Living in the future

On Saturday morning we went out shopping and to do some chores. All the latter were related to reuse or recycling: glass bottles to be recycled, polystyrene packaging taken to the Post Office to be sent back to the company it originally came from for reuse; and a bag of clothes and box of knick-knacks taken to a charity shop (finally those never-used wine decanters are out of the house).

Local cheese from Simply Caws - mileage specified

Local cheese from Simply Caws at the People’s Market- mileage specified

It appears that, in recent years, shopping has become a form of entertainment and this was certainly the case for us this weekend, although it wasn’t the goods that we purchased that provided the instant gratification, but the people we met. All our purchases were practical: nuts and bolts, ingredients for granola, local cheese, hand made bread… so we weren’t really supporting the consumer society. We are never going to be the people responsible for ‘spending our way out of recession’, but we might spend our way to a robust and sustainable local economy.

The lady who served us in Mulberry Bush admired my string bag. The lady in the Post Office was devastated that her broadband wasn’t working and so she couldn’t open properly, but was happy to take our Freepost parcel as long as we didn’t need a receipt (we didn’t). LAS, our local recycling company, was busy with folks dropping off all sorts of items, and the man at the charity shop welcomed our contributions with a smile.

Loyalty card and vouchers

Loyalty card and vouchers

Our final port of call was the People’s Market, where they were giving out prizes to the winners of a recent treasure hunt run in conjunction with the Lampter loyalty scheme. Lampeter has recently become the first town in Wales to launch a loyalty card, with 59 businesses currently participating. Every time you spend £3 or more in a business, you get a stamp in one of the slots on your card, but you can only get a stamp from each shop twice on the same card. Once you have 10 stamps, you can drop your card in one of the designated boxes around town. At the end of each month the cards are all be entered into a prize draw. The winner receives £30 in vouchers that can be spent at any of the participating businesses. The businesses involved in the scheme ran the treasure hunt as an additional incentive a couple of weeks ago and a friend of ours won one of the prizes. Because we helped her with some of the answers , she shared her prize with us and so, as well as our shopping, we came home with a couple of vouchers. All this is designed to keep money circulating in local businesses and, so far, it seems to be working.

Finally, I was stopped by a friend who wanted to show me a square she had crocheted – I taught her how to make granny squares a while ago and she has finally got the hang of doing it on her own. She was so pleased, she brought her creation shopping with her in the hope she would bump into me to be able to show it off. I was delighted.

And this, I hope, is the future of shopping – a social activity where we support local people and make our communities a richer place… just like we used to do in the past.

All hooked up

You may be surprised that this is not a post about crochet, but about buying local (again).

Each hook is unique and handmade

Each hook is unique and handmade

For ages I have wanted some hooks on the door between the kitchen and the utility room, but was really reluctant to buy ones that had been mass produced. About two years ago I saw some wooden ones, fashioned from the joint between the stem and branch of  a tree.  I didn’t buy them, thinking I would encounter the design again, but despite hunting local shops and craft stalls, I never saw such a thing, until a visit to the People’s Market in Lampeter over the summer. And there, next to the cheese stall, was a woodworker called Mick*, with exactly what I wanted. He was even making one as we watched. I love the simplicity of the design and, as you can see from the photograph they are just beautiful.

Mystic treasures

Mystic treasures

As I was discussing this post with Mr Snail-of-happiness, he pointed out that these are not the only handmade hooks we have – there is another, awaiting deployment. This one was made by the blacksmith at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. When we visited a few years ago, we spent ages watching the smith and chatting to him. I think he was delighted that we were so interested and so he made us a hook there and then, which we have treasured ever since and I really must clean up and make use of. As you can see from the picture, he also made us a nail and a little burnished leaf, which I wear as a pendant.

I do love to own simple, handmade items…. especially when I have met the creator of them.

-oOo-

* He wasn’t there when I went last Saturday, so I couldn’t find out his full name – if anyone does know, I’d love to give him credit.

In the market for…

Transition is a grassroots network of communities that are working to build resilience in response to peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability (Wikipedia). Which translates, in practice into communities where you find food groups, community owned bakeries and breweries, transition street projects (where householders work together to reduce costs and energy use), REconomy projects (creating jobs, building the local economy and even creating their own currency) and community-owned energy schemes. If you live near a transition town, you will often find thriving local businesses and access to local products.

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I live on the west coast of Wales, about 12 miles from our nearest Transition Town –Lampeter. One of the successful community initiatives there is the People’s Market, which takes place on the second and fourth Saturday of each month and boasts a wide range of stalls all selling local products.

The aim of Lampeter People’s Market is to encourage Lampeter to become a thriving Market Town once more where local people cater for the majority of local needs for food, products, skills and services.

Last Saturday – the second in November – I decided to take not only my shopping bags but also my camera along so you can get a picture of what it’s like. The market is held in Victoria Hall – officially opened in 1905 as the town’s assembly rooms, to be used for concerts, dances, theatrical performances and public meetings, and now being resorted through the efforts of a community based, not for profit, social enterprise group, Transition Llambed Development Trust, for the benefit of the people of Lampeter (this is one of the action groups born out of Transition Llambed).

Although not on the main shopping streets, Victoria Hall is very close to the centre of the town and, on market days, signs lead the way:

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And just outside the door, there are examples of the goodies inside:

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I had intended to talk to all the stall-holders, but I spent so long chatting to a few of them, that I didn’t have time! However I did manage to chat to a reflexologist who has a stall selling essential oils and blends, a heating engineer who bakes bread and sells it at the market, a pig farmer, the Simply Caws ladies who sell cheese, a local artist who invited me to visit her home to see her original pictures after I had commented on how much I like her prints (she wasn’t even a stall-holder, she was a customer) and various friends who I bumped into. The balcony gave me a great vantage point to appreciate the bustling market:

A busy market day

A busy market day

But it was down chatting to all the people involved that gave me real pleasure.

White bread, wholemeal bread, olive bread, rolls... all delicious

White bread, wholemeal bread, olive bread, rolls… all delicious

From the HedgeRose - free range, rare breed pork

From the HedgeRose – free range, rare breed pork

Denise preparing wool for spinning whilst tending her stall

Denise preparing wool for spinning whilst tending her stall

Local cheese from Simply Caws - mileage specified

Local cheese from Simply Caws – mileage specified

I could also have got my bicycle fixed, bought fruit and veg, found out about the transition town, selected from a range of crafts, swapped a book, CD or DVD and bought cakes. All finished off with a nice cup of tea and a cake from the COASTAL cafe (who help people gain experience to help them into work).

Information on Transition and the COASTAL cafe

Information on Transition and the COASTAL cafe

I had  a lovely  morning and came away with lots to think about, one invitation to visit a farm and one invitation to see some artwork, not to mention cheese, bacon and bread. If you have a market like this near you, do go along and support your local farmers, producers and crafters – you won’t regret it. And if you are in west Wales, go to THIS market and say hello to all these lovely people and more.

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