CHOCOLATE

I remember the day I first saw a cocoa pod. I was five years old. It was the best thing about school that year. It was huge. It opened my mind in so many ways. It made me realise that there is always something to learn and that there’s always more behind the surface of anything you can think of.  Bar of chocolate. Cocoa pod.  It taught me to look deeper. It started me on a journey of learning. And started a love affair with chocolate that has lasted a lifetime. But which has had it’s twists and turns. If you never think further than the bar in front of you… now’s your time to learn some important things about chocolate. And you can do all this while eating the stuff!

COCOA PRODUCT SNAPSHOT

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Cocoa commodity briefing

Whether you like milk or plain, I think it’s important that you know the bitter truth about Chocolate. This is what got me into FairTrade in the first place so… click CHOCOLATE THE BITTER TRUTH  to find out a whole lot more

And when all is said and done, don’t forget to post your own flash fiction on CHOCOLATE in the comments box below!

If you want to read more about FairTrade Fiction you can buy FairTrade Fiction Volume 1 as an ebook for Kindle or Epub or as a paperback just click the appropriate highlight. (The ebook is at the specially reduced price of 99p for the Festival and the paperback is cost price at £2.99)

 

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COFFEE

A cup of coffee is one of life’s greatest pleasures. That should be a quote from a famous person but it’s just an observation from me!  Sit down, with a coffee and read/watch what’s on offer today and then drink another one while you’re writing your own flash fiction piece!

COFFEE PRODUCT SNAPSHOT

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Coffee commodity briefing

And if you’ve still got coffee left, take a sip and read my flash fiction for today…

DIY FairTrade.  (Warning, this is a risky business… Don’t try this at home!)

I want to tell you a story. I’d like to tell you it was fiction. It isn’t. It’s fact. One of those stranger than fiction sort of things. It involves coffee and Cuba and an attempt at do it yourself Fairtrade. I’ve been to Cuba twice. I fell in love with the land and particularly with the coffee. Cubita coffee to be exact. I find Turquino (grown higher up the mountains I believe) to be a bit too bitter for my taste. I know that coffee is all about taste and that we all have different tastebuds and different choices of ‘favourite’ but I have to tell you that for me NOTHING matches the taste of Cubita coffee.

Problem. Because of the pesky trade embargo with Cuba it’s not possible (or at least not easy) to get hold of Cubita Coffee in the UK. There are some exporters (Ireland and Canada) but the price is about 3-5 times what it costs buying it in downtown Havana (where, believe me, the last time I was there in 2006 there was precious little else to buy in the shops). And I don’t like paying that kind of premium. Well, since this is flash fiction slash fact (with a bit of rhyme thrown in for easy measure) I should get on with the story.

Here we are in a nice coffee shop (I mean a shop that sells coffee in bags not a branch of Starbucks) and I spend all my available money on 20 kilos of Cubita Coffee. That’s 20 large packs. I’ve planned ahead. I brought lots of things to Cuba that they can’t get: paracetemol, books, pens, musical instrument parts and some things they find useful like clothes and shoes and I aimed to leave them there and fill my bags with coffee. For me that’s a kind of Fairtrade. Give them things they need, buy things I want. All went well… until…

When they call your name out over the tannoy at Jose Marti airport you know things aren’t going that well.  We were led downstairs to a customs room. Oh, oh.  The customs officials pointed at our bag (the one we’d put inside another bag and filled with Cubita) and asked us  to open it. They didn’t seem to want to touch it.  They thought it was a bomb.

This is when speaking Spanish  would come in handy. I don’t speak Spanish. Neither of us do. Certainly not enough to say, ‘it’s not a bomb it’s just coffee.’

As we approached to open the bag and I tried to explain, they at least relaxed enough to appreciate I was not about to blow us all up. No, it’s not illegal goods (at least I didn’t think there was an export limit on coffee… I had read all the guidebooks and it said nothing about limits on coffee) it’s not stolen treasures, it’s just coffee.’ We smiled. I smiled. George was going sort of pale and sweaty. I think he could see himself banged up for the rest of his life in jail in Havana. Not quite the honeymoon he’d intended.

As we revealed the large solid blocky mass to be 20 kilos of Cubita the officials were clearly perplexed.

‘We like coffee,’ we said.

‘Mucho gusto coffee,’ they replied.

I wanted to fill them in on the fact that I found it iniquitous that it should be impossible for me, in the UK, to get hold of their finest export product, just because of los Americanos cretinos (that sign is in the Museo de la Revolucion) but I didn’t have the Spanish.

Anyway, bemused and amazed that they were that anyone should want to take so much Cubita home from their holidays, we all smiled, zipped up the bags and went back to the departures lounge.

I don’t recommend you try this at home. I especially don’t recommend it as a good thing for a man with an undiagnosed heart condition (sorry George!) but I do suggest that if the world traded a bit more fairly we wouldn’t have to take such matters into our own hands and become undercover DIY fairtraders. Or coffee smugglers.  I know that there is now some FairTrade connection with Cuba –largely orange juice I think and I just hope that one day this will extend to both sugar (Cuba’s main exporting product) and Coffee. Forget Starbucks folks. For me, being able to drink Cubita coffee every day till I died would be a dream come true.  I’ve even seriously considered what it might take to become a coffee exporter for real, just to get my fix. So if there’s any entrepreneurs or angels out there… let’s take FairTrade into our own hands and think outside the embargo.

Cally Phillips 

If you want to read more about FairTrade Fiction you can buy FairTrade Fiction Volume 1 as an ebook for Kindle or Epub or as a paperback just click the appropriate highlight. (The ebook is at the specially reduced price of 99p for the Festival and the paperback is cost price at £2.99) Can’t say fairer than that. 

BANANAS

For the first of out FairTrade Flash Fiction Festival challenges the product is BANANAS.

Bananas are one of the staples in the weekly shop and form the backbone of FairTrade produce.  Want to know more? 

BANANA PRODUCT SNAPSHOT 

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Video Bananas in the Dominican Republic

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Behind the price tag

And in case you’re still stumped by what flash fiction is… it’s pretty much just a piece of fiction less than 1000 words.  Here is an offsite definition but we’ll be happy to read pretty much anything as long as it’s about FairTrade (and today, about FairTrade Bananas!)

It’s simple. You just compose your short masterpiece and copy/paste it into the comments box below. (Or if you’re really brave you can compose it live in the comments box!)

I won’t be contributing every day, but to get the festival started, here’s my flash fiction on Bananas… Gie’s a hand.  In the way of throwing you all down a challenge… get writing.

Gie’s a hand.

I don’t even like bananas.

Why?

Because if it wasn’t for bananas I’d have stood a chance of winning Wimbledon.

You what?

Yeah, all those tennis players eat bananas don’t they? Gives them the winning edge. And so, I realised, it wasn’t even worth me putting in the effort because unless I was prepared to eat bananas all the time I’d never win.

Hmm.

How come tennis players eat bananas when they have six fingers to a hand?

What are you talking about?

Bananas.  You say buy a bunch of bananas but you should say buy a hand of bananas and a hand of bananas is six. There’s six on a hand. Like fingers. You’d think that would hamper a sportsman wouldn’t you, having six fingers?

I think you’re being a bit ridiculous now.

Well, why not. If you can’t be ridiculous in fiction, where can you? It’s a rant, after all.

A rant?

Yes.

Oh, I thought it was meant to be flash fiction. Short and to the point.

What’s that when it’s at home? Is it like Flash Gordon? Is it only for superheroes?

No. Flash fiction is for everyone. Like bananas.

What? Bananas again?

Well, yes, even though you don’t like bananas I bet you still buy them every week.  They are a staple in the weekly shop for most people aren’t they?

Yes. That’s another thing I hate about bananas. Whether you like them or not, you just have to buy them. It’s enough to make me join the shop local campaign.

What?

Well we can’t grow bananas in this country can we? So if we only bought local produce we wouldn’t have to eat bananas.

And then we’d never have a chance of a British person winning Wimbledon.

Uh, like we do now?

Oh, come on, that’s hardly fair. Murray will do it one day.

If he eats enough bananas maybe.

And okay. So we have to buy bananas. But which bananas do you buy?

What do you mean?

Well, all that FairTrade thing. I mean, a banana’s a banana’s a banana. Isn’t it? Do those FairTrade ones have special match winning qualities? I doubt it. Do they have extra slippy skins for comedy effect? I don’t think so. So why in the world would you buy FairTrade bananas instead of… well… ordinary ones.

FairTrade bananas are ordinary. Quite normal. It’s not so much about the banana.

They all share the same boat after all.

Yes, they probably do.

The difference isn’t in the transport and it’s not in the quality of the goods so why buy FairTrade?

The difference is in the lives of the people growing the bananas.

Oh. Okay. What. They get to drive around in smart cars because of the stupidly high price charged for their product?

You’re talking about the producer premium?

Yeah. We’ve already established bananas are not a premium product. They are a staple product. A necessity.

Get real. No banana farmer is driving around in a smart car. You’ve got to take the food production chain into consideration.

Okay. So convince me. In less than three hundred words because the flash fiction word count is clicking.

If we give a hand to a small banana producer through FairTrade it means that he will get a living wage and a guaranteed sale in a volatile market so that he can send his kids to school and have enough for the basics in life. I mean the basics. It means that your banana won’t taste of exploitation.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like them.

Maybe. If you buy bananas from the large plantations where workers have few rights and get paid below the poverty line wages then you can’t expect to enjoy the eating experience really, can you?

But what about the price objection?

What price objection?

I object to paying more than I absolutely have to for my bananas. When I don’t even like them and I can’t even win Wimbledon. Ever.

I think you’ll find that there’s not much difference in price on a regular basis. If you shop around you might get them for the same price. Except for the ‘discounted’ ones which the supermarkets wave in your face from time to time. Why do they do that? Not to help the workers. To help the people making the profit. And remember, we don’t like them. We are on the side of the workers aren’t we? We are the workers after all.

This all seems a bit simplistic though doesn’t it?

What do you expect in a thousand words or less, when we wasted so much time talking rubbish at the beginning?

The good news is though, now I have pricked your conscience, maybe you’ll go and find out something more about bananas. Something more important than the taste. Find out how you can give a hand to a banana grower and help him give you a hand of bananas. And all live happy ever after. In real life, not just in fiction. Bananas are big business you know and they are the backbone of FairTrade. So finding out the banana backstory is a really good place to start.

Cally Phillips 

If you want to read more about FairTrade Fiction you can buy FairTrade Fiction Volume 1 as an ebook for Kindle or Epub or as a paperback just click the appropriate highlight. (The ebook is at the specially reduced price of 99p for the Festival and the paperback is cost price at £2.99)

WELCOME TO THE FESTIVAL

Welcome to the festival. This is the start of FairTrade Fortnight and we very much hope you’ll come here regularly and join in by sharing your creativity with us.

The story of fairtrade is the story of people. Real people with lives very different to ours. But people with the same hopes, dreams and aspirations.  This fortnight if you watch the films and read the reports you’ll be transported from winter in the UK to countries all over the world.  Bring a bit of sunshine into your life each day. And bring some sunshine for workers around the world. Make fairtrade the inspiration for your flash fiction.  And let us see what you can do!

You may want to contribute every day or you may want to write about a particular product or issue.  It’s totally up to you. But remember, a bit of research won’t go amiss before you write your flash fiction. We’ve sourced links to a range of videos and reports for you to start your research journey. The documents are pdfs and the videos tend to be on YouTube.

Today, we’re giving you some links to inspire your fiction. (Clicking the blue links will take you to other sites)

Obviously the first place to go is   The Fairtrade UK  and Fairtrade International 

There’s just about all the resources you could ever want to increase your understanding and awareness here.

But since it’s day one, lets break it down into easy bite sized chunks for you…

Let’s start at the very beginning. What is fair trade?

And what about The Fairtrade Mark

There’s plenty more reading resources for FAIR TRADE 

And if you prefer to consume through viewing there’s plenty of FairTrade viewing as well

And all of this is very interesting of course. But you may want to know, what exactly is FLASH FICTION.  Because if you don’t know what that is, how can you join in? So, If you don’t really know what flash fiction is – you can find out more here

For this festival we’re defining it as writing under 1000 words.  You can write your piece and cut/paste it into the comments box for the appropriate day to join in the festival. It’s as easy as that. Whatever you do over the next two weeks, get reading, get tasting and get talking and writing about fair trade issues this fair trade fortnight. Make it a habit you get into and stick with it.

We’ll be starting tomorrow with Bananas. But here’s a free taster of a flash fiction piece from FairTrade Fiction (Volume 1) which might give you ideas or show you the kind of thing that can be achieved

(It’s just over the word limit we’ve set, but that’s to show you that we can all be flexible – the important thing is the FairTrade right! And your creative response.)

You can buy FairTrade Fiction as an ebook on Kindle and epub formats  and as a paperback

 

Things are hotting up…

It’s just the other side of the weekend away. FairTrade Fortnight starts on Monday and so does our online festival of flash fiction.

ffvol1And to whet your appetite, here is the first review of FairTrade Fiction available now as an ebook for Kindle or Epub or as a paperback  (just click the appropriate highlight.)

A Fair Cop

Okay, my hands are up.  You’ve caught me.  It’s a fair cop, guv.  I admit it.  I’ve been a Fairtrade shunner.

You see, up until now I’ve been under the impression that Fairtrade was one of those mantras intoned by the green-wellyboot-wearing, Barbour-jacket-sporting, African-trinket-shopping brigade.  You know the brigade I mean: the comfortable, well-fed, middle-class pseudo-hippy types who invented PC.  I actually thought Fairtrade was PC.  And I don’t do PC.

Then I read this little collection of short stories, and I’m now an avid supporter of Fairtrade.  I learned more from the stories than I would ever have from any amount of haughty pronouncements by the aforementioned brigade.  I learned about the modern-day exploitation of poor workers across the globe; not just the nature of the exploitation, but the sheer scale of it and its impact on so many aspects of my life – the tea and coffee I drink, the fruit I eat, the sugar and chocolate I (shouldn’t) ingest, even the clothes I wear.  I learned about the concept of Fairtrade and how it can operate to combat that exploitation.  And I learned how to look for the Fairtrade label.  I learned all of that – and I became a Fairtrade convert into the bargain – in a very short space of time.

There’s a big lesson here for the PC crowd.  Instead of preaching, do what the author Cally Phillips has accomplished so successfully with this collection.  Write your message into short stories.  Populate your stories with everyday, believable characters.  Add a large dollop of humour and a sprinkling of make-believe.  And I guarantee you’ll have people converting to your message faster than your green wellyboots can carry you!

Reviewed by Brendan Gisby. (also known as Mr McStoryteller.) If you’re looking for great short stories of a Scottish flavour McStorytellers is the place to go. One of Cally’s FairTrade Fictions will feature on Monday!

It’s nearly time for Fairtrade Fortnight…

To celebrate Fair Trade Fortnight 2013, Guerrilla Midgie Publishing are hosting an online flash fiction festival featuring the TOP TEN Fair trade products and more besides.

We aim to get you thinking, reading and writing about fair trade for the duration of FairTrade Fortnight (and beyond)

Each day there will be something to watch and something to read on this site which will hopefully act as an inspiration for you to produce your own FLASH FICTION and post it right here.  To find out what FLASH FICTION IS click here 

The story of Fairtrade is the story of people. Real people with lives very different to ours. But people with the same hopes, dreams and aspirations.  During the fortnight if you watch the films and read the reports you’ll be transported from winter in the UK to countries all over the world.  Bring a bit of sunshine into your life each day. And bring some sunshine for workers around the world. Make Fairtrade the inspiration for your flash fiction.  And let us see what you can do!

You may want to contribute every day or you may want to write about a particular product or issue.  It’s totally up to you. We’ll give you some links for research and inspiration – the rest is up to you.

Of course you should be buying Fairtrade – but how about writing Fairtrade too.

ffvol1If you want to get in early, you could download our publication FAIRTRADE FICTION (Volume 1) from Amazon for Kindle or Kobo for epub platforms and see how stories can be used to advocate for Fairtrade.

 

 

Or if you want to get practical and put on a short play… flexible scripts are available for performance from Amazon UK 

fairplay

Fair Trade Fiction (Volume 1)

ffvol1Published as an ebook on 1st February, in good time for Fairtrade Fortnight which kicks off on Feb 25th.

These are six short stories about Fairtrade products from Bananas to Cotton. They are quirky, humorous and thought provoking.

Fair Trade Fiction (Volume 1) is currently available from Amazon as Kindle and soon to be available as epub for other ereaders.