Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cars make and brake up relationships: Conversations behind the wheel are steering our love lives

1.9 million people have  been proposed to in cars
One in five people offer relationship advice in the car

It’s been 45 years since Herbie the love bug hit the big screens and today research from Allianz Your Cover Insurance’s Secret Lives of Cars Report, reveals the role cars are still playing in steering the nation’s love lives.

Love is most definitely in the alpine freshened air with 1.9million UK motorists being proposed to behind the wheel. Despite this romanticism, it’s not all about happy endings on the nation’s highways with 2.3million motorists having the brakes put on their relationships and being dumped in the car.

The report also discovered that motorists are more likely to talk about their love lives and difficult topics in the car with 45% of those questioned revealing that the lack of eye contact makes these conversations easier to approach. Conversations most likely to cause couple tension in the car include holidays (58%), bills (27%) and living arrangements (26%).

Not only do motorists like to discuss their own love lives in cars but men and women are keen to talk about other relationship topics too. The research found that 3.7million male drivers talk about sex and nearly one in five (18%) women admitted they are likely to discuss the relationships of friends’ and family in the car. In addition, a third of women (32%) just enjoy a good gossip in the car.

Of those questioned, 31% people revealed that they use the time they spend in the car with their loved ones chatting about the future, with key topics including:

1)      Relationships / friendships (37%)
2)      Family concerns (34%)
3)      Finances (30%)

Allianz Your Cover Insurance found that there are many reasons as to why motorists are getting in their cars to have open and honest conversations about their love lives. Neil Brettell of Allianz Your Cover Insurance said: “Our report found that one in four believes that the time they spend in cars with others brings them closer together. These findings mean that the conversations drivers have in the car really do steer the direction of their love lives. Drivers like to make use of the time they have when driving to catch-up with their nearest and dearest and talk about future plans

“40% of motorists feel confident when holding conversations in the car which may be why so many decisions and important plans are discussed behind the wheel. However, we’d always encourage drivers to put safety first and not let their in-car conversations distract them from driving safely

The habit of holding conversations about love lives is not limited to motorists themselves as the car provides an opportunity for teenagers to come forward and seek advice about their crushes. Mums are more likely to offer guidance on adolescent heartache compared to their male counterparts with three million providing relationship advice for teenagers.

Allianz Your Cover Insurance is holding a web chat with Dr. Simon Moore from 1-2pm on Friday 28 September to answer people’s questions on the report and how they can best approach conversations in cars. To take part follow Allianz Your Cover Insurance @YourCoverUK on Twitter. Or to find out more visit the Facebook fan

To download a copy of the Secret Lives of Cars family factsheet please visit:

This post is sponsored by Allianz Your Cover Insurance

Sunday, September 23, 2012

In which we are Puppy School Failures!

Do you ever find yourself doing something that makes no sense whatsoever? Something that can only make your life more difficult and complicated?  What? No-one? Just me then is it?
Well, I’d like to introduce you to our new ‘complication’.
Don't be fooled by those puppydog eyes!
Yes, we have a puppy. Not content with working, writing a book and having a husband who is often away for months on end, we’ve got a puppy.  I don’t quite know how it happened but I blame the cat. Yes, it’s is definitely the cat’s fault.  If he hadn’t caught a baby bird, I wouldn’t have gone to the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital which just happens to be across the road from The Dogs Trust. But just in case you think we got a puppy on a whim, because after all, a dog is for life, not just for Christmas (or Christmas dinner if you are in North Korea – bad joke, I know) we didn’t. The Girl has wanted a dog for a long time and after a lot of thought we agreed. The thing was, I had in my mind a mature, quiet Labrador, or maybe even something smaller. Well we got smaller alright, for the moment at least, but I certainly didn’t have in mind a certifiably insane, shoe-snatching, paper shredding lurcher x border collie puppy who looks suspiciously like Grommit, of Wallace and Grommit fame. He’s called Caleb after a character in some American teen drama The Girl watches.
He is adorable, unless you are hopping down the garden chasing him because he’s just done a SWAT assault on your shoe as you put try to put it on and legged it out of the back door, or he’s just shredded a whole toilet roll in a nanosecond then peed on it for good measure, or dry-humped any one of the neighbours’ dogs even though he’s only four months old. Thank goodness his dangly bits come off next month!  The Girl is now realising just how much work a puppy is but she’s been putting in the hours with his training and she had him sitting on his first day with us and he’ll come when he’s called…most of the time.
So when we enrolled for Puppy Training classes we were confident that he would soon be top of the class. Oh, how wrong we were!
 Yesterday, we went to our first class in a local village hall. It’s a ‘nayce’ village, if you know what I mean. He was certainly the only crossbreed, and definitely the only rescue dog.  We walked in last, to find five other Barbour-clad, Hunter-wellied owners sitting quietly with their little pups at their feet.  Caleb, surrounded by all this puppydom, turned into a Tasmanian devil with a nasty case of ADHD.  He does this thing where he springs into the air from all fours and turns through 360 degrees.  It’s quite gymnastic in its place. Like the garden. In the confines of the small village hall it had the effect of letting off a hand grenade in a cupboard. The other owners (and puppies) shrank back in their seats as he whirled and yelped and whined.  Caleb has grown quite a bit since the picture above and was at least four times the size of any of the others. He has paws like meat plates and in my head I’ve always thought he’d be the size of a Labrador, maybe a little bigger.  As I compared him to Bella, a little black lab puppy who is the same age, I now realise he’s likely to be the size of a small carthorse.
So the Puppy Trainer introduced herself and asked us to tell us a bit about our dogs. I don’t have a clue what anyone said because Caleb was doing a pretty impressive ‘Hound of the Baskerville’ impression. We moved onto the first exercise. Getting your puppy to listen to you. Fat chance! He was on his fourth high speed circuit of my chair, tying my legs firmly in place.  He’ll usually do anything for food. In fact, he’ll usually sit quietly and look at you with his big puppy eyes if you have a treat in your hand. Not tonight. Treats? Pah!  There were puppies to play with. He whined, yelped and spun round and round, pausing only for a very brief moment to wee on the floor.
The PT was sympathetic. ‘Being a rescue dog, he probably hasn’t been handled too much.’ she explained to our shell-shocked classmates. We didn’t have the nerve to tell her we’ve had him for a month. It’s just him. He gets ridiculously excited when he sees another dog or human being as our neighbour will testify when Caleb met him outside the pub and in his excitement, he peed on his leg – the dog that is, not the neighbour.
After a few more failed exercises, it was ‘teaching your dog how to behave when he meets people.’  Well he knows how be behave (see above). As there were two of us and both owners of the Posh Labrador Puppy had come along, The Girl and Mrs PLP were asked to go round and meet each puppy while the owner was shown how to stop them jumping up/eating their faces/weeing themselves. It’s all about being calm. The Girl and Mrs PLP made their way round each dog, while the owners used various techniques to keep the pups under control.  Mrs PLP got to Caleb, shook her head slightly and scurried back to her seat and the safety of her perfectly behaved puppy sitting quietly with Mr PLP.  Caleb whined, bounced and fell over on the slippery floor.
We were asked to bring some bedding so we could practice getting our dogs to sit on it  when asked. Every puppy sat nicely on its rug or fleece. Well almost every puppy. Our fleece was bunched up under my chair as Caleb did ‘wheelspins’ on it trying to get over to the others to play. Another fail.  The Puppy Trainer suggested we kept him on his lead in the house so we could control him.  But in the house, this is his normal position…

… at least when he’s not tearing round the garden in ever decreasing circles until he falls over, and being part greyhound he’s fast, or pulling the apples off the apple tree, or chewing up the doormat (we’re on number three) or stalking Gizmo the Cat, who is definitely boss in case you were wondering.
Eventually it was the last part of the class. The puppy socialisation.  The puppies were going to be allowed to meet each other. There was an audible intake of breath and a few nervous glances in our direction until the Puppy Trainer reassured them that the pups would be kept on their leads. Cue audible sigh of relief.
When Caleb’s turn came he bounded around the room in a state of complete overexcitement trying to jump on the other puppies. Each nose sniff was greeted with a whine and a yelp, and poor Buster, a very nervous Labrador puppy, retreated under a chair and refused to come out.  Surprisingly, Callie, a tiny Westie puppy who barely came up to Caleb’s knees, was quite entranced with him. Caleb’s history with female dogs is not good, despite his young age and in their presence spends most of his time ‘having a piggy back’ as a friend’s young daughter commented.  I had visions of poor Callie being publicly violated, or worse still crushed to death but fortunately it passed without incident.
We’re hoping for an improvement next week and certainly none of our classmates would recognise the laid back pupsicle who’s asleep on the sofa next to me with his legs in the air. Watch this space…
Smile Grommit!