It says something about the relentless pressure of capitalism that I feel a need to apologise for having taken the whole month of August off work, and mainly offline and away from computers. I am torn between celebrating this and recommending to others that they live their principles in this way, and feeling guilty that I have dared to step off the treadmill.
It has been an interesting few months of talks, rest, reading and festivals. I know that most of the original and creative work I do happens during what is officially labelled as 'holiday' and that most of my good ideas come when I'm sitting on a bus or lying in bed. Strange, then, that I value the hours spent here, staring into a luminscent screen, giving myself RSI so much more.
Of the many things I've learned over the summer the most exciting is about Country Markets. As part of a commitment to encouraging local trading we developed a concept of 'fayre trade'. This takes as read the principles of fair trade, but supplements them by a commitment to reducing consumption and substituting local production and exchange for involvement in the globalised market wherever possible. However, having learned about Country Markets I am beginning to think we may have been reinventing the wheel.
My own product is face cream, based on my own need for something to deal with my arid skin which splits and re-splits throughout the winter. Producing it to a standard I'm happy with is surprisingly easy. I'm using organic ingredients and recycled jars collected from friends, and trying to keep inputs as simple and local as possible. The energy embodied in conventional, petroleum based skincare products is shocking, not to mention the unpleasantness of smearing paraffin on your skin.
Creating a market for such products is more of a problem. Legislation is widespread and intimidating and probably devised by the corporate-dominated EU mandarins to deter the small trader. But Country Markets, formerly part of the WI but now hived off, has found ways around this, including fighting the notorious Jam Law through the House of Commons in the early 1980s. Their local markets offer the opportunity for the small, local producer or enthusiast to trade at minimal cost. Despite the traditional jam and cakes image of the WI market, produce is not limited to food. It costs only five pence to join and is genuinely co-operative. For more see http://www.country-markets.co.uk/content.php