I am currently the owner of a giant baby that will not be put down. As you can imagine this has made a slight impact on the way I make a living. Let’s just say, for all the best reasons, I am currently professionally impaired. For large portions of the day my arms are held hostage which means, even while my baby is snoozing, I cannot get to my computer to do anything of use.

So, I thought, as a scrolled through twitter with my one operative thumb (the other numb under the weight of the baby), what can I do while engaged in the worlds longest cuddle? The answer proved elusive.

Meanwhile, my quest to shop locally continued. I have for years tried and failed to do it, spending, instead, inordinate amounts of time and money in the nations favourite supermarket. But since the giant baby arrived I had been able to spend more time at the local shops. Now, I am no cook so shopping locally is a bit of a challenge. Meat is especially troublesome. I know what mince is. I know what a sausage is, and I know that chicken breasts are expensive. But that’s about it. I started to venture into my local butcher. He’d ask really tough questions like ‘what would you like? and ‘how much do you want?’ and I wouldn’t really know and had to resort to hand gestures…’ can I have some of that’, ‘enough for two and a half people?’

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Now, Jim has been a butcher for a very long time. He knows a lost shopper when he sees one. He took pity on me and gradually started to introduce me to the whole process. He would tell me what to buy and how to cook it and what the most affordable roast is (it’s pork by the way). He showed me how much a pound of mince was and told me that lamb was expensive this year. He told me his name was Jim and that he couldn’t understand why people where intimated by coming into a butchers shop, but that they seemed to be and that this was especially true for people under 40. He said he was struggling to get the message out there that he was happy to help and that he went the extra mile, quite literally, by delivering free of charge to the local area.

The penny dropped. In fact, as anyone who follows me on twitter knows, it dropped a long time before I did anything about it. I could Tweet for Meat! Evolution had prepared me for this! My one functioning opposable thumb could help me put food on the table. I could provide!

But I couldn’t bring myself to ask him. I knew social media would help him. I knew that people on twitter tend to be in their 30’s and 40’s and not entirely comfortable with the onward march of the supermarché. I knew I could tweet in my spare moments. But telling him this felt risky. Did I do it in the shop and risk him thinking me a sponger, did I ask him for a drink and ask him then? This felt like dating. It felt weird. So my quest to ‘tweet for meat’ stalled until, well, he kind of asked me.

Now I could tell you the ins and outs of this bartering relationship but let me simply tell you this: it is GOOD. It’s good for his business, it is good for my food bill and just on a human relationship level it is GOOD. I’m learning stuff about food. Proper food. I’m learning that my social media skills are good enough to make a difference. I am eating differently. Jim is learning that social media is simply an extension of word of mouth and is not beyond him. He is learning to shout about his great quality products in a different way. It is also good for his customers – they are being given information to help them shop in the way they want too, which isn’t always in multinational ginormo-stores.

In order for me to tweet anything of any sense on his behalf I need to talk to him daily and every day I discover something brilliant; his meat is all British, the beer in his real ale bangers is our local Bombadier, the size of the sausages handmade daily on site depend on how many pints Lee has had the night before, his pies are all handmade (apart from the pastry, but not even Jamie Oliver makes his own pastry) and there has been a butcher on the site of his shop since 1890.

Jim tweets, and I tweet. His tweets are more interesting than mine and over time he will take over completely. But on busy days I can follow and RT and remind people that they deliver while he gets on with being what he is, which is a bloody good butcher.

We’ve taken money out of the equation and come up with something better.

So, two things: who could you barter your social media skills with? And, if you are a Bedfordian carnivore why not follow @LingersButchers ?

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