composure.
“Ernie, my humans taught me manners when I was young,” he quickly replied with an embaressed squirm. “I was simply expressing my thanks in the normal canine way for the business insights those chaps gave me. I think you could see from their reaction that they appreciated my gesture. I wouldn’t expect you to understand this given your rather limited grasp of what’s involved in running a business.”
Ernie wasn’t sure this really explained his friend’s “under the table” leg-licking. However, he had a feeling it was polite to move on.
“Are we doing any more of these events?” he asked his wise friend.
Theo was relieved that Ernie had changed the subject and, for once, was happy to answer his little friend’s question.
“Oh yes, we are going back to the Blue Pig for their next Chew’s Day and we are doing The Lowry Outlet Makers Market as well as The Great Northern Warehouse Makers Market so we will be busy.
The rain had started falling more heavily and lunchtime was fast approaching.
“That’ll be fun Theo, we might get some more treats and another pork dinner!?” Ernie replied.
“Maybe, maybe,” Theo chuckled.
And with Ernie thinking about more fun to come, and Theo comtemplating the business plan, they both got up and trotted off homewards.