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'tis the season...

Updated: May 19

Putting up a metal gazebo with bare hands in sub-zero temperatures is not the best way to start the day. Nor is lugging heavy boxes from the car. Then there is the rain that soaks everything, even when we have covered all our stock. The wind can play havoc too - attempting to lift our gazebo like a kite and deposit in the next town.

It's Christmas Fair season.

Pitch space makes all the difference. Nice, dry, level ground is perfect but our roads, streets and playing fields are normally very wonky, cobbled, cambered, soggy, lumpy and uncooperative. It is amazing how we still manage to get everything looking good. Occasionally we are blessed with inside pitches and then have about 2 square metres of space to work with for 6 hours while trying not to bump into the people selling knitted Christmas trees on the adjacent stand.

Then come the members of the public, out browsing and circulating and, hopefully buying. There are the friendly ones which we like. There are the silent ones who walk in, peer at our wares and then walk away without saying a word. There are the determined grazers who do circuits of the fair getting a free sample of everything they can lay their hands on without buying a thing. There are the chatty ones who give us their life story and the ones whose over-the-top, negative reactions to our hard work and produce is probably best kept to themselves. There are those who surprise us by walking up and buying without the need for any sales patter and those who seem to hold a full blown in

ternal debate before finally making a choice. Oh, and of course there are dozens and dozens of the "I'll come back a bit later" people. Thankfully some do come back.

There are the "probes" who stick their heads so far into your space that it is quite startling. There are the blockers who buy the smallest item and then stand around chewing the fat while others cannot get a look in. There are the amazing returnees who bought something before and have come back to restock (we love them, obviously), and there are those who are simply curious and genuinely want to know more about us, where we are and what we do.

Selling alcohol is an issue all of its own. There are those whose eyes light up when they see a free sample of our gins and cider, and others who tell us flatly that they do not drink or that it disagrees with them. It is all part of the day.

There is the occasional haggler, though these are rare. We are not a particularly haggling kind of nation and thankfully each purchase does not come with an extended sequence of offers straight out of "The Life of Brian."

Ultimately there is a camaraderie among the sellers. At Christmastime the sweets and mince pies will be passed around. Stall holders will do deals for each other, promote each other and provide mutual support. It helps get through the tougher days.

But ultimately the customers, the public, the people make the difference. Whether buying or not, a smile and a few kind words make it worthwhile. Genuine interest is always appreciated and so is a sale where we shift some produce and the customers take home some delicious goodies to enjoy. Fairs are hard work, entertaining, surprising and can also be frustrating, but they are the best ways to get us and our products in front of real people who will enjoy them.

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