For me, if I like someone I mock them. It’s perhaps not a great trait, but growing up with two older brothers has meant that it’s the way I communicate my friendship. If I feel comfortable around someone and like them, I will tease them and joke around with them.
When I first met Rupert he was wearing heavy-framed glasses, which were without lenses. Like a red rag to a bull (I’m the bull in this scenario), right away I started mocking him, and there started our friendship of me cruelly taunting him and him being generous enough to laugh along (and maybe cry himself to sleep at night). As a firm part of my north London circle, no pub visit is complete without Rupert blustering in an hour late, shouting “Darling! How are you?” while wearing some chunky knitwear.
Here Rupert, ever-tolerant and entertaining, talks football pubs, his karaoke track of choice and trying to illegally board a train bound for Paris…
I love London because… it’s a giant smörgåsbord of everything from architecture to the arts.
London is at its best when… nippy springtime gives way to full blown barbecue summer. The mood of London is epitomised by the 10 people opposite you on the tube, and in summer they look like they may just make eye contact and smile. You can almost forgive the guy wearing his shiny new Ray-Ban sunglasses underground – although seriously: never be that guy.
My ideal day off in London would be… a Saturday. I dream of this perfect day of waking up not too hungover, opening the windows to sunshine before writing music throughout the morning. Content with a hard day’s work by midday, I head to lunch at the Swimmer at The Grafton Arms pub in Holloway, where Laila and Jon [the staff] greet me and my friends like the opening from Cheers. Sitting outside drinking pints of Brugse Zot, my friends and I discuss where to watch the afternoon’s football – a debate utterly irrelevant asThe Tollington Arms on Hornsey Road is excellent and we’ll be going here. As this is a fantasy day, we watch Manchester United not lose horribly and all my Arsenal supporting friends break down in tears, admitting they have been closet Reds all along.
The evening will end with karaoke, probably in the Birdcage in Columbia Road, so the post football journey is all about the most exotic and exciting route to take. Along that route is The Lamb on Holloway Road which has an excellent selection of local beers and the staff are impeccably friendly. By 9pm I’m panicking that it’s getting late and I need to submit my karaoke song choice so we all cab it to Shoreditch. I’m in luck – they always have space for R Kelly’s “Ignition” (Remix).
In this perfect day I probably have a dog, and his name is Marco Fu.
I absolutely love this little-known place… called Shoreditch. I think it’ll catch on.
The best night I’ve ever had in London was… one that ended at 8am at St Pancras International pleading with the ticket office to let us on a train to Paris without our passports. At the time I imagined it looking more Withnail and I than Fearand Loathing. Now I’m not too sure.
My favourite restaurant is… L’atelier de Joel Robuchon in town. I had never eaten in a Michelin-starred restaurant before and a deal had arisen on Toptable for this restaurant. Although it was clear to everyone there that our wine-less, shared starter, shared desert, 2-for-1 mains order was designed to absolutely minimise the overall cost of eating at the restaurant, the staff were kind and courteous throughout which left me with a strong desire to return.
If I had £2000 to blow, I’d spend it all in… Borough Market, and if I’m honest, two thirds of that will be on cheese. Anything left over will be spent inBang Bang, a vintage clothes shop in Soho where I can safely say that pretty much all of my clothes are purchased from. Not underwear, that would be weird.
My favourite museum/gallery/theatre is… Oval House theatre in Oval. They very kindly gave me one of my first breaks in theatre, and the team that run it work incredibly hard providing opportunities for youth in South London.
One thing I didn’t know about London until I lived here is… the best espresso martini is made at The Hoxley & Porter in Upper Street.
London is great, but one thing that really annoys me is… when bus drivers don’t wave to each other when they pass one another. There is no excuse for this.
I’ll leave London when… I’ve had the perfect day mentioned above, but luckily my non-Manchester United-supporting friends are so entrenched in denial that this could take years.
When you start dating, get together, go steady – however you want to phrase it – with someone, you sort of inherit their family, don’t you? You have a whole new load of people to get drunk on Amaretto on and argue over board games with at Christmas. Luckily for me, I inherited a bloody amazing family when Andrew and I got together. They might be small (trust me, I feel like a giant around them and am contantly banging my head on things at their house, which they fit under easily) but they are mighty.
And this is how I met the subject of this post’s interview – Jo. She’s Andrew’s little sister. Jo set up a dog accessories business a few years ago. I know a lot of dog owners visit The Z Factor, so I thought some of you would like to hear about Jo’s business and her very cute little pug, Betty.
Hi Jo! Can you tell us a bit about Betty’s boutique – what products do you sell? What’s your style?
Betty’s Boutique was initially a small business selling branded dogwear (collars, leads, harnesses, dog coats) and accessories, such as Puppia, Mutts & Hounds and Danish Dog Designs. However, in 2014, I moved in a new direction and have begun making my own products. Betty’s Boutique offers products to dog owners who wish to show off their dogs’ lifestyle and personality through their dogwear i.e. collars, leads and harnesses. The ranges that I have developed use quite classic fabrics as I am big fan of rustic chic design. I also believe that classic fabrics illustrate the simple beauty of the English countryside – no unnecessary additions – it is just delicate, pretty and simple.
Do you make any of your own products?
We now produce our own range of dog collars, matching leads and harnesses in three different styles – dotty, rustic stripe and retro floral. Collars come in 5 different sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL), leads come in 2 sizes (M &L) and harnesses come in 3 sizes (XS, S & M). These ranges are slowly expanding. We will also be producing our own range of matching dog coats by winter which is exciting!
Do you have a favourite product? If so, which is it?
My personal favourite product is the dotty harness (see photo below), firstly because it was the first item that I worked hard to produce and therefore took a lot of time and effort to get it right and, secondly, as it is just a simple, pretty material that looks great on our little Betty. It shows off our Country lifestyle with is a ‘pretty, simple and a country chic’ vibe.
Why did you set up Betty’s Boutique – did you always want to set up a dogwear company or was it only when you got Betty you thought about it?
I set up Betty’s Boutique as a result of meeting our little puglet, Betty. In April 2012 we met her, only 8 weeks old, and instantly knew that we were meant to be a little family. She had the characteristics that we were looking for – a cheeky, adventurous little soul – a slice of mischief! Through becoming involved in the ‘doggy community’, I was surprised at how many poor quality dog clothes there are in the marketplace. I wanted to find a website which would allow me to buy products which would show off Betty’s little personality but there was nothing quite right. All of the main websites selling doggy clothing were quite generic. So I started Betty’s Boutique. We sourced different brands initially which would allow people to buy products to show off their dog’s personality and lifestyle and, in 2014, I began producing my own range of goods which combined my love of the English countryside and the lifestyle that Betty is part of. The business has now been recognised by the magazine Berkshire Life and we regularly send photos of our dog walks in to show off all our lovely local dog walks.
What’s the best part of running Betty’s Boutique?
I mainly love the fact that I am constantly coming into contact with people who are bonkers about their dogs – like I am! It’s very comforting to know that there are lots of other people who find their dogs as fascinating as I find Betty. It’s lovely to share each others experiences of doggy behaviour and their personalities.
Where can people buy your products? Are you based in particular shops or online?
The main place to buy to buy Betty’s Boutique products is my website – www.bettysdogwear.co.uk but I will also shortly be selling my products from some local Berkshire boutiques – Pink & Brown in Sunninghill, Ascot, the Groom Room in Windsor and WagsPetBoutique in Eton.
What’s the future for Betty’s Boutique? Will you do clothes for larger dogs or expand into more shops or start doing dog accessories?
My hope and plan for Betty’s Boutique is that firstly, get the production and supply of Betty’s dogwear right. As I only began this thread of the business earlier this year, I want to ensure I can keep my customers and the boutiques happy. Following that, I would like to expand the ranges that we have to offer our customers, including a spring/summer, then autumn/winter range and possibly a bespoke range which would cater for all sizes of dogs.
It doesn’t take long browsing this blog to realise I absolutely love dogs. I am totally obsessed with them. I grew up with dogs as pets, and really think they add an incredible amount of love to owners’ lives.
As you know, I take pictures of dogs when I’m out and about. I also talk to them and stroke them whenever I get a chance (Andrew gets kind of mad when I stroke them!), and often buy homeless people’s dogs treats when I can. I also have quite a lot of dog accessories.
So often people ask me why I don’t have a dog of my own. Trust me, I would love a dog of my own. But my lifestyle would make it completely unfair on the pup. I work long hours and like to go out socialising too, and a dog needs plenty of love, affection, routine and care. So at the moment, I just can’t have one.
But recently a few friends – normally fellow dog lovers – put me on to BorrowMyDoggy. This is where dog owners are matched with dogless people who want to spend time with a dog, so they can take the pup for walkies or even dog-sit when the owner needs an extra pair of hangs.
I loved the concept and signed up straight away to be a borrower. I’m yet to be matched with my perfect pooch, but live in hope. In the meantime, I’ve been chatting to the lovely Rikke at Borrow My Doggy and she agreed to do an interview for The Z Factor. And here we are.
Rikke and Elvis
Can you briefly explain the concept of BorrowMyDoggy?
Of course! BorrowMyDoggy is a trusted community of dog lovers, where borrowers help take care of dogs when the owners are busy either for walks, playdays, weekends or happy holidays. Our aim is to leave ‘Pawprints of Happiness’ on the lives of dogs and people.
Why did you set up BorrowMyDoggy?
I came up with the concept for BorrowMyDoggy last year when I was looking after my neighbour’s dog for the day. It worked out great for all of us. I spent the day taking care of Aston (a very cute brown labrador), and my neighbour’s mind was at ease knowing that his dog was being watched by someone who really cared for her instead of being stuck at home alone. Aston spent the day in the park having fun, and looking after her made me so happy.
During the day I thought, “There should be a site where dog owners can have their dogs taken care off by people who absolutely adore dogs and miss having a doggy in their life.”
All owners need to be away from their puppies from time to time. There is no need for a doggy to be home alone or for owners to have pay for a dog walker or kennels when there are lots of people who adore dogs but unfortunately can’t have them (due to work, travel etc), who would love to take care of doggy for free. As an added bonus, BorrowMyDoggy allows owners and doggies to get to know more people locally and spread lots of happiness.
Rikke and BorrowMyDoggy co-founder, Les
Who have you found has signed up to BorrowMyDoggy?
We have a huge variety of members in the BorrowMyDoggy community. Our lovely members are everything from families, to students, older/unwell people, singles and everyone in between. I don’t there’s a demographic unaccounted for!
Is the service used for one-off dog walks or are people building long-lasting relationships by repeatedly seeing the same dog?
The way our members use the site is as varied as the type of people we have signed up. Some dog owners require a stable ongoing arrangement, some need help from time to time and some people have signed up their pooch just to make other people happy.
We’ve found that members are building local relationships with both new people and dogs, and they’re making new friends in the process, which is lovely. We have some wonderful examples of neighbours meeting for the first time, despite living beside each other for years, through BorrowMyDoggy.
Is there anything people can do to increase their chances of getting matched?
Owners generally contact borrowers who are close by and available when their pooch needs looking after. This means that how long it takes to hear from an owner depends on whether there are any pups in your area who need walkies and looking after at the times you’re available. We are also finding that owners prefer to get in touch with fully verified borrowers.
We encourage people to stay at the front of the pack by keeping an eye out for new pooches in their area and favouriting any they think they’d be able to help, as this sends their owner a notification of your interest. We also advise borrowers to make sure that they keep their profile up to date with as much info and availability as possible. We have some handy tips on our blog about how best to do this.
If borrowers only have a few hours a week are their chances slim of finding a dog they can build a relationship with?
There are so many different doggies out there with so many different doggy sitting needs so it is completely dependent on the doggies that are signed up in your local area. We have thousands of new members signing up to BorrowMyDoggy every week and hundreds of messages are being sent all over the country every day.
What kind of feedback are you getting?
Since we started, we have received the most wonderful feedback from our community. Our members are making a difference to each others’ lives every day and we love hearing about the happiness that both people and dogs are spreading.
We also receive lots of pawsome feedback and suggestions from our members about what they would like to see on BorrowMyDoggy. We are so appreciative of all the support that we get from our amazing community and we are working as hard as we can to make BorrowMyDoggy as wonderful an experience as it can be.
What’s the future for BorrowMyDoggy?
We are still a young pup of a company and we are keeping our paws busy doing everything we can to continuously launch new and exciting features based on our lovely community’s feedback.
Everything we do is centred around our aim to leave ‘Pawprints of Happiness’ on the lives of people and dogs as we exist to make a positive difference.
If you’re interested in signing up to BorrowMyDoggy, you can find out more information here.