I know, right! It's been many years since I posted a blog entry. Most people here have forgotten who I am, or indeed, never knew anyway. So, why am I posting now?
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin:
Well, for reasons I'll go into later, I've been tidying up at OfClayton Towers, going through its dusty cupboards and run-down outbuildings, with a view to getting rid of whatever I can. Somewhere, at the back of a particularly dusty understairs, half-obscured by cobwebs, I discovered a mysterious roll of ancient parchment, yellowed by the passing of many, many long years. Curious, I blew the dust off and carefully unrolled it to reveal the UNRV map of the Roman Empire. Remember that? So nostalgic was I for the old days, I popped back on the site, only to be reminded that my twice-fortnightly blog just dried up. It came to a sudden end, with no explanation of the why's and wherefore's (do those words both need apostrophes? Maybe someone with better grammar than I could comment?) It felt like unfinished business, so I decided to do a bit of an update by way of a final blog entry to wrap everything up nicely.
So . . . what has been happening? Well, I have to admit that the UK strain of Covid has been far less kind to those working in the gig economy than to those with more settled employment. My usual work pattern was to take jobs as a Tour Leader during the more clement months and, when that work tended to dry up over the off-season, there were 6 or 7 (actually, 8 now that I sit and count them) companies that I had a good relationship with, and could take me on as a contract business analyst for project work, or something similar. It was rare that none of them could offer me something. Needless to say, the amount of Tour Leader work dropped to zero as a result of the pandemic. So I needed to look around for something else and (unsurprisingly) very little presented itself. Let's face it, very few companies will be undertaking project work with most of their workforces keeping things ticking over from home. Then, one-by-one, those companies started to change. The first had actually happened way back in 2017. If you're not from the UK, you may not be aware, but the result of the Brexit vote caused a huge drop in the value of the pound. The company I was actually working with at the time had taken me on to advise them on how any potential outcomes of the Brexit vote might affect them, and how to mitigate. As a company that buys from abroad, and sells domestically, it was obvious that a 'Leave' result would hit them very hard in the short to medium term, and whilst I outlined ways of hedging, it was apparent things were going to be tough. When the drop in the pound hit, they had to downsize massively, and are now surviving, but are very much on the critical list. They won't be taking on anyone like myself for a long, long time (probably never).
Then, a couple of companies announced closure of their UK manufacturing operations, and are now either gone, or winding down. Large manufacturing tends to perform different stages of their manufacturing process in different locations, and ship part finished goods between those locations. With 'Just In Time' management very much the name of the game, companies can't afford (won't, rather than can't) to have goods tied up while customs clearance is arranged, as it adds significantly to the cost of the finished product, without adding value.
This pattern repeated itself until all the companies I worked for had either folded, moved out of the UK, or were suffering financially to such a degree that I could cross them off my list. The final one waited until the UK actually left the EU, realised that even if it manufactured in the UK, the parts it required were mostly sourced from the EU, so it is now planning a move that will see its output split between Poland and the Netherlands.
Well, I hear you say, what about your Tour Guide work? At least you have that to fall back on. To some extent, this is true. However, of late, the huge majority of that work was done in the EU, where you require a thing called an EOTA card in order to work there legally. Mine has just expired, and, as I am no longer an EU citizen, I can't apply for a new one. There are many other people in exactly the same boat, and all are looking for opportunities in the UK (which are just beginning to open up, now that Covid will 'officially' be a thing of the past by July). So competition is fierce. I also do North America, but a strange thing happened in 2016 that we in the tourist industry referred to as The Trump Effect, where immediately following the 2016 presidential elections, bookings to North America dropped off quite considerably. It's easy to blame The Orange One for this effect, but it also covered Canada and Mexico. More likely it was to do with the artificially high USD/CAD/MXP vs the low GBP, but one way or another, opportunities there have thinned considerably, and there comes a point that it's just not worth applying for a work visa (that's if a British Citizen would get one under the current administration.)
So, what to do? Well, after much soul-searching, myself and Mrs OfClayton have come to a big decision. We are in the process of putting OfClayton Towers up for sale with a view to moving to Bavaria (currently, a little town called Füssen is highest on the radar) and applying for German citizenship. This will put me right where I need to be in terms of leading in the Alps (which over the past few years has become my main area), but also will allow me to work anywhere in Europe. It also gives me access to steady winter work as a ski rep, which I said I'd never do, but beggars can't be choosers.
So there you go. Many thanks to all of you (both of you) who have enjoyed my ramblings in the past (if you're still around). Hope everything goes Ok for you all. I'll sign off for one last time and wish you all 'Auf Wiedersehen'.