Ernie and Theo were lying in the garden of their holiday cottage in Craster, a small fishing village in Northumbria. It was the last evening of a well-earned break from their market stalls and spreadsheets. They were munching treats and listening to the North Sea rolling around the nearby bay.
It had been a wonderful vacation. Ernie had ‘zoomied’ around the broad beaches and paddled in the sea whilst Theo explored the sand dunes.
They’d both made lots of new mates on their travels. Theo wished he’d remembered to bring business cards to give out. But even a management genius occasionally forgets things.
His thoughts were already turning homewards. He’d spent the last hour planning ‘Ernie and Theo’s’ schedule of markets for the rest of 2020. He was now mulling over plans to increase sales of their new drying robe. ‘You’re never really on holiday when your name’s over the door’ he thought to himself.
Earlier, he’d looked over some drawings for an new workshop in one of the human’s garages. He wanted Ernie to oversee the work and was going to talk to him about it before they set off home.
Ernie’s mind, meanwhile, was on very different things. He was admiring a splendid aerobatic display by a swoop of swallows taking some late exercise. He found the sea air made him feel very hungry. He wished he could fly.
“Are you looking forward to going home, Ernie?” Theo asked.
“Well I am, because I’m missing some of my home comforts,” Ernie replied, still eyeing the swallows, “but I’m not because I’ll miss running on the beach.”
‘And drinking the sea. You’ll never learn!’ Theo said. “I know what you mean, though. I’ve really enjoyed the rest too. But the longer we’re away the busier we’ll be when we get back. There’s lots to do for the Autumn and Christmas season, although who knows what will happen if we get a second spike.”
“I’ll do whatever I can,” Ernie said brightly. He thought about asking Theo what a ‘second spike’ was but decided not to because it sounded very painful.
“I want to talk to you about that. I’ve got a very special job for you” Theo replied.
“Oooh, tell me what it is Theo, I’m all ears!” Ernie said.
“I know Ernie, they are certainly a lot bigger than mine!” Theo said, chuckling, before putting his serious head back on.
“Anyway, the humans are complaining about working conditions,” he explained. “They say the workshop’s too small. One is using her kitchen floor to cut out drying robes. They want more space and a cutting out table. If we don't meet their demands they may down tools. They might even report us to the Health and Safety Executive, like Norman Gnome threatened to when you asked him to guard the garage last Christmas. Even if they don't do that, one of them is bound do go off sick with a bad back soon”
“We can’t close the workshop!”, Ernie cried, “It’s one of my favourite places. I lie on all the waste fabrics. It is so cosy,” he added.
“I know it is Ernie,” Theo replied, “but that’s the problem. It is cosy because it is small. We must find more space for the humans to work in or we’ll be in trouble!”
“I've got the answer!” Ernie exclaimed. “We’ll go back to my old house. That had a big workshop in the attic. I could sit at the top of the stairs like I used to”
“We can’t do that Ernie, somebody else lives there now,” Theo explained, “and we haven’t got time to find other new premises, not with Christmas coming.”
“What are we going to do then?!” Ernie asked.
“The humans and I agreed a solution this week,” Theo replied. “We’re moving the workshop into part of your human’s garage. I need your help to do it.”
“How will we do that?” Ernie asked. “The garage is very big. It’s cold in the winter, has no carpet and the walls are bare!! The humans can’t work in there!”
“I know, so we’re going to alter it,” Theo said. “We’re dividing it into two rooms. One will be a workshop and the other for storage. We’ll build a new floor; put a radiator in; fit some new lights and paint the walls.”
“How can I help with that?” Ernie asked in a worried voice, “I’m just a little cavapoochon. I can’t build walls and lay carpets!”
“I know you can’t. Humans will do all the work,” Theo replied. “Your job will be to make sure they create a workshop you’ll feel at home in.”
“Can we have pictures on the wall and fabrics for me to lie on?” Ernie asked.
“You can have whatever you want Ernie,” Theo replied, “as long as you stay within the budget you can do whatever you like.”
Ernie’s tail wagged. He was so proud and excited that Theo was putting him in charge of a very important job.
“You can rely on me Theo,” Ernie said in a proudly, “The humans and I will create a lovely, bright new workshop where everyone will be very happy.”
“I know you will,” Theo smiled, “I’ll show you the plans when we get home.”
“That’ll be great Theo,” Ernie said excitedly, “I feel like celebrating do you!?”.
“You normally celebrate something when it’s finished Ernie not before you’ve started!” Theo replied. “Anyway, what did you have in mind?” he asked.
“Helping the humans to eat the tasty Craster kippers I can smell in the kitchen,” Ernie said. “But if you think it’s too early to celebrate, I’ll do it on my own.”
“No, no, you mustn’t do that,” Theo said. “You’ve never had kippers before. The bones in them are much smaller than the ones you’re used to. You need to learn how to pick them out before you tuck in. I’ll show you how you do it,” he added.
And with that, they both ran into the kitchen to start the lesson.