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Let’s nail my colours firmly to the mast. I loved this film. Absolutely one of the best movies in a long time. Though to read some of the reviews out there you’d find that hard to believe. Written and directed by Nick Love, Goodbye Charlie Bright is a rites of passage, coming of age, film charting the relationship between two young lads growing up in South East London. Paul Nicholls (Joe from Eastenders) plays Charlie Bright and his best mate Justin is played by Ronald Manookian. They’ve vowed to stay friends come what may, but the film tells of one hot summer when their relationship hits breaking point as they both want different things as they grow up. From the opening scene that sees the friends stripping naked and running through their estate for the hell of it this film moves with a cracking pace. None of the dark, grimy scenes that you usually associate with this kind of British film, this is a comedy with an up beat feel about it. No punches are pulled when dealing with the rougher side of South London life, the language is very strong indeed and the violence and crime is played for real. One of my favourite scenes has a cameo appearance from Edna Dore (Frank Butchers mum on Eastenders) playing an absolutely foul-mouthed old woman. So different from the usual portrayal of older people in film – and so true! As they stand on the verge of adulthood Charlie finds that he is being held back by the small-world aspirations of Justin and is being threatened by Justin’s decline into a life of crime and the relationship finally snaps. Although set in Bermondsey in South East London Goodbye Charlie Bright is not constrained by that and is a great movie showing a certain side of British life throughout the UK. As I say it’s been slated by several critics who are appalled at the image it portrays. I wouldn’t mind betting that most of them have never been on a council estate in South East London in their life. I’ve got news for them, this film is authentic. I saw it at a cinema very close to Bermondsey and I can’t remember the last film I saw where the whole audience cheered and applauded in the middle of the film as they did with Goodbye Charlie Bright. Paul Nicolls and Ronald Manookian are great – two brilliant performances. They’re ably assisted by the likes of Dani Behr, David Thewlis, Jamie Foreman and Richard Driscoll. Go and see it – Make up your own mind, there’s a good chance that, like me, you’ll want to see it again.
If you like designer goods (who doesn’t?) but you’re not too keen on designer prices (who isn’t?), you’ve got to head to McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Centre in Ashford, Kent. McArthurGlen have several Designer Outlet Centres across Europe, but their centre in Ashford is one of their newest and, being less than an hour from London one of their busiest. Outlet Centres originated in the USA and are out of town centres where chain stores and designer brands off-load past seasons goods at bargain prices. It really is like a permanent sale time. Ashford Designer Outlet Centre has a striking design. The stores are arranged in an oval pattern and a canvas type material suspended on poles covers the walkway. A bit of a cross between a circus big top and the Millennium Dome is the best way to describe it. If you try imagining looking down on this oval shape, at one end is the entry road for cars and at the opposite end a food court and children’s play area, and on either sides are the shops themselves. The centre of the oval is the car park with space for 1,300 cars, and this is part of the beauty of the place – no matter where you park you’re very close to the shops and you start with the nearest shop and simply follow round – no getting lost or losing your friends! So what about the shops? Well there’s a wide range. Clothes come courtesy of Gap, Tommy Hillfiger, Daks, Polo, Levis, Firetrap, Ben Sherman and many others. There’s even the first M&S outlet shop within the centre, though it has to be said it’s not one of the better shops on offer. Other shops include Le Creuset – great cookware, Waterford Wedgewood, Edinburgh Crystal, Bath & Works and Body Shop. When you make a purchase save your receipts. If your daily total is over £100 take them along to the Information Desk in the Food Court and ask for a Plus Card. This gets stamped every time your spend is over £100 and when that happens four times you get a £20 voucher. For a break from the shopping the Food Court has McDonald’s, Spud-u-like, Harry Ramsden’s and a couple of coffee shops. Basic stuff. Getting to the Designer Outlet Centre is easy. By car, take exit 10 off the M20 and follow the signs. The nearest train station is Ashford International from where there’s a free shuttle bus. Opening hours: Monday – Wednesday 10-6 Thursday 10-8 Friday 10-6 Saturday 9-6 Sunday 11-5 My best buy? The £100 DVD player from Littlewoods Catalogue Outlet. It works perfectly well and came complete – a real bargain. As with all the stores though their stock changes quickly so you never know what you’ll find, but as McArthurGlen say – that’s half the fun!
Where do you begin when trying to give a flavour of Bethlehem? It’s difficult to know where to start with a place that most of us were told about from an early age. My first visit was almost 15 years ago. It was my first visit to Israel and I wanted to see the main Christian sights that I had heard so much about. I knew very little of the political situation and did not want to get involved with any of that side of things and wasn’t even sure of the distinction between the occupied territories. Bethlehem is quite a large town situated about 4 or 5 miles from Jerusalem so can easily be visited in a day. On my first visit it was a simple matter of catching the local bus. This was the first surprise – this was not one of the new fleet of Israeli buses. It was on old, uncomfortable and dusty Arab bus. Bethlehem is clearly part of the occupied territories. The bus arrives in the main centre of Bethlehem, Manger Square. This may conj our a romantic image, but Manger Square is a large square with a car and bus park in the centre. Around three sides are souvenir shops and cafes. On the third side is the Church of the Nativity and this has to be the place to head for. The Church of the Nativity is a large plain building entered through a very small doorway. You have to duck your head to get in – I’m told this door is deliberately low so that the Crusaders couldn’t ride their horses inside! The interior of the church is bare – it doesn’t look like one of our churches – for a start there are no seats. No matter, everyone heads for an underground section behind the altar – the site of the birth of Jesus? Down some steps and there’s a small dimly lit room. On one side there’s an object resembling a large fireplace in the middle of which is a metal star on the floor – the actual site of the birth. I arrived early in the morning before the tour buses arrived and in the early stillness even cynical me was thinking …. Maybe … just maybe. Back outside and time to look at all the souvenirs on offer. Olive wood aplenty. Then came one of the memories that will live with me forever. There were two of us in a shop where the trader was trying to sell us a rather nice wooden, musical, nativity scene. Suddenly there is gunfire outside and a street battle began. Calmly the shopkeeper lowered the shutters of his shop until the commotion was over. The memory is of having this spiritual experience in the Church of the Nativity, then coming out to be caught up in a gunfight, while a nativity scene played “Silent Night”. The last time I visited Bethlehem was a couple of years ago and it was against everyone’s advice as the Israelis and closed the area, so travel was difficult. Bethlehem has become a ghost town. I was the only tourist I saw. All the shops and café’s were open, but there were no visitors. I’ve read that the Palestinians have invested heavily in facilities in the area, but that it’s still recognised as a dangerous place to visit. A great pity. Although I ignored everyone’s advice and visited – my advice would be reluctantly to say take heed of the advice and certainly do not visit alone. I am not a religious person myself but it really saddens me that Bethlehem is such an unsafe town to visit.
From Inverness to Plymouth, there’s a House of Fraser Department Store in a high street near you. You may not recognise it, because House of Fraser is known locally by a whole host of different names, for example – Kendal’s of Manchester, Howells of Cardiff, Dickens & Jones, Regent Street, Barkers of Kensington, Rackhams of Birmingham …. all House of Fraser. The names may be different but the House of Fraser brand is much the same in all the stores that I’ve visited. They’re normally one of the largest stores in a town and have a reputation for being one of the swankiest. As you enter the store you’re greeted by the overwhelming aroma of the Perfumery and Cosmetics Department. If you can manage to rush through that without being sprayed will all manner of potions by their troop of heavily made up ladies you get into the heart of the store and all they have to offer. Clothes, in particular designer brands are the bread and butter of House of Fraser. They stock many of the top brands from here, the USA and the rest of Europe. Out of sale time these are lovely to look at but terribly expensive. They have also introduced a range of “own brand” clothes with their Linea label, but make no mistake, this is no supermarket own brand, its not substandard, and it’s not cheap! Then there are the rest of the departments; these depend very much on the size of your local store. Kitchenware, household electrical, large electrical, accessories, books, luggage, gifts and glassware all make up part of the House of Fraser experience. It really is an old fashioned Department Store in the mould of Grace Brothers. All in all walking round the stores is pleasant and as the goods are all so well displayed it can be a real pleasure. Unfortunately I think that House of Fraser falls apart when it comes to customer service. As I’ve said it’s all rather swank and swishy, and that goes particularly for the assistants. They have a real attitude of superiority over the customer. I recently ordered a television from my local House of Fraser’s for delivery in “about a month?” After not a word from the store in two months I went back and got my money back. The time of the two assistants in the TV department would have been better spent calling customers like me and keeping them informed of orders, but clearly they felt well employed watching Richard & Judy! House of Fraser – all front and no substance. UPDATE I wrote to the House of Fraser Chief Executive and got a nice letter telling me that my letter was being passed on to the local store manager. The store manager wrote to say how sorry he was to hear about what happened, and it wouldn't happen again. So that's all right then....
I love a bargain, and there’s no better place to bag a bargain than the USA Outlet Malls, and if you’re visiting New York City the best Outlet Mall is Jersey Gardens. Outlet Malls are where the high street names off-load last seasons stock at a fraction of the cost in the High Street, and as some of these are the premier American brands real bargains compared to the UK prices can be found. There are several Outlet Centres within fairly easy reach of New York City (I’ve written an opinion on a particularly good one “Where locals shop” in the Shopping in NY section) but one of the newest and best is very easy to get to and well worth a visit. Jersey Gardens is a huge, two storey mall with over 250 stores. All the big names are here – Gap, Tommy, Polo, Nautica, Benetton, Old Navy and many, many more! They’re all under one roof, and one strange thing is that the Mall is fully carpeted – a bit odd I thought. Discounts are up to 70% of high street prices, 50% off is the norm, and don’t forget this is off the already comparably cheaper prices to the UK. Even with the current unfavourable exchange rate it adds up to some considerable savings. I was particularly pleased to get a Quiksilver jacket for just $25 and a Quiksilver shirt for $19. The jacket would cost at least 3 times that here. Added extras at Jersey Gardens are a children’s play area and a good food court to take the weight off your feet and recharge for more bargain hunting! So where is Jersey Gardens? Easy to find if you arrived at Newark Airport – you probably flew over it! Jersey Gardens is in the Elizabeth district of New Jersey. To get there from New York City catch the “NJ Transit Bus 111” from Port Authority Station in Manhattan. There’s also a free shuttle bus from Newark Airport at Monorail Station E. If you’re driving it’s exit 13A off the N ew Jersey Turnpike, but the day I went it was really difficult to find a parking space, a small citisism. Finally, two points that make Jersey Gardens even better. Firstly, dotted throughout the Mall are booths that look like cash machine, but look closely and you’ll see they’re free internet access points. Great for collecting email – free! Secondly, local taxes are not included in the price on goods but are added at the tills and can come as a nasty shock when you come to pay. Clothes are taxable in New York State, but Jersey Gardens is in New Jersey State and guess what? There’s no tax on clothes in New Jersey, so there’s an instant 8% saving on New York prices. If you’re in New York you really can’t afford to miss Jersey Gardens. www.jerseygardens.com
When in New York shop where the locals shop. After all you wouldn’t come to London and go to Harrods, Selfridges or Harvey Nic’s for the bargains would you? Well it’s the same in NY, forget window-shopping in swish 5th Avenue. Century 21 and Ross Dress for Less (see other opinions) are all very well, but the real secret of getting the bargains is to head away from the city and all the other tourists getting lost in Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Head instead for WOODBURY COMMON OUTLET CENTRE, north of New York City in Central Valley. Just an hour out of Manhattan by bus, Woodbury Common Outlet Centre is one of the biggest and finest outlet centres in the States. The centre is a whole shopping town with over 220 shops and stores arranged in a “village” sort of way with neat pathways connecting different shopping areas. Most of the famous names are here: Gucci, Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Versace and the like. Mainly top-notch American designers, but no complaints about that – this is America after all! I wasn’t expecting M&S or BHS. There can certainly be no complaints about the choice or the prices. Last seasons stock can be reduced by up to 75% (though more usually 50%) and don’t forget that these reductions are on the US prices that are already lower than UK prices. I travel to New York quite a bit and get all of my clothes from Woodbury – shirts, jeans, underwear they’re all at bargain prices. Woodbury is open 7 days a week. Sunday – Wednesday 10 – 6. Thursday to Saturday 10 – 9. Make a full day out of it, there are plenty of places to eat and recharge before more bargain hunting. Getting to Woodbury is easy. The bus company Gray Line operate daily shopping trips (it’s THAT good) from Port Authority Station in Manhattan (42nd St & 8th Av). The trip’s about an hour each way and costs around $35 adults, $17 kids, and you can easily get this back with a few purchases. So don’t stick to dreaming in 5th Avenue – get out to Woodbury and you too can swish through the airport laden with designer carriers! UPDATE Just discovered a new Outlet Mall much nearer to New York. Look at my opinion in the New Jersey > Newark > "Biggest Bargains!!" section of dooyoo.
Why on earth would anyone shop in Oxford Street? I can see that there may have once been a good reason to visit the lovely shops along Oxford Street, but not anymore. The one time splendour of the street is epitomised by the fine architecture of Selfridges, the one store which is still worth making the journey to Oxford Street to visit. As for the rest of the shops – the street is divided into two fairly distinct sections. The posh end, between Marble Arch and Oxford Circus, home to Selfridges, Debenhans, John Lewis and House of Fraser. The tacky end is from Oxford Circus to Tottenham Court Road, and boy is it tacky. Overpriced junk shops peddling rubbish to gullible tourists. Down the middle of the street is a constant flow (or usually, standstill) of pollution churning buses and taxis. In recent years Oxford Street has been struggling with a rapidly falling reputation caused by - pick pockets ready to relieve you of your money, likewise beggars; gangs of youngsters roaming from one store to another intimidating shoppers and store assistants; shady gangs flogging off their fake gold and perfume. In fact the low life of London's criminal underworld seems to meet on Oxford Street. Compare this with the safety, warmth, comfort and range of stores in any of the out of town centres – Lakeside, Brent Cross and the fantastic Bluewater and yes, WHY bother with Oxford Street??
I like to think of myself as a socially aware kind of person. The image of popping into the local corner shop for my purchases, buying fresh, selected produce from a happy and helpful store-keeper appeals to me. Reality though is a different matter. When I venture into the local corner shop I am greeted with a sea of chaos and disorganisation. Goods are piled high and with no system on dusty shelves. Choice is limited to the main brands only and if you're looking for fresh produce, forget it. The fruit and vegetables look fit for the dustbin only. For all this "service" you pay a hefty premium! Compare this with the supermarket. Plenty of room to browse and make up your mind which of the wide range you want to buy. Plenty of choice at competitive prices. It's difficult for small traders to match the standards of their much larger rivals, but they could begin by learning a few lessons about marketing and presentation of fresh produce. The area where they should be at an advantage is in customer service. In my experience though most of them seem to resent their chosen profession and take that out on the customer! In the long run I really think that the small traders cannot compete and I'll not be shedding a tear when they do out of business along with their dirty shops and high prices.
“Just say no” – Was a short-lived campaign trying to discourage young people from drug taking. The campaign was widely believed to have failed as it tried to answer a complex issue with an over simple solution. The campaign failed. Likewise, if we are to attempt to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancies we need an open and honest look at ourselves and the way in which we relate to and educate young people. “Just don’t do it” is not an adequate response. A problem on the scale of teenage pregnancies needs radical solutions. Education has to be key in bringing down the number of teenage pregnancies. I seem to remember from my own childhood that from an early age we all had a curiosity about sex and where we came from. I don’t think that there was anything unusual in this; it was a part of growing up and questioning the world around us. I also remember that information was not obtained from responsible adults but from other children – hardly the most reliable source of knowledge. Sex education should start at an early age. My own school sex education consisted of a biology teacher beginning a lesson with “Today we’re going to do the reproduction of rats. Listed carefully because it’s the same for humans …” Yes, it’s true! I firmly advocate the placing of sex education within a topic of social studies, looking at the wider issues of society, relationships and community interaction. This way it can be gently introduced from an early age, within a context of grown-up relations. Knowing the facts, the emotional as well as the biological, and what the consequences are, would not I believe lead to experimentation. As they get older this educational message needs to be reinforced and expanded as the capacity to fully understand grows. As with so many things it needs to be taught that’s actions have consequences an d we all have responsibilities. A number of years ago it was politically convenient scapegoat teenage mothers as responsible for all societies ills (they should now be very grateful to asylum seekers). The thinking at the time was girls were getting pregnant to get increased welfare benefits and a council flat. I never did buy into this. Young girls get pregnant because they have sex with young boys (let’s not forget them) and get caught out. For most it’s the most shocking, frightening thing and certainly not a thought part of a master plan to get a child benefit book. Teenage girls who plan their pregnancy are in a tiny minority. Unfortunately I don’t think that we will begin to bring down the figures in the current climate. We’re not brave enough or honest enough. We need to: Educate from an early age. Teach responsibility and morality to boys and girls. Give free, anonymous access to contraception for boys and girls. Get young people away from the idea that they invented sex! I see no contradiction with these ideas and morality. “Just say no” is not enough – lets tackle this problem creatively, responsibly and using all available methods before it grows even more.
I write this after much thought and in fear and trepidation. You see I think that expressing even the mildest criticism of the NSPCC is similar to knocking the good old Queen Mum or questioning the motives of Mother Teresa. Along with every right thinking person I have to say that I completely and utterly detest all forms of mental or physical abuse of children. However I don’t think that the NSPCC should be above criticism or that their campaigns and fundraising can go unquestioned. The current Full Stop Campaign in particular trades on people’s anger at child abuse and asks the public to sign up to pledge an end to child abuse. I think that this is misleading on a number of accounts. The NSPCC is not the first charity to solicit donations on promises that cannot be kept. In particular I recall the National Children’s Homes (NCH) campaign “House our Youth 2000” where, in return for a donation, NCH would end youth homelessness by the year 2000. Of course by the year 2000 this huge campaign was quietly dropped, having singularly failed in the declare aim, though probably successful in it’s fundraising aim. Is the NSPCC Full Stop Campaign going the same way? Ending child abuse is a fine and laudable aim, but is it realistic? Sadly I think not. As much as we may hate abuse and fight against it I do not think it is realistic to say that we can end it. I find the campaign cynical and misleading. Am I alone in thinking that child protection is the legal duty of Local Authority Social Services Departments and should not be the place for charities? I know that the response to this is that often Social Services let down young people and time and again they get severely criticised in inquiries into appalling cases of child abuse. The reality is that Social Services protect many thousands of children a year – the mistakes, which can have such awful consequences – represent a tiny fraction of all cases. I only wish the general public could give the same level of support to overworked local authority social workers as they give to the NSPCC. I would love to be proved wrong and be forced to eat my words when the NSPCC is able say they have met the pledge of ending child abuse, but that’s not going to happen. When will the slick, highly professional and extremely well paid fundraisers at all the major charities realise that at some stage the giving public are going to hold them to account for their cynical promises. The public will only be fooled for so long.
Any sports shop whose mission is to "fully satisfy all its customers whatever their sports and outdoor activites are" clearly sets itself a tall order. The company that hope to deliver on this high ideal is Decathlon - a store originally from, and firmly established in France - they've made their first step into the market this side of the Channel and it's a big and impressive step! Decathlon's first British store is at Surrey Quays in South East London. The store is actually two large retail units of the type usually occupied by DIY chains, so there's planty of room to fill with merchendise, and boy do Decathlon fill it. The store has 17 departments and covers all the main sporting interests in the country. All the main brands are available, as well as their own cheaper, but good quality brand. My own paricular interest is cycling. They stock a wide range of different bikes at fairly competative prices, and have a decent range of accessories from water bottles and bells to complicated bits of kit for the specialist cycle repairer. For those of us less able there's a workshop within the store. The staff are helpful and knowledgable and the prices range from resonable to cheap - nothing seems overpriced and bargains can be had. Friends who enjoy other sport tell me that my very positive experience with the cycling department is reflected in other sports too. Indeed, I know several sports fans who travel many miles to visit Decathlon. Open daily, there's even a instore cafe overlooking Canada Water. The nearest undergroung station is Canada Water on the Jubilee Or East London Lines. In addition to the Surrey Quays branch there are also stores at Nottingham - next to Ikea - and at Stockport - opposite B&Q. Finally, a word of caution and a little plea. As good as they are, and I know I'm doing my bit to spread the word here, Decathlon are trying to be "all things to everyone" as admitted in the mission statement. This actually means that as good as the range is, it doesn't always match the range or knowledge of the small specialist retailer, so let's not forget them and continue to support them whenever possible.
How many theatregoers must have been put off going to see Lion King because it's a theatre production of a Disney cartoon and it's for children? What a fantastic treat they're missing. The task of adapting a cartoon which feaures no people, only amimals, is no mean feat. It would be easy to go down the route of gorilla costumes and crass stuff like that. Here though they've gone for puppetry, illusion and imagination. The opening scene features a parade of all the animals in the jungle accompamied by stiring african influanced music. As strange as it seems, the whole thing is tremendously moving and the sight of the "elephant" ambling down the centre isle leaves hardly a dry eye in the house. This is a production which draws on pure theatre - no complicated light effects of amamatronics. It truely amazes the audience. Lion King is one of the best Disney cartoon. Good story and good music. The stage version works even better. The cast are without exception brilliant. If you were disappointed with the first Disney stage production, the awful Beauty and the Beast, please don't be put off trying Lion King, there's no comparison. Lion King really is an ideal piece of theatre for adults. Do what ever it takes to get a ticket!
What a find www.cd-wow.com is. After visiting this on-line music store there can be no reason to use any other because I don't think they can be beaten on price for chart cd's. The Home page gives a list of new releases to choose from, cd-wow's top 20, and a selection of pre-releases. Click on any cd and you're given a list of tracks, but not much more information. The price of single cd's is just £8.99 - and that includes delivery. Be sure to check out the Bargain Basement - icon on the top of the Home page. This is the place to pick up even bigger bargains - recent ex-chart cd's for only £6.99 again including postage!!! How do they do this? 3 possible reasons: 1. Well the sites pretty basic. It's not all singing and dancing, but at these prices who cares? 2. Their range is limited. There's not a huge catalogue by any means, but if it's in the charts, popular or a recent release they'll probably have it. 3. I think that the cd's are shipped from main land europe, so can take quite a while to deliver. Be patient. I wasn't the first time I ordered and being a bit nervous of e.commerce e.mailed to ask where my order was. Got a prompt reply tell ing me it was on it's way, don't panic, and sure enough it came within a couple of weeks. So top marks for customer service. Cd-wow is now my first choice when looking to buy music. The price just isn't beaten anywhere. UPDATE - I've just taken delivery of another cd from CD-WOW. I paid £6.99 including p&p for a chart CD (to embarrassed to say which, oh alright it was A1). Had prompt email confirmation and within a week the CD arrived securely packaged all the way from Hong Kong. How do they do all this for just £6.99??
At some stage in our lives all of us make use of the advances and experience of the medical profession. Many of us are grateful for the knowledge and skill that has been developed in the treatment of ailments and conditions. In order to progress and develop new or improved treatments there has to be some sort of check on the effectiveness of any new treatment or drug. After all we mustn't forget that we are talking about an industry here which is worth many billions of pounds, and there have to be checks and balances in place to monitor the pharmasutical companies. This said, if I or a loved one needed treatment and the option were given to take part in a test I would seriously consider doing so. The main reason being that I recognise the need for new drug treatments - in some but not all cases - I would not consider tests that simply "improve" existing drug treatments. Largely these are simply reinventing treatment only to boost the value of the drug companies stock. Where I thought the new treatment would actually make a difference, that's a whole different issue. For me another factor to take into account is that I have argued the case against animal experiments in the past and still believe that they are not valid. Consequently, I would need to put my principles into practice, but I realsie that's a personal thing to bring to the table. So you see there are a whole range of things to consider when thinking of the value of clinical tests and whether I'd consent to taking part. The big thing is that to make a real choice I would have to have the facts. That's where the medical profession would need to be open, honest, and willing to treat the patient and their loved ones as almost equal partners for this purpose. We benefit from medical advances, I'd like to help further those advances, but I'd like to have all the facts fully explained before making an informed choice.
There is no more apt nick-name for the Cairn than terrorist. This is on account of their fierce independance and determination to protect their pitch. Single minded and stubborn, they can be the storm troopers of the dog world. I became the accidental owner of a cairn many years ago. The poor little thing was the last one of the litter left in the shop and they'd reduced him in the sale! Already looking for a puppy I couldn't resist - I know it's not the right way to get a dog, but there you go. What a great little guy he turned out to be. Full of spirit and pluck and plenty of mischief - he soon developed a character all of his own. He became popular with local kids and loved playing with them and adored comimg into contact with children. I don't know if it was just mine, but be was the most independant dog I've known. Prior to getting him I had a picture in my mind of a loving, loyal companion, looking to me for love and affection. No such thing! He was his own man, I was an okay guy, but anyone else could do equally well. He was completely comfortable with anyone and would happily walk off with strangers. This did mean I could leave him easily with friends when I was away. During these times I would miss him terribly and imagine a great reunion. In reality the welcome, while warm was never over the top, he was far too cool for any of that nonsense. The biggest down side with him was this stupid idea that he had that he was the hardest thing on four legs and he could take on all comers. More evidence of the terrorist influence. However, he grudgingly managed to tolerate a cat introduced to the household. She absolutely adored him but I think he saw himself as far too butch to be seen too close to a cat! The final year of the little guys life were blighted with blindness, though remarkably the spirit was still there. Finally at 16, with 4 years of blindness and other illnesse s our partnership had to come to an end. The end was fairly easy - his time had come and having been his eyes for the last four years (guiding and talking him through our walks) I had done my best for him. Perhaps it was easier because he was so independant I almost felt as though I never owned him properly anyway. I don't know if these snippets into my experience ring true with other cairn owners. All I know is I would recommend cairns to anyone wanting a fun, happy, spirited dog.