Wednesday, 8 December 2021

2021 roundup

In the summer, after a short illness, we were heartbroken to lose our wonderful, affectionate, ball-chaser at the age of thirteen and a half. We shared his life for his final four years, he looked after us on our walks and beachcombing, kept me company on the sofa demanding to be fussed. He guarded MTM's office and terrorised the local squirrels and pigeons if they dared stray onto the lawn. We made many a trip to the post box sending out packages of beads. There really was no area of our lives he wasn't folded into in some way. We were very rarely apart from each other. 

We never got him used to being on the jetty, we finished rebuilding it the summer before last. I include it in this round up because it has been such a sanctuary for us during the most difficult of times. It's very peaceful and quiet down there and you just let the river take your troubles downstream. It's my happy place.

Typically for Manchester Terriers, he always hated water. He was never even keen to go for a walk in the rain, he would do his business in wet weather and then turn back, insisting we took him home to dry his ears. I think the idea of having a whole river of that nasty wet stuff flowing underneath him felt completely wrong, he was more comfortable sunbathing on a cushion outside the open door of my beadmaking studio, trotting in and out, keeping an eye on me and another looking out for those squirrels! Our time with him went so fast, we can never keep our furry friends for long enough. 

The flowers - photographed above with his name tag - were sent by Bongo's original owners who rehomed him with us when they could no longer take care of him.

We scattered his ashes on a sunny sand dune overlooking Budle Bay where I took these joyful photographs of him almost exactly a year earlier. Missy and Guinness, our two other Manchester Terriers, are close by on Bamburgh Beach and Stag Rock. They'll keep you company and we'll visit you all often. RIP Bongo, we miss you so much. 

Lost in the pandemic was the fact that Brexit finally happened at the beginning of 2021. All my EU customers now have to pay import VAT at their domestic VAT rate due to the UK leaving the Customs Union. This has made my beads 19-27% more expensive on the continent. 

Once my regulars had all been stung by doorstep demands for money by carriers, 40% of my sales disappeared. Not only were they having to pay VAT, an extortionate handling charge was also being imposed.

Etsy finally started collecting the VAT in July but paperwork glitches with the electronic handshake the barcode on the postal label - supposed to tell foreign carriers VAT had been paid - meant the very few EU customers who had stuck with me were now being double-VATed and *still* being charged handling fees. It was a very bad time for my business. I had to stop selling to Europe. This may settle down once the systems are properly in sych.

I finished my photography course but I haven't done much with it this year. I've spotted things in the garden that were looking good and thought I'll get the camera out when I get a minute. But it always got dropped to the bottom of my to do list and moment by moment, they all just passed me by in a graceless morass of apathy. This is one of the few I managed, this bee is me .... head down .... plough on.

Both of us caught Covid in late summer, the Delta variant we think. MTM picked it up at work from one of the schools his employer was refurbishing and a week later, I also succumbed. It wasn't too bad, no hospitalisation but MTM was very fatigued for weeks and weeks afterwards. Thank goodness we were both double vaccinated (and now boostered up as well).

After we were better, a routine medication review showed an elevated platelet count on my blood test. I was referred for numerous precautionary cancer investigations. These dominated a couple of the Autumn months. The NHS were stressful in their appointment system cockups but magnificent in their person-to-person treatment and care of me. It was invasive but thorough and the upshot of it all is I'm physically completely well.  

My platelet count has now gone back to normal and the earlier elevation presumed to be a lingering effect of my prior Covid infection. As my GP put it, it wasn't wise to make that assumption at the time.

Sisters .... thank goodness for sisters! Both of mine were very supportive during this time. And of course MTM was my rock, as ever, driving me to appointments and listening to my worries. On my nil-by-mouth days (both of them), he even ate a cold dinner on his own so the smell of cooking wouldn't make me feel hungrier, that's love for you! 

He has been asking his employer to take him off schools refurbishments due to the Covid risk they present to a gentleman of relatively advanced years. They have refused. He has resigned. He is  currently working his contracted three month notice period. He leaves in the middle of January 2022.

MTM isn't like me, he doesn't just resign at the drop of a hat. This comes at the end of a long period of estrangement and mismanagement by the company owner. He feels deliberately pushed into early retirement. There's so much more I could say about this concerning constructive dismissal, we have much evidence going back two years to support a claim. We may have to go legal on that yet. It's all very unsettling after 16 years with the same company.

If you've read this far, well done, and thank you! It *IS* nearly a year's worth of blog posts condensed! It's not been easy to write but I have some brilliant news as a reward!

At exactly the time all this craptitude - and some other bad stuff that isn't mine to share - was all threatening to get on top of me, a US company who had seen my other Etsy shop (where I sell crochet patterns as a kind of pocket-money sideline), got in touch. There aren't many designs in it but they loved one - a macrame style plant hanger - so much they offered a substantial fee to buy a license to distribute it to their subscribers.

I have taken this as the universe signalling to me to concentrate on my crochet designs. After a few weeks advance notice to my remaining bead customers, I closed my bead shop last week for an extended period - potentially permanently - whilst I explore this possibility some more.

I have a stack of designs all in various stages. Some are nearly finished, some just need a few photographs taking as tutorial pics to help people make my designs. I feel this brings several of my talents all together. I have loads of ideas and I'm super-excited about the future.

I hope to be posting a bit more regularly next year! Looking forward to better times ahead.


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