Bristol is a small city
(385,000 pop'n) situated 150 miles west of London, and a mere 30 minute
train trip from Cardiff, the capital of Wales.
Bristol, itself, is a very
picturesque city, boasting many tourist attractions.
Geographically, it is fortunate
to be located near the Severn Estuary, where the Avon River flows
into the Bristol Channel. Many ships have been launched from these
docks on historic voyages throughout the ages, including John Cabot's
discovery of Newfoundland in North America.
It also boasts the rare
attraction of a gorge (the Avon Gorge), a breathtaking sight, which
is almost surrounded by the city. The Clifton Suspension Bridge, built
earlier this century, was the longest suspension bridge of its time,
and is still a popular target for tourists visiting Bristol.
It's in this friendly and
attractive setting that 8 or 9 LETS groups have chosen to operate,
after the first one, Ashley LETS, was formed 10 years ago.
My invitation to visit Bristol
was received from Jane Titley, the main contact person of the Bristol
East Exchange Trading Scheme, or BEETS, as it's fondly referred to.
Jane, who is the BEETS co-ordinator
and interlets contact, is a passionate LETS devotee, with development
and organisation skills to be admired.
One of her passions is the
BEETS Work Group. The original concept developed from a desire to
form a Decorating Group, where LETS members would meet on a monthly
basis (more or less), and help decorate the home of one of their members.
Apart from the obvious benefit the home-owner would enjoy, there was
the added benefit of 'bonding', where all the participants got to
become much better acquainted, therefore building friendships which
are invaluable in any LETS environment.
Up to date, the Work Group
has successfully completed a variety of projects, including:
- decorating a front and
- painting a hallway
- knocking down a wall and clearing the bricks, and
- building a garden shed.
Lisa Cole, who produces
the BEETS Directory, was very helpful in finding a bicycle for me.
I arrived in Bristol at 11am, Monday morning, and by 9 pm I had my
own set of wheels!
In fact, I was so impressed,
that I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands dirty, by helping
Rowland with his house renovating.
Rowland, a BEETS member
since the beginning of this year, welcomed me on Wednesday morning
with a traditionally warm English welcome ... a hot cup of tea (the
first of several to be had that day). Then over the next 5 hours,
- seal a couple of window
frames with sealant
- move 8'x4' sheets of polystyrene
- cover a section of flooring with planks
- trim a tree in the rear garden
- move almost a million bags of dirt and rubble to the rear of the
garden, just about doubling the size of cleared yard space, and
- cut the tree branches into small, disposable pieces, therefore
clearing another corner of the yard.
Did I get tired? Yes.
Did I get dirty? Definitely.
Did I get rewarded? You bet! Five hours work at 5 BEETS per hour =
25 BEETS (thank you very much).
In typical LETS fashion,
Rowland also asked me to join him for lunch ... curried vegetables.
He's a great cook.
But the most rewarding aspect
of my efforts, was when Rowland, who is not a huge LETS trader, assured
me that he now felt more comfortable about asking LETS members to
trade with him, because of this pleasant experience.
Originally, it was thought
that my visit to Bristol would come too soon to allow time to organise
a LETS presentation by me. However, an email was quickly put together
and sent to all the groups in the area promoting a LETS meeting featuring
my presentation for this Saturday night. So this will ensure that
I get to speak in every country I visit, just as I'd originally planned.
LETS is all about getting
help and helping others. And BEETS, in Bristol, is a great working