For us, the worst of 2020 has been not seeing each other for the entire year (or me seeing our dogs). Thailand shut it borders early on, and not anticipating how bad the pandemic would become, I delayed my planned February trip, and we all know what happened next. The borders are still essentially closed, and cases have started rising again after two localised outbreaks so I don't expect any relaxation of the regulations soon. Thailand has had sixty deaths as I write this, so we must put that into perspective with the tens of thousands of deaths here in the UK. Even if Thailand relaxes its border controls, the UK is not going to be first on the list of countries allowed to enter.
But we did get a visa for Ploy to enter the UK. As it stands Ploy can still enter, and Emirates are still flying from Bangkok to the UK. However, strictly speaking, I cannot drive to pick her up from the airport, and even if I did, we would be confined to my house as everywhere is shut. But how long will this lockdown last? At least until April would be my best guess. So, I think we will just go for it in January. We can just stay at home and watch movies and eat pate and toast, but at least we can see each other. Ploy will have to put her business into hibernation; if she just closes it there will nothing left when she returns. She needs to either sell it or find someone to take care of it who doesn’t just do a runner. These things are not easy in Thailand. She does have a friend who will take care of the dogs at our house – the dogs know and like her and they will still be at their home.
So, January should see the main source of grief in 2020 sorted out. There have been a few positives – the business is still doing OK – no more than that as we are belatedly seeing the effects of the pandemic through delayed or cancelled orders. I recently moved to a detached bungalow in the Scottish countryside which has made me feel more settled. The bungalow’s previous tenants stripped the place, but that has given me a license to stamp my own mark on it with a little bit of painting and by purchasing my own stuff, instead of being stuck with someone else’s abysmal style choices. It is a pretty little village too, and the commute to work helps break the work/work routine I had got into. More space has also meant I have been able to set up a proper office, and I can work from home more often.
I have also been able to start work again on my books with two quite advanced now. The Forgotten Tenors is a book of an appreciation of ten neglected operatic tenors of the early twentieth century, and Tom Cruise and Other Animals is a book of movie reviews. I have got on top (hopefully) of the issues with my new car (new to me that is, it is 15 years old). One remaining issue requires a complete engine rebuild and is hugely expensive, but if all else looks good through this winter I shall try and afford it as I really like the car. Moving to the Scottish countryside also means I will have to invest in some more suitable tyres for next year – nothing is cheap when it comes to this Mercedes.
Pookie was another stray puppy Ploy brought home, and it soon became Ploy’s favourite. However, unfortunately, it got a blood parasite, and Ploy came home from work one day to find it dead. That is when you really feel the 10,000km between us. Of course, there was nothing I could have done if I had been there, except to comfort Ploy who was distraught, especially as she blamed herself, but the reality was the vet had said it was serious and she may not make it. I never got to even say hello.
I have often said how much of a rollercoaster our life together has been. Now we can add a pandemic to our adventures. We will come through this. Being apart for a year, and having a slowdown in orders, has meant I have been able to prioritise things better for the future. More time together, less time with my nose to the grindstone is the plan. This year I have been offered a mortgage to buy a house (but I will now probably just stay renting as I am too old to take on such a loan commitment), have passed three years residency in the UK so I’m now formally British again (not something to boast about, but it makes some things easier and I wouldn't have been offered a mortgage before that time), and have managed to keep the business running through leaving the EU (at 11p.m. tonight) and a pandemic. I spent three days in hospital with acute pancreatitis and may well employ our first apprentice in 2021 (I have started interviewing potential candidates). And I bought a fitness rowing machine.I have reached my capacity at SingMai – our turnover peaked at £130,000 in 2019, less this year, and I don’t think I can do more without planning some expansion. That almost certainly means employees and I am very nervous about it as I am not good with people. But staying still has never been an option. Let’s see what 2021 will bring.
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