Wednesday 6 January 2010

Twelfth Night

It's Twelfth Night today and time to take down the Christmas decorations. It hardly seems five minutes since we were putting them up, but the crispness of the needles on the tree show that real time's telling a different story. So it's goodbye for another 11 months to my beautiful nativity set, that I've had for so long (and look on as a tradition, rather than a statement of belief). I bought it in pieces over the years, starting of course with Jesus, Mary and Joseph when I first saw them at the big annual craft exhibition in Birmingham - a wonderful day out, up on the train from Gloucester to browse along a huge number of stalls and hang over the fabulous things clever people made. Joan Kottler crafted these - and still does, just the same, and with both skill and love. One of the best Christmas presents I've had for ages was the amazing stable that my husband and older daughter ordered for me just a couple of years ago: extravagant, but an instant heirloom.

I'm a sucker for craft markets from way back, but when you're travelling, there's a big difference between the real thing and tourist tat - and tourist farming too. By that I mean when your city tour ends up - goodness me! - at a craft workshop of some kind where there's a brief and superficial demonstration of how the stuff is made, before the pressure's on to buy something; and it's not cheap, either. I'm thinking of silk rugs in Delhi for over $1000, for instance.

But in Ecuador, perhaps because tourism's less well-established there, perhaps because World Journeys is above such things, the workshops we went to seemed mostly genuine, and the goods both attractive and well-priced. There were Panama hats of course, intricately-woven belts, carvings and guitars with beautiful inlay work so detailed that it made my eyes cross just to look at them. The finished instruments were fabulous. It was odd, though, that not one of the people in the little workshop was actually able to play the guitar.

Not even the guy who thought he could.

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