Thursday, 26 May 2011

Rabbit Awareness Week: An interview with Humphrey

You may have noticed that there have been quite a few rabbits in the news this week? I am a massive rabbit fan (just in case anyone reading this hasn't realised that yet!) and as such I keep getting texts and calls from friends to say 'they're talking about rabbits on Radio 2 today' and so on...

The reason for all this media interest is that it is Rabbit Awareness Week, an annual effort to raise awareness of these lovely creatures and what it is they need to be happy and healthy.

The sad fact is that many people still think it is okay to keep a bunny on his own in a hutch at the bottom of the garden. No, no, no! Bunnies are intelligent, active, curious, social creatures. They need to be able to run and jump, they desperately need company and things to do. It is so, so cruel and unfair to keep a rabbit alone, in a small hutch. I feel physically sick when I see the size of some of the small hutches sold in pet shops - a rabbit couldn't even stand up on his hind legs.

Have a look at this video. I watched it for the first time last night and it really stopped me in my tracks - just imagine what life is like for a bunny alone in a hutch, and then think what it could be like if that same bunny had a companion and some space to run around.

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know all about Humphrey, my lovely house rabbit who 'helps' me run Cottontails. He really does have a happy life. He is a house rabbit, but with regular access to the garden. He is never caged (it is perfectly possible to litter train bunnies) and although he doesn't have a rabbit companion he is closely bonded with me. He is in the office with me every day, in the sitting room every night. He lives a charmed life!

And we are very grateful to Humphrey for taking some time out of his busy bunny schedule to give us this interview and share some of his thoughts on rabbit care...

Cottontails: Humphrey, please tell us about your accommodation.

Humphrey: My main place of residence is the top floor landing where I have a big blanket, a litter tray and a willow cottage to sleep in. I am free to run around the house but I don't like to go down stairs any more, I used to when I was a young buck but these days I prefer to chill out in my own space.

Cottontails: And what about your work place?

Humphrey: I work out in the Cottontails office every day where I have another litter tray. I am free to wander around the office but mostly sleep under the desk.

Cottontails: Do you ever go outside?

Humphrey: Oh yes, I love the great outdoors. I have two runs in the garden - one just outside the office and one over by the vegetable patch. And sometimes I run around the whole garden but that is a rare treat saved for weekends when mummy can chase after me.

Cottontails: What do you like to eat?

Humphrey: I eat a dried pelleted food, lots of dark green leafy salad, carrots, herbs and celery. I also eat a lot of hay - for us bunnies hay is a bit like you humans eating your five a day. It's very good for me. Mummy has recently ordered some lovely Timothy Hay from The Willow Warren. I love it, it's far nicer then the dusty stuff in petshops. I used to have the odd but of toast, biscuit and at Christmas I was allowed some bits of mince pie, but then I got poorly so now I am only allowed rabbit treats. At the moment I am really enjoying a small branch of apple tree every day.

Cottontails: Humphrey, you are a bachelor. Have you ever been married?

Humphrey: I did have a wife for about six months but married life didn't really suit me. Mummy took me along to a rescue center so I could go on some dates and choose my own girlfriend - I met some very feisty women! - eventually I settled for a little lop-eared doe called Emily and we came home together, but to be honest I wasn't happy. We didn't fight or anything, but I became quite withdrawn and chose to live downstairs by myself most of the time. Eventually mummy divorced us and I was much happier just to see Emily from time to time. Sadly she passed away after less than a year with us.
I also used to spend time with mummy's other two bunnies, Cassie and Bart (both sadly passed away now). We quite liked to lie next to each other but with the bars of the run between us, and occasionally mummy would let us run around together but it was always a bit chaotic. To be honest I am very
bonded with mummy and we spend a lot of time together.

Cottontails: How is your health?

Humphrey: Pretty good. My digestion is good because I eat up my hay, and I am lucky to have good teeth. I have vaccinations twice a year against myxi and VHD so there's no danger of me getting those nasty infections. I have an excellent rabbit vet - Andy Barwise at de Montfort Veterinary Hospital in Evesham. We live in Herefordshire now so quite a way away but we still travel back to see Andy because he is a rabbit expert. A couple of years ago one of their vet nurses, Nicky, organised a Rabbit Awareness Day and I went along as a star guest!

Cottontails: Do you go on holiday?

Humphrey: Yes. I usually go to stay with my Aunty Diane at Hoppy Holidays. It's lovely there, Diane looks after me very well with plenty of spa treatments and massage (cuddles and strokes) and it's all inclusive with delicious food.

Cottontails: Tell us about your typical day...

Humphrey: Around dawn I wake up and bang my food bowl about a bit, sometimes I race around the bedrooms on the top floor. After a long and boring wait mummy will eventually get up and she brings me out to the office, gives me breakfast and we start work for the day. I have the job title of 'Floor Manager' in the office, seeing as I am based, erm, near to the floor. I am in charge of marketing and frequently feature in blogs and on the Cottontails face book page, and I often help with unpacking boxes too. I love to shred cardboard. If the weather is fine I will sometimes go out into my run for a while, I quite like to snooze in the sun and eat daisies. In the evening mummy carries me into the sitting room where I have supper and mooch about a bit, then chill out between an armchair and the radiator. I usually spend a good hour on mummy's lap. (Last night we watched The Apprentice together.) At bedtime I am taken up to my landing spot and given some supper and an apple branch to nibble on during the night.

Cottontails: And finally Humphrey, what would you say a bunny needs to be happy?

Humphrey: Space to run around with safe places to hide, companionship with either another bunny or a human, a nice diet with lots of hay, plenty of things to do - boxes to shred, branches to nibble, regular health check-ups and vaccinations. Lots of affection but also lots of respect - we bunnies are quite proud little creatures, and even though I love cuddles a lot of bunnies would prefer to be stroked on the ground and don't much like being picked up a lot. And finally organic carrots with tops on. Preferably from Waitrose.

Cottontails: Thank you Humphrey

You are welcome. And that will be my standard £500 interview fee please.

Awkward silence
End of interview

Monday, 23 May 2011

Tilley Printing

We have a lovely new range of stationery at Cottontails, something that has evolved almost by accident following a chance discovery of an amazing letterpress printers in Ledbury.

Here are our beautiful new tags:

And here is how they came about...

I'm embarrassed to admit that for some time I had been printing my own stationery (and believe me, the products of a pretty basic £50 desktop printer are hardly what you would call professional).

'Sort new stationery' had been on my to-do list for well over 12 months when I spotted this lovely looking sign at the entrance to an alleyway in Ledbury.

At first I thought what a gorgeous vintage design. It wasn't until I'd had my first visit to Tilley Printing that I realised it wasn't just vintage by design - this was the real thing. Note the old fashioned phone number on the sign. I honestly don't think much has changed at Tilley's for, oh, 50 years?

It is a truly authentic letterpress printers, and stepping through the doors (at the bottom of an alley, through a yard, up some steps) is like traveling back in time. I was perplexed when I first arrived - I guess I was expecting something digital and 'ordinary' but believe me there is nothing digital about life at Tilley's - it doesn't even have an email address.

I had pitched up with a vague idea of having some sheets of pretty labels printed and rummaged in my bag for some samples. Martin, the owner, frowned and said he didn't really do that kind of colour. Or labels. 'You could use some paste.' he suggested. I peered past him at the dusty space, dominated by the vast black printing machines, and suspected I was in the wrong place.

But Martin is a charming man. He offered me a tour of the premises and a cup of coffee, and in the half an hour which followed I went from mild panic and a silent plan to leg-it to the nearest branch of 'Pronta-Print' to a feeling of genuine excitement about creating a really special range of stationery. Nothing fancy or colourful but something I couldn't even have imagined before my visit to Tilley's - something authentic, hand-pressed, crafted and simple.

Over the next few weeks we looked at beautiful paper stock, from hand torn Italian to chunky cardboard usually used as the backing for notepads, and settled on a range of natural craft 'luggage tags'. I re-drew my bunny logo in pen and ink and Martin arranged for an engraving to be made.

We worked on lettering, fonts, layout and colour. There was much rifling through tray upon tray of letter blocks, and whilst we eventually settled on a plain black colour, there was an interesting diversion while Martin mixed pots of paints to create a sample of a biscuit colour. He even went out and bought digestives to work from! And everything was done in person, over coffee. What a wonderful change of pace and genuine pleasure not to be able to email proofs and amends.

I am thrilled to bits with the results and love filling in the inventory forms (what's in the parcel) when I send out my orders.

So far I have compliment slips, 'to and from' tags, tags to use on a new 'Bunny Box' product (coming soon!) and the beautiful inventory sheets. But I am sure there will be many more beautiful stationery items to come, and we are even looking at creating a range of Cottontails greetings cards.

Below are some more photographs of this truly amazing printers. And for anyone local to Ledbury, I will put the contact details at the end.

Tilley Printing
Tilley's Alley
High Street
Telephone - 01531 632750