Twenty Years On….

Twenty years ago, my husband and I got married at Castle Methodist Church, Colchester. I wore gypsophila in my hair a la Charlene from Neighbours; he should have gone to Specsavers. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were happy smiley people.

Twenty years ago, we were local Traidcraft reps in a fair trade wilderness. We held stalls in church halls and did talks at women’s groups in church halls. We tried to persuade people to give the coffee a go. Muesli and honey were seen as the safe options to try (although I did once find a small lump of coal in my muesli which was reduced to dust by the time I sent it to Customer Complaints). You could not buy a single fair trade item in a supermarket; you could not even envisage a day when that would become a reality.

Sixteen years ago, our first child was born and our first Traidcraft shop was opened. Hard to say which turned our lives upside down the most. Both were demanding, unpredictable, time-consuming and great fun. The memories come flooding back – searching through a box of Kisii candlesticks to find two that could feasibly be called a pair; realising that Shan earrings were called that for a reason before shan had even become part of common slang; ironing and stitching buttons on a box load of reject clothes (thank you, Monica); explaining that block printing errors added an authentic handmade feel……….. Our son and the quality of fair trade products have both come a long way.

Fourteen years ago, our second child was conceived, along with the notion that a move north to Traidcraft in Gateshead was on the cards. But what to do with a shedload of stock from our closed down shop? The shed of a thousand screws had been constructed to house the food, stationery, clothes and jewellery and we couldn’t take it all with us. My ever resourceful man worked his magic and before our son reached his first birthday, we were on our way. Previously, my husband had worked in computers and his hobby was fair trade. Now, he worked in fair trade and his hobby became computers. Nothing much has changed.

For him personally, that is. Fair trade has changed beyond recognition. The fairtrade mark is now widely recognised. All the supermarkets now stock fair trade products. Cafedirect, the Geobar, Divine chocolate are well established brands. Fair trade is now on the curriculum in schools. Even the most idealistic and zealous amongst us twenty years ago could not have imagined this.

About five years ago, our fifth and final child arrived on our doorstep as did the crazy idea from my enterprising husband of setting up his own ethical business with a partner. Hard to say which was the straw which nearly broke the camel’s back. Glad to say, both the child and the business are still with us and all our hard work seems to be paying off. Instead of a shed at the bottom of the garden, we now have a very very big shed at the bottom of the hill.

So, twenty years on, and there is still plenty of work to be done – in our marriage, as well as in fair trade. My husband’s hard work, commitment and loyalty to both have been unfailing. That is what I intend to celebrate big style this week. Bring on the cake – fair trade, of course!

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