When the “free money” texts came through, we both dismissed them at first.
Over the years, our once-private mobile numbers have crept out into cyberspace, and the number of messages from dodgy companies offering “free” this and “free” that, or offering help after our ”recent accident” and so on, have gradually got more and more frequent.
It seemed odd that we both got them at about the same time, so we took another look. It wasn’t a dodgy company at all – it was HMRC detailing the new “Self-Employment Income Support Scheme”.
The details are very simple; if you’re self-employed, and you’ve lost money thanks to Covid-19, HMRC will compensate you. Good news for some, not such good news for the next two generations of taxpayers, but that’s another story.
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It would have been good news for us if we’d been able to make a claim. But that’s one of the most remarkable aspects of the past few weeks: our business activities have been totally unaffected.
Bales of money
Hazel cleared out her cattle earlier in the year, her straw trade is flying after last winter’s weather (and there we were thinking we’d overdone the baling last harvest), and her part-time accountancy for a local company is being done from home.
The arable crops are tucked away in Trinity Grain’s long pool, where (we hope) their marketing team are nailing the price peaks (unless they’ve got Paul the Octopus in again).
Murph’s ewes are out in the pastures, enjoying a lambing season free from rain, wind and National Trust visitors using their encyclopaedic knowledge of livestock to ring 999 if they see blood.
We’re watching the vital £/€ rate, of course, but it’s going up, going down – just as it always does.
But we’ve stayed resolutely (and somewhat dogmatically) diversification-free – no golf courses, wedding venues or farm shops. No activities dependent on public footfall. Our old-fashioned commodity farming has gone on as normal.
The only way that our business has been affected is the lack of shows, where I’ve taken up lurking on the Farmers Weekly stand, trading an amazing range of insults with compete strangers who then leave as a new best friend, clutching a well-known book.
I know sales have been good, but it would be impossible to quantify a “loss”, and certainly not enough of one to claim anything from HMRC, I would have thought.
The children have been lucky, too. No 1 is still in central London, still employed on a car rental company’s grad scheme, and delivering expensive hire cars round oddly deserted streets. I’m very jealous.
No 2 is working from home in Cambridge for a video games company – and video games are, of course, doing rather well at the moment. Have you seen the sort of stuff they produce these days? If, like me, you grew up with Pacman, Space Invaders and Missile Command, you’ll be in for a shock. That industry is enormous.
No 3 was sent home from uni, but his course has been continuing online. For the first time ever, I’ve been agreeing with the campaign for better broadband in rural areas. But he’s working his way through lectures and tests – very slowly.
How clever of him to choose Economics and Politics, now having a front-row seat as the world staggers through the biggest political and economic upheaval in 75 years.
So, many apologies, HMRC, for lumping you in with dodgy companies sending iffy junk texts.
Your message was actually very useful: we may not be claiming any grants, but we’re counting our blessings. And that, as they say, is priceless.