I am not going to lie, as the days pass by I am growing more and more worried about the effect of the novel coronavirus. This is not because of the virus itself, I am lucky enough to be in good health with youth on my side and thus i feel it would be selfish to worry about any risks towards myself. I worry instead about the unpredictable nature of a global pandemic such as this and the effect it has on a societal level.

I always thought it would be Brexit that harked any potential danger to my small business and I am under absolutely no illusion regarding the difficulties of owning a shop and living the self-employed lifestyle. It was always a choice that was fraught with risks but ultimately one that I was willing to take for the sake of my happiness and mental health. Overall I have no regrets and opening my own LYS was hands down the best decision of my life and I have absolutely no intention of letting this or any other virus come between me and my dream.

I am one of the luckier ones though. I have a supportive network of friends, family and incredible customers. I am also insured against loss of income due to infectious diseases (the fear has subsided somewhat since I checked this… I advise any of my fellow small business owners to check as well) but I cannot downplay the effect that Covid-19 has already had on the shop over the last few weeks. It has been tough, very tough, and over the coming weeks I expect that this trend will continue.

With just 43 days remaining until my biggest show of the year, Wonderwool, I and many other vendors are on tenterhooks awaiting status updates from the government and the show organisers. If the show is cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus it will obviously have huge financial impact on dozens of vendors – all of whom rely on shows to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Not only that but the cost of investment for a show is so much more than I think many people realise, not only monetarily but in terms of work hours and the stress involved in preparing for a festival.

I am worried, of course I am. In no way do I begrudge any decisions that have to be made by the team behind this or any other show and I will fully support whatever outcome there is – public health and safety is not something to be gambled with – but I cannot ignore the effect that cancelling a show will have on the business financially and that is a worry that is keeping me up at night.

I am more than prepared to self-isolate or close the shop in the interest of public safety if required, but even taking into account insurance policies I do not have the security of a regular pay cheque or sick pay to rely upon, and that is the case with tens of thousands of self-employed citizens across the country.

Given the growing levels of poverty we have seen due to austerity measures over the last decade we are living on a knife edge and that terrifies me. My thoughts go out to those in our society who are already struggling to make ends meet and can’t afford to lose work or pay. To those who rely on foodbanks that are running on empty; to the parents who struggle to keep their kids warm and fed and are facing the prospect of the schools closing; to the NHS workers who are already working in conditions that are overstretched, underfunded and ignored by a government intent on destroying our public health system.

I am worried that the selfish undertones of humanity are peeking through this façade of normality, encouraged by a media which thrives on hysteria, scapegoating and scaremongering.

I don’t have an answer, nobody does and anybody who proclaims otherwise is either a liar or a moron. For me, I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this summer is going to be hard work with few rewards and I am taking each day as it comes.

I have a lot of exciting stuff going on behind the scenes including a collaboration with Lisa from For the Love of Yarn which will be getting released soon (coronavirus dependent of course) and I shall be taking part in the Social Justice Warriors commencing this Sunday. Until I hear anything otherwise I am focussing on stocking up for Wonderwool and putting all my energy into dyeing beautiful happy colours.

I am staying positive as much as I can but I have just a few requests for you before I sign off:

• Please do not panic-buy food or items that you do not need – taking food off the shelves makes it even harder for those in our society who cannot afford to buy in bulk including the elderly and vulnerable. If you’re going to stock up on anything before you potentially self-isolate why not make it craft supplies to keep you entertained!

• Be safe and be hygienic. Most of the methods recommended to prevent the spread of the virus boil down to basic common sense. If you don’t feel well, stay at home – this logic works for all viruses and should not come as a surprise.

• Please consider how much this is affecting your local businesses, big and small. eg why spend £25 a litre on hand sanitiser on eBay when you can stock up on local handmade soap instead.

• If an event you were hoping to attend is cancelled check out the vendors online and make an effort to support them via their website or get in touch to see what they have to offer.

• If you are strapped for cash but want to support your favourite small businesses then like or comment on their social media posts. It really does make a difference and at the very least reminds them that they are not going through these tough times alone.

Stay safe, wash your hands and if you want to learn more about infectious diseases check out This Podcast Will Kill You for an insightful and light hearted look at the world of viruses and bacterial infections.

Le dùrachdan,

Katie x

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