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Where did the time go?

In 1985 Ronald Raegan and Mikhail Gorbachev met for the first time in Geneva. British Telecom announced that it was to begin phasing out its red telephone boxes. Mixed race marriage in South Africa was made legal.

Football disasters at Bradford and Heysel killed a total of 94 spectators.

The average house price in the UK was £40,000 and a gallon of petrol was £1.88

It was the year of the charity record with USA for Africa, Jagger and Bowie and “The Crowd” all doing their bit.

Other top tunes of the year came from Dead or Alive, The Eurithmics and a young Whitney Houston.

Dumbarton started the year in the Scottish Premier League.

No one had heard of the world wide web and Windows 95 was ten years in the future.

It was a long time ago.

That was when I opened the doors of my pet business for the first time. Twenty eight years later, yesterday, after many an achievement, many a disappointment, many a change and many a laugh, I walked out of the door as owner for the last time. I’m pleased that the business will continue and wish the new owners well in that endeavour.

Onwards and upwards!


Happy Birthday VAT

Indeed, Happy 40th Birthday to our very first present from the then Common Market, the imposition of which was a condition of Britain joining.

Designed by French tax expert Maurice Lauré in the postwar years and first levied in the UK on April Fools’ Day 1973, VAT is now the government’s third largest source of revenue after income tax and national insurance.

But what started out as a simple, easy to collect tax – a low, flat rate imposed on most goods and services – has become increasingly complex, with exemptions for everything from children’s clothes to Jaffa Cakes.

“The initial idealistic hope that it would be a simple tax, easy to apply, has constantly been eroded because there are always special lobbies,” said Deloitte tax expert Daniel Lyons. “Politics and economics got in the way of simplicity.”

In the far off halcyon days of 1973, chancellor Anthony Barber introduced a flat rate tax of 10%

Paid by the buyer but collected by the seller, it is still one of the cheapest taxes for HM Revenue & Customs to administer because it requires businesses to act as tax collector.

It even had its own, user-friendly tribunal, where business owners could represent themselves when pleading their case.

But just one year in, Labour chancellor Denis Healey began to muddy the waters. He reduced the standard rate to 8%, but introduced a higher rate of 12.5% for petrol and some luxury goods, doubling the upper rate later that year to 25% before lowering it in 1976.

In 1979, the higher rate was abolished and the standard rate increased to 15%, where it remained until Conservative chancellor Norman Lamont increased it to 17.5% in 1991. Lamont also imposed an 8% rate on domestic fuel and power, which had previously been zero-rated.

The 1997 general election swept Labour to power and with it came a new series of tweaks and exemptions. Gordon Brown brought domestic fuel and power down to 5%, and knocked money off the rate for home insulation materials. He applied his own moral stamp, with VAT reductions on nicotine gum and other stop-smoking products, along with contraceptives, tampons and children’s car seats.

The recent banking crisis brought further changes, when Labour chancellor Alistair Darling cut the rate to 15% from December 2008 in an attempt to boost consumer spending. The discount was short-lived; a year later the rate was returned to 17.5%.

On 4 January 2011, the current chancellor, George Osborne,  introduced a 20% rate – a centrepiece of the coalition’s austerity drive – meaning in 40 years the tax rate on goods and services sold in the UK has doubled.

VAT appeals have become expensive and complex, too. Bringing a case can cost £100,000, says Lyons at Deloitte, with most businesses choosing to hire accountants, lawyers and senior barristers instead of representing themselves.

I have been an unpaid collector of VAT in since 1985. You’d think that in a pet store applying VAT would be simple yes? After all pets are luxuries and VAT is payable on all luxuries……..

Pictured: Contributor and freeloader

Pictured: Contributor and freeloader

But……but……Guinea pig food has VAT on it, rabbit food doesn’t (although some pre-packed rabbit food does). Bird seed has VAT on it………unless it is for wild birds or pigeons in which case it doesn’t. Dog food? well surely dog food has VAT on it? Well yes, unless it is labelled as working dog food when it doesn’t.

Striped sunflower seed. Source of revenue.

Striped sunflower seed. Source of revenue.

Black sunflower seed. The VAT man say no.

Black sunflower seed. The VAT man say no.

Then there’s ferret food. Ferret food doesn’t have VAT on it.  Rat food and hamster food do. What about books? They don’t have VAT on them. Black sunflower seed doesn’t have VAT, but stay away from those 20% rated striped ones. Peanuts? nae VAT. Pine nuts? VAT. Frozen dog and cat food? no VAT. Frozen mice and rats to feed snakes? What do you reckon?…………No VAT.

Almost human. No VAT on his food either.

Almost human. No VAT on his food either.

Woe betide any VAT registered business who is late in paying their VAT. I remember once, about six years ago, I was one day late with my payment. At that time electronic payments weren’t made on bank holidays and I had scheduled my payment for a day that unknown to me, was an English, but not a Scottish, bank holiday.

When the notice came in to inform me that my payment had been late and that any repetition within 18 months would mean penalties, I appealed. I pointed out that this was the first time my payment had been late in 22 years and that I had no knowledge of the English bank holiday. I asked that in these circumstances the appeal should be upheld.

The reply was (and I may paraphrase here slightly) Dear sir, Please go and take a long run and f*ck to yourself.

Anyway, happy birthday VAT, the EU in microchosm. Complicated to administer, unfair, non progressive and resented.

Unless you spend all your time reading your ferrets bedtime stories.

Thanks to The Guardian

Further reading here
here and here

Live from the Pet Shop

You will laugh…….


Civilisation – The end is near.

You just know it when you see stuff like this:

Yes, tastless, blingy type garments for wee lassies whose parents should know better.

But let me tell you that I received an email this morning advertising the said product and many more similar ones in the range. For those who don’t know me and may not already have twigged, I own a pet shop.

These dresses are for wee bitches!

It can’t be long now until the apocalypse.

The Bones of Grammar

In my life as a supplier of victuals for pets, I have become the purveyor of many items from pigs’ ears to bulls’ penises.

One popular item is ‘Roast Bones’ – a cooked beef knuckle bone for dogs.

Here is what it says on the box…..

Let’s get this straight. Does T. Forrest own a pet snack who owns a company who manufactures families?

Dog and Cat Diaries

A re-post from April 2008:


8:00 am – Dog food! My favourite thing!
9:30 am – A car ride! My favourite thing!
9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favourite thing!
10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favourite thing!
12:00 PM – Lunch! My favourite thing!
1:00 PM – Played in the yard! My favourite thing!
3:00 PM – Wagged my tail! My favourite Thing !
5:00 PM – Milk bones! My favourite thing!
7:00 PM – Got to play ball! My favourite thing!
8:00 PM – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favourite thing!
11:00 PM – Sleeping on the bed! My favourite thing!


Day 983 of my captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash
or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations
perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my
strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an
attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I
had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly
demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending
comments about what a ‘good little hunter’ I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed
in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear
the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to
the power of ‘allergies.’ I must learn what this means, and how to use it to
my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my
tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this
again tomorrow — but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches.

The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released – and seems to
be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.


As regular readers know, my part time job outside blogging is as owner/manager of a Pet Store. It’s been not a bad journey these 27 years but some days, like I suppose any job can affect anyone, it sucks.

Yesterday was such a day. There are several things which are absolutely guaranteed to send me into grumpy old man mode. Number one is unruly wild children whose parents seem to suffer from 1) Blindness 2) Deafness and 3) Complete lack of parental responsibility.

One such family with three little cherubs was in yesterday. “Mammy mammy!” screamed a wee boy at approximately the decibel level of the loudest chainsaw you’ve ever heard, as he simultaneously shoulder charged an aquarium, “Look at that mad wee fish!”. His two sisters had positioned themselves behind the counter mixing various loose foods to their own recipe.

The mother, with grubby hands, had her head buried in one of our books (obviously under the impression that the shop is in fact a library) as the faither who was probably the most glaikit individual I’ve seen in some time, managed to inquire, despite having a mouth full of Greggs sausage roll  “Huv yez no’ goat any cheaper dog leads?”

“Than £1.50 sir?… eh no”

Meanwhile the two sisters had progressed to the dog toy display area where they proceeded to systematically pick up each toy and return it to a different location. In between times they would (presumably for quality control purposes) press each one to make it squeak.



“Mammmy! Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmy! AH WAAAANT A RABBIT” yelled the boy, the decibel level has now reached that of the take off of a Jumbo Jet

“Mammmy! Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaammmy! AH WAAAANT A RAAAAABBIT”


Mammy is blissfully eating a Greggs steak bake, carefully dropping bits of it into the book as the wee boy by this time has ruptured the eardrums of everyone within twenty yards.

The girls are running around the shop yelling like banshees.

The only consolation I can find is that I will never have to visit their house.

The next “pet hate” is the customer who comes in for advice and insists after each question on interrupting you as you attempt to answer.

“Ma fish tank’s durty -how?”


“Is the filter broke?”

“Eh well…..”

“Whit kind of fish can ah keep in wi they wans?”

“Those are…..”

“How much is that tank?”


“How many fish could I keep in that?”


This is a common occurrence and one which I’m increasingly in danger of one day framing my response as……

“Look! wil you SHUT the F*** UP and LISTEN!!! Don’t ask me a question if you have no intention of listening to the answer!!!”

Did I mention about people who seem completely unable to stand up unaided without sprawling themselves over the counter as they talk to you?

Maybe I can leave that for another day.