Food, warmth and shelter are the key components of life.  Every pet dog and cat knows about being fed and warm inside their fur coat, with a kennel or shelter for outside. 

Every family soon learns to get everyone back into the warm after a wintry trip,  get dry and put food on the table, and very quickly if there are children.

We worry about the hospitality sector, but where does food and drink come from?  Shouldn't we be worrying more about farmers faced with escalating costs while prices are being kept down by warehouses and traders supplying our pubs and supermarkets cheaply?  

Only a small proportion of the earth's surface is fertile enough to grow the plants that sustain people and wildlife.  We need to cherish and care for it, with a broad perspective knowing that insects and other creatures play a key part in the whole, just as trees remove carbon dioxide.  

The cereal, fruit and vegetables we need are just part of a complex whole - but so are the farmers who look after it seven days every week, rain or shine, drought or flood.  If bees and trees are vital, so are farmers.

In the Christmas story, we learn about Joseph the carpenter.  His job was making affordable houses; richer dwellings would have used stone masons.  A carpenter today is one of many trades in building; in those days the carpenter was a key person, as Joseph would have been in Nazareth.  It was he and his colleagues and forebears who built the town.

Old Elizabethan buildings were constructed with timber frames, using bricks to fill the gaps; modern architects use steel and glass in the same way!  A pseudo Elizabethan building will have timbers on show, with bricks in nice rows; truly Elizabethan buildings have higgledy piggledy bricks.

Our clothing is mostly produced by workers in Asia paid just a tiny fraction of the wages acceptable in Europe. 

We rightly deride slavery, but if a worker has only just enough to eat and live without any chance of moving away, isn't he or she just as tied as if they were owned?  The shop price of a garment is mainly profit for the retailer, the wholesaler, the importer and the factory, with just a little bit for whomever actually made it.

90% of women on earth face discrimination if not downright abuse.  The 'enlightened' populations of North America and Western Europe together only make up 10% of the world.  Bargain goods are made in sweat-shops where people work very long hours for very poor pay, or much worse. 

Some importers and brands are now waking up to this and checking that their suppliers treat workers fairly, rather like the "Fair Trade" scheme for coffee, tea and imported foods.  There is no quick answer, but keeping aware of which brands are better at trying to manage their workers' conditions overseas may help some very needy people!

The "needy" to be highlighted are the farmers growing our food at home and abroad, the actual makers of clothing, mostly in Asia, and also people seeking affordable homes.

Of course we care about the hospitality trade;  but we also need to pay proper prices to keep the world working right.  Industrialisation has turned more of us into customers than producers;  buyers now seriously outnumber farmers, spinners, weavers and builders.

Fairness in pricing should suport the producers, not just cheap shopping!