You want it? You've got it

Whether you're too tired to trim the topiary, or too busy to shampoo the Rottweiler, someone somewhere provides just the service for you - and it's only a phone call away. By Monique Roffey
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Sue Simon Dog Grooming

0171 460 1902/page 0181 884 3344 DOG 2

TYPE OF SERVICE Mobile dog grooming service operating in central and outer London.

HOW DOES IT WORK? Appointments for collection are made over the phone. Dogs are delivered, groomed, the same day.

CHARGE Collection and delivery is free. Grooming prices vary according to size and coat texture. The minimum charge is pounds 18 for a full groom of a miniature short-haired dog.

MOST FREQUENT REQUEST A full groom (which includes nails, teeth and anal glands).

MOST COMMON DOG GROOMED Cocker spaniels.

NUMBER OF CLIENTS Several hundred, all regular.

"I go to all kinds of people from all walks of life," says Sue Simon. "One of my clients is an old lady on a council estate with five poodles, yet I also go to Kensington Palace. Most of my clients are busy working couples with high incomes and two homes who have pedigree dogs and want them to look very stylised. And I'd say that all my clients use me because they're too busy to do it themselves.

"I once did a Kairn terrier but had a real mental block about exactly which address it had to be taken back to. When I got to the house, I handed the dog back to the au pair, but when I got home, the owner was on the phone, absolutely furious with me for leaving his dog in the garden. It turned out that I'd dropped the dog off at the house two doors down and the au pair had simply dropped the dog in the owner's garden. That was humiliating. I've never dropped a dog off at the wrong house since! But the worst dog experience I've ever had was trying to groom a Neopolitan mastiff. It was only a puppy, but weighed about six stone and was slightly aggressive. It was even wearing a real gold chain and a brass lead. It only needed bathing, but there was no way I could get near it, it just glared at me. My trickiest customer, though, is a shih tzu called Wilfred who's blind and hates water. He knows he's being put in a bath even though he can't see it and the minute I put him in one, he hurls himself out. Once he got so upset about being bathed he actually hurled himself out of the bath and out of the window - good thing I work on the ground floor."

Sloth Busters

Call 0181 874 1177

ESTABLISHED February 1996

TYPE OF SERVICE A mobile 24-hour garage operating in the South West London area which sells everything from cigarettes, soft drinks and crisps to toiletries and condoms.

HOW DOES IT WORK? The company has leafleted local residential areas and orders can be taken from their menu. Or just call them and ask for what you want.

CHARGE pounds 3 delivery fee for orders under pounds 10, free delivery for orders over that amount. Most items are the same price as in your local garage, though certain items, like bread (pounds 1) and frozen dinners, are more expensive.

NO OF CLIENTS Several hundred, most regular.

MOST COMMON ITEM ORDERED? Haagen Dazs, Pringles, cigarettes, Coke and milk.

CLIENT PROFILE "Very mixed," says co-manager Steve Mitchel. "Students in halls use us a lot, as do nurses. Women who don't want to go out on their own late at night, or who are working late, use us a lot. So do busy professionals - true lazy but well-off couch potatoes who can't face going out late at night or who don't have a corner shop. And then there are the nicotine addicts and insomniacs, we get a lot of both, who need fags or chocolate very late at night. We also get a very young, clubby crowd on the weekends who tend to use us extremely late at night, around 3am onwards, when the clubs have shut or when the rave is over and everyone's run out of fags or has an attack of the munchies.

"We've had some funny orders though," says Mitchel. "One man rang us up late at night desperate for some condoms. We told him it would be pounds 3 delivery fee and he just shouted: 'Look I'll pay anything, just get them here fast'. When we got there I think the girl had changed her mind because he was chasing her down the street - he was in a real state! I've also turned up on someone's doorstep when a couple have been in the middle of a blazing domestic row - over who was paying for the cigarettes I was bringing. I stood there in the pouring rain for what felt like ages thinking 'look, take them for free, life's not that bad'. We've also had a bit of transport trouble. So far two motorbikes have been stolen and once my van mysteriously caught fire in the middle of a delivery."

Instant Gardens

Call 0171-386 0200

ESTABLISHED Five years ago.

TYPE OF SERVICE A landscaping company specialising in creating "instant" mature gardens on small residential properties in central London. The company can be called out to do anything from a windowbox, planting a single shrub, to an entire fully landscaped garden.

HOW DOES IT WORK? Inquiries are followed up with an appointment. Decisions are then made as to what the client wants and a written quote is given. An entire instant garden can be installed in under a week.

CHARGE There is no call-out fee and each job is individually estimated, (and estimates are free). A windowbox, however, depending on what kind of plants are put into them, will range from pounds 50 to pounds 100.

NUMBER OF CLIENTS 9,000 (3,000 regular).

MOST COMMON REQUEST To have a complete and mature garden installed. "Clients want us to give them a garden which looks like they've been there a few years, hence the term 'instant', which is exactly what we do," says company managing director Charles Gordon Lennox.

CLIENT PROFILE "We have quite a wide spectrum of clients," continues Gordon Lennox. "Many of them are city types and couples with double incomes who don't have the time, know-how or inclination to tend a garden for months and years. Or we have the typical well-paid but domestically hopeless bachelor who wants a garden quickly made for him to impress his friends. We also have quite a few elderly clients who aren't able to do so much gardening any more, as well as quite a few foreign expats who are in London for a year or two and don't have the time to get their own garden going.

"But some of our clients do amuse us," he says. "People think of their gardens as part of their house and in the same way some people can't bear to see dust, some of our clients can't bear to see a single leaf on the lawn or half a dozen weeds. They call us out sometimes just to do this for them. We've had people ring up to say they can see greenfly on the top left-hand rose bush at the back of their garden and could we possibly come and get rid of it. And we're often asked to come and find things that are lost in people's gardens. One man demanded that we empty his pond for him, because his child had dropped his mobile phone in it, and another woman wanted us to trawl her pond for a pair of ear-rings lost after a party. It can be ridiculous, sometimes. We've been asked to do some odd things, too. Recently we had to surround a garden in barbed wire and it ended up looking like Colditz. We've been asked to build a mosque and once we were even asked to build an air-raid shelter! But we don't consider any job too small or inconsequential. In general, we will come and do anything, if we're asked, even just to pot a rose. No job's too small."

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