Sunday, 21 July 2013

Selling Purses in Spain

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been taking some time off and enjoying a family holiday in beautiful Spain. It struck me while enjoying a glass or three of Sangria in the local village on a busy market day that I had forgotten the simple pleasure of people watching.

A variety of colourful characters passed my table that sunny July afternoon and it got me thinking about how we (or is it just me) make judgments simply based on what people look like, how they walk, and their general demeanour. I spent a lovely time that afternoon making up stories about where everyone was going, what their life was like and why exactly they were walking past my table.

A young boy of about the same age as my son (13) was selling purses made from recycled Juice cartons. I’d passed him earlier standing in the Market with a tray of them. I’d immediately made a variety of assumptions about him. Maybe he was a local boy trying to make some money to supplement a low family income or he was from the local hippie commune (yes there was actually one camped nearby)!

I met him again at that street café where he was going from table to table with his tray, speaking perfect Spanish. He came to our table and I said a polite No thank you. He grinned broadly with a wonderful warm smile and started speaking perfect English in a lovely WELSH accent!

It transpired that he came to this same place on holiday each year and making recycled purses was his own personal enterprise to earn extra holiday money. He automatically, as children do, struck up a conversion with my son as if they’d known each other forever and started to swap thoughts on the latest iPhone apps.

His mother came by and we learned that he had quite a nice manufacturing process operating in the evening. He would spend some time sourcing his raw materials aka juice cartons, wash them, leave them to dry, make the purses and pass them onto Mum to cut the closure. His Mum told me quietly that her job was quality control – she insisted on cutting the closures not because of health and safety but so that she could give them a check and discard any she thought where below standard.

This lad was selling purses at €1 each and told me that already that morning he’d sold 15! As he left I knew that this boy would go far in life and that maybe in another few years I’d see him as a Dragon on that TV show!

I later reflected on these events and a few things struck me:

How many other miss judgments had I been guilty of that day, this year, in my life?

When exactly does that ability for open, non-judgmental and easy friendship between children get flipped into the adult reticence and need to adhere to social norms of behaviour?

Is there some entrepreneurial gene or is it a leaned behaviour?

Aren’t Mums wonderful – She quietly kept an eye on quality, played her part in encouraging him from the side-lines and shadowed him while he sold his wares so that she knew he was safe.

And finally why wasn’t my son making recycled purses?

To this there is no answer other than the million judgments I'm now making about my own ability to be a great MUM!

Ho hum – I'm off the check out you tube to see if I can learn how to make them!