Carsun's Bazaar is about 10 months old. That seems crazy to me. It feels like only 5 minutes ago that I was setting up my first display at Alnwick Market, hoping plenty of people would stop and have a look at what was on offer. I needn't have had any fears, as the stall proved to be an instant hit with locals and visitors alike, and the business has just grown and grown ever since. But growth doesn't just happen. It has to be nurtured and sometimes, downright forced along through sheer hard work and long hours. The rewards are good, but it all comes at a cost.
On weekends when I stand at the stall, chatting with everyone else's kids, I'm not spending the weekend with my two little lads, Archie and Oscar. When I work the stall in Alnwick, of course, they come to visit me, but it's brief. Hanging around a market stall isn't the best, nor safest option for 2 little chaps of 2 and 4 years of age.
This also means more pressure on my partner, Naomi, who has sacrificed weekends with me, to support the business that we hope will grow to provide a nice life for our family, as well as keeping me positive and happy (because my previous work just didn't do that). Not only that, she loses time with me when I work late on the site, or I'm dealing with suppliers, etc. I won't lie, it can cause tensions as I'm sure any family relying on self-employed income can attest to, at least in the early stages of a business.
The problem is, I find my work extremely addictive. I love what I do - as anyone who's met me in person at the stalls can't help but notice - and I pride myself on curating the best products and increasing my own knowledge of movies, games and characters etc, that I'm unfamiliar with, but in which my customers have an interest.
Last week, I took an actual day off. Okay, not quite a whole day, but the best part of a day. Once the parcels were out the door, I got some time with my partner and our sons. We took a walk through Alnwick Castle Gardens, got in a little Pokemon Go action, and had a lovely meal at one of our favourite family restaurants, Cafe Torino.
We arrived home with two very tired boys, and a very happy little family unit all-round.
Friday was back to work as normal, and working late, as Saturday was my second day off in the week. This time, I had forgone the markets for a day (which is like chopping off my arm right now), so that I could be there for my youngest son's 2nd birthday party (he was 2 the week before).
In some ways it was hard to be away from the phone, away from tinkering with the website, and especially to be away from the market, but it was such an important thing for me to be there, to enjoy the party with them. I'm known for being pretty good at interacting with kids, so having the chance to mess about together in the soft-play at Heighley Gate was great and although it was a busy day, it ended with me pleasantly tired, happy that my boys had another great day - and that I was there.
Since then, our new van has arrived for the business, and that has proven a hit with both of my boys. It's been nice to share something business-related with them, so that they feel involved in some small, fun way, when they pretend they're driving it, or like this morning, I give my oldest son a ride to school in it.
Sometimes it's good to be reminded that yeah, I work hard to try to make a better life for my family ... but I have to be part of that life, too. Otherwise, what's the point?