Greetings! I hope that you have all had a good summer? It has been a busy time for me but I am finally back with you all, commenting on various aspects of life and, hopefully, soon to bring you news of my latest publication! (More of that anon.)
Yesterday I found myself taking part in the ancient Honey Fair within the mediaeval town walls of Old Conwy in Snowdonia. Originally, I was supposed to be somewhere else entirely, but as it happened, I was glad not to miss this annual event, the Royal Charter for which was originally given to the town by Edward I over seven hundred years ago and which entitles beekeepers to sell honey within the town walls free of charge.
From early in the morning the narrow main street and small town square was vibrant with stallholders setting out their wares and tourists and shoppers strolling around the bustling streets. After two days of cloud and rain, the sun shone hot from a clear blue sky. Many stalls were piled high with jars containing every conceivable flavour of wild honey, their precious sweet contents an array of amber and light golden jewels shining in the sunlight.
Not all stalls offer honey for sale. There were also vegetable, plant, craft and charity stalls. My son, who is a medical herbalist, had a stall selling natural creams and teas promoting his herbal practice, and I was there to help when he had to leave early to see patients. Most of the day was very busy with the streets thronging with visitors. The annual event draws people in from near and far and it was lovely to watch friends greeting each other, dogs jostling while leads became entangled and the cafes and coffee shops doing a roaring trade.
Once upon a time, every town centre across the land was like this. People coming together to trade, to replenish their larder, animals and hardware necessities, exchange news, do business deals and generally socialise. Our town were packed with people at least once or twice a week. What a difference a few decades can make! Now, our civic centres have become empty, dilapidated, near-deserted ghost towns while we all sit at home like Twenty-first Century Scrooges, huddled over our various electronic devices ordering everything from pineapples to hair combs from the great anonymous warehouses which internet shopping is based on.
We are increasingly a society of isolated individuals suffering from various medical/mental health issues, many of which stem from not getting out and socialising. We are a herding species, we are not meant to be so alone and we need other people. Surely the lockdowns of the Covid19 pandemic amply demonstrated this?
Conversely, our town, village and city centres need us. To help protect the planet and reduce pollution and travel miles, we need to support local producers. Items from outside our area need to regain the true significance they once held, that of occasional special treats. Travelling to other areas would regain extra pleasure as we once again discover different foods and goods and the rich tapestry of human life laid out in locally stocked shop windows. Currently, from one end of the land to the other (and beyond) we all dress the same, eat the same foods, furnish our houses with the same mass-produced items. And it would give small businesses a chance to start up and thrive – there is even an argument here (which I won’t go into now) for abolishing money altogether and returning to a system of barter… an exchange of goods and services, person to person, face to face – bringing us together, walking more lightly upon the Earth.
So what about it? What are you going to do today to help re-establish local trade and community? Perhaps instead of reaching for that keyboard, you might instead consider the healthier option of walking into town and taking a look around at what is on offer. Carry a wicker basket or cotton shopping bags instead of plastic carriers. Be more discerning; choose quality not quantity. And if you don’t find what you are looking for, ask in the shops which are still available to you if they would consider stocking it. At the same time, this also gives you the opportunity to make new discoveries about just what is on offer and to also find bargains, especially of the seasonal variety where foods are concerned.
Yes, it takes more time – and we are all desperately short of that these days – but purposely slow down, organise yourself, write a good old fashioned shopping list and only go shopping once a week or fortnight – that is what we have fridges and freezers for. Set quality time aside and make it an occasion by arranging to meet up with friends or family and have coffee or a snack or meal out.
Here is to the better times, the good times, the more socially responsible and aware times – but it needs you to make them happen.