Everything has been in turmoil here over the last few weeks. My dear Smudge, the kitten who stole my heart, was killed on the road outside the house. I dropped the girls off at the school bus stop and on the way back home saw a cat lying in the road. My heart knew before my brain registered that it was my lovely boy. I jumped out into the rain and gathered him in my arms, dreading that he would be still alive but crushed beyond repair. But his body was heavy and rain sodden cold. I buried him in the garden, sobbing into the mud, his body wrapped in a linen tea towel, a souvenir from the Eden Project in Cornwall that could only have come with us from England. Weeks on, I still miss him terribly. I miss him running to greet me in the morning and standing on my feet to keep his warm. I planted a sweet smelling rose to tend in his memory: to give me a purpose when sadness overwhelms me.
And there have been other sadnesses too. I took the decision to close my Etsy shop this weekend, after dithering about it for several weeks. Etsy is going through a great number of changes and there have been a lot of very angry and upset sellers in the Etsy forums and within teams, all trying to work out what is going on. It’s a horrible mess and many of the changes taking place show blatant disregard for the people who pay Etsy to run their marketplace – us, the sellers. We are being squeezed, and many have already left in disgust or been forced out for not complying with new shop payment rules. We put our hearts into our businesses and to see our shops being stripped of their uniqueness and visibility is no joke for people trying to make a living.
It’s hard to find an alternative place to sell online though. Etsy’s original vision was what led me to open a shop with them: to be part of a community of artistic, creative people. Now, the artists and artisans are being squashed by the unchecked growth of re-sellers and factory-produced work being sold under the guise of ‘handmade’. It is not a supportive, happy community any more. I think it’s safe to say that it is inevitable that it will be sold over the next few weeks.
So this weekend I finally packed everything away into storage. I have bought a couple of domain names for use with a standalone website and I may try Artyah, a fairly new site selling vintage and handmade. Its clunky and needs work, but it has potential. But I am very sad to give up my Etsy shop: I was so proud to be a part of that world even if I arrived a little too late to enjoy it at its’ best.
And the third sadness is that the bank rejected our request for a building loan to buy Chrissie’s house. We bit the bullet last week and made an appointment with them and presented all of our figures, but it just isn’t enough to convince them. Stupidly, we convinced ourselves that it would be fine: that the manager would realise what a big difference it could make to us and want to help us succeed. Because buying this place means we could start working on creating gîtes as we originally planned to do all those years ago when we first talked about moving out here. Plus it would give us some security at last, and God! I need that so much. The house is still on the market, so in theory it could still be sold any minute and I can’t bear the thought of losing it now. We’re all so happy to be living here, as well as having already done much to improve the place, particularly outside. It feels like home. Of course, the political situation probably doesn’t help us; we’d no doubt stand more of a chance if we were French. But, my heart aches with the (hopefully temporary) loss of hope.
We are blessed, of course, to be living here at all, I’m well aware of how lucky we are. But, the idea of building a business together is so very important to our future here. Jude is finding it harder each week to do such physically demanding work: his latest client needs him to re-roof her old manor and he is doing the work entirely alone. Having spent his life doing heavy manual work, his body is starting to suffer now. Building the gîtes and making ourselves a little more self-sufficient – growing veg, keeping chickens and a couple of pigs perhaps – would be so wonderful for us all.
As we head into summer, I am free to focus on fewer, deeper issues: leaving Etsy behind as I move forward alone with whatever I plan to do with my shop, I find myself heavier in spirit but stronger in my determination to make things work for us. We will keep going. That’s all any of us can do.
These photos are of the sculpture garden at the wonderful Abbey of Cerisy La Fôret. Every year, international artists are invited to come and work on a piece each which, at the end of their stay, gets added to the collection in the grounds. Normally the sculptures are carved out of stone or marble; this year for the first time the work is in metal. This is the second visit I’ve made so far: I plan to return again to follow the progress of the work and take more photos as it progresses. Stay tuned!