The one single question Mark and I get asked more than any other is which one of you is Bert and which one of you is Gert.
I’m sure it’s like comedians who have their catchphrases shouted at them in the street. We really like it, it gives people an easy way in to talk to us and usually results in a really interesting conversation. Our standard answer to the question, which you may have heard before, is that we are brothers Jason (myself) and Mark (my older brother by 3 years, 3 months and 2 days) and that Bert and Gert were our grandparents. We’d like to give you a bit more of an insight in to who we are, who Bert and Gert were and why they are our inspiration in everything we do.
Mark and I were born to proud parents Tony and June, we were their only children, so far so good and sounding like the set up of a standard 1970’s sitcom. I was born 10 days late, I should have been born on our Mothers Birthday on July 12th. Most people who know me really well, say that I set a precedence for the rest of my life by being late, time keeping is something I really have to work at.
Mark would certainly agree with that, if we are not somewhere an hour early, we are late. That might be his military training, with him being ex Navy, hence “The Merchant Stores” part of our craft range name. Like all parents, ours worked hard to give us the things they hadn’t had in their own childhood, like their parents had before them. Mom and Dad were born at the very end of the second world war and Mark and I can appreciate now, much more as adults, how tough those times would have been, the end of rationing not coming until a good while after the end of the war. The times of Make Do and Mend, utilising many of the skills we now call crafts, which then were necessity.
Our dad Anthony, known as Tony was born to Bert (Bertram) and Florence. One of two children, his younger sister, Rosaleen. We know very little about our Dads side of the family, unfortunately they all left us way to early and our father sadly passed away very young too. We later discovered through researching our family tree that on Berts side of the family if we went back a few generations, that his family had been Hawkers, street market people. It must be in our blood, it’s funny that so many years later, we now run our events and that includes a good many street markets. Since we began in 2012 we have provided over 3,500 spaces to crafters, designer makers and artisan food traders to sell at our events.
Our Mom, June was the second youngest of 5 children, 3 elder brothers and one younger sister, born to Dennis and Gertrude (Gert). Through circumstances which we won’t go in to here, Gert found herself alone and bringing up 5 young children, she worked multiple jobs and did her absolute best for her children. She didn’t suffer fools gladly and like many women of her generation, fought to be taken seriously in a man’s world. She ran a tight ship, worked hard and still found time to pass on the skills she’d learnt to her children. Later in life, when she could take things a little easier, she passed on those skills to her grandchildren, she was a keen knitter, I still have a warm woollen hat she knitted me shortly before she died and it keeps me warm in winter and brings back warm memories of learning to knit, French knit and sew with my grandmother, or Nan as she was to us kids. Nan was also a keen baker and I knew my way around a kitchen at a young age, Nan always had a slice of cake for us whenever we visited. To this day, my favourite cake is homemade sponge cake with glace cherries in, no one makes it quite like Nan did.