It was a chilly, early November evening. Ernie was lying amongst the leaves by his favourite lamp post. Ernie was waiting for Theo to arrive. it was usually the other way around. Ernie wasn’t very good at waiting for things and would normally have got distracted by a squirrel, bird or stick. Not this evening though. Ernie was a very tired Cavapoochon.
Theo finally emerged from the dusk and sat down next to his little friend.
“Good evening Ernie, how are you?” he asked.
“Oh Theo, I am so tired,” Ernie replied in a voice sounding very sorry for its owner. “I’ve been to two markets in a week,” he went on, “and my brother Erik came to our house on Saturday and literally tried to chewed my ears off. I have been doing more modelling and getting frightened by fearsome fireworks. It’s too much for a young Cavapoochon!”
Theo, quietly listened to his friend’s grumbles and suppressed a chuckle.
“Yes, well Ernie, unlike the weather our little pet accessory business is warming up,” Theo explained. “I told you a while ago Christmas will be our busiest time,” he went on. “We’ve got 20 markets before the ‘Big Day’. We have to be very hands on, after all it’s…”
“...I know…our names over the doors,” Ernie interrupted. Theo was always saying this but Ernie didn’t believe it. He never saw doors on the market stalls. Their name was on a banner but that was different.
Theo raised his right eyebrow at Ernie’s rather sarcastic interjection. He’d recently been to a corporate strategy seminar. He’d learnt that always being positive is one of the keys to business success. However, Ernie didn’t know this so he ignored his friend’s negative tone.
Ernie could tell he’d annoyed Theo so he quickly changed the subject.
“Theo, did you meet some important people at Penrith?” he asked.
“No, why do you ask that?” Theo replied in a puzzled voice.
“Well, you put a shirt and tie on for a while,” Ernie explained, “and I couldn’t find you for a bit so thought you must have had a business meeting.”
Theo roared with laughter and explained that his human had dressed him up in fancy dress. Ernie then remembered he’d seen some other dogs wearing funny costumes. He realised they must have been in fancy dress too. He would ask his human why he’d not had a fancy dress.
Theo could see Ernie was about to ask lots of questions about his fancy dress. He didn’t really want to talk about it so quickly changed the subject by asking Ernie what he had thought of the markets he’d attended in Penrith and Manchester
“It was very cold in Penrith,” Ernie replied, “I think that’s why it was called Winter Droving.”
“Yes, it was very chilly,” Theo agreed. “However, the festival’s name actually commemorates the times when animals were driven long distances from the fields to the market,” he explained, “that’s what the procession at the end of the day was celebrating,” he went on.
“Ah right!” Ernie replied. “The animals looked very cold, didn’t they Theo?” he went on/ “They looked so cold some of them were white!!” I hope they got rewarded with lots of treats after all that walking in the freezing weather!”
Theo couldn’t face explaining to Ernie that the sort of animals that were driven into town don’t eat treats. So, he said he was sure they got lots treats and changed the subject.
“There was so much going on at the festival, what was your favourite bit?” he asked.
Without hesitating, Ernie said it was getting some treats off Ruby and Millie’s Dog Bakery stall.
Theo sighed and tried again.
“Yes, I know you love Ruby and Millie’s treats, we all do,” Theo sighed, “but what was your favourite bit apart from them?” he asked.
Ernie thought hard for a minute and then his reply came tumbling out.
“Dancing to the folk music,” he answered excitedly,
“Watching the street artists,” he went on...
“Looking in shop windows, sitting in a warm pub, meeting visitors to our stall,” he added. “What did you like best Theo?”
“It would have to be how the organisers so successfully blended the traditional and modern to create a wonderful visitor experience,” Theo replied.
Ernie had noticed Theo was saying lots of strange things after the corporate strategy seminar he attended. He didn’t have a clue what his clever friend was talking about and was too afraid to ask – so he just agreed.
Unlike Ernie, Theo hadn’t personally been at the Great Northern Makers’ Market in early November where Ernie and Theo had a stall. He asked how the day had gone.
“Well, it wasn’t as cold as it was at Penrith,” Ernie replied.
This wasn’t exactly the answer Theo was hoping for. He’d been very pleased with the sales figures but wanted to know more about the customer demographics. The Great Northern was one of their regular markets and he wanted to know if they were getting many return customers. He tried again.
“Who called by our stall,” he asked, “did you see any familiar faces?”
Ernie thought for a moment. He’d recently met so many friends he couldn’t remember who he’d seen where. Being very tired after his brother visited him the day before didn’t help!
“So many friends called by our stall I can’t exactly remember Theo, but I did get to sit on a deck chair and got lots of cuddles of the customers,” he replied in a worried voice. “I did hear the pet-humans say some familiar faces called again looking for Christmas presents.”
“That’s excellent news Ernie,” Theo said nodding approvingly, “the more we can build up loyalty to the ‘Ernie and Theo’ brand the better.”
Yet again, Ernie hadn’t the foggiest idea what Theo was talking about so he just nodded and tried to look wise. By now, the stars were out and the temperature was dropping quickly. It was time for the two friends to head home. Before they did, Ernie had a question for Theo.
“Why weren’t you able to get to the Great Northern market Theo?”, Ernie asked. “You keep saying we have to be hands-on but your feet keep taking you off!!” he exclaimed.
“It’s getting late,” Theo replied. “I’ll tell you why tomorrow. Come on, I’ll race you home,”
Ernie didn’t need asking twice and they both sprinted off into the gathering gloom.