THIS year has been a very different and difficult year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it is one where many people have re-evaluated their lives. In this special feature, Fiona Thomson relates how it was a catalyst for change in her life ...

'This year has been a very difficult year for all of us due to Covid-19 – but it made me realise exactly what I want to achieve in life.

It dawned on me, that you have to achieve in life what makes you happy, or there is little point. I don't know how Covid-19 has affected you, so maybe life will stay the same? But, the words 'new normal' comes to mind.

I have achieved my childhood dream 33 years later than planned, but now achieved! I started a leather-making business called GypsyRose Leather.

It is named after my first pony, which I had when I was 13. And now GypsyRose Leather makes hand sewn, made to measure leather horse and pony bridles, alpaca, goat and sheep halters and dog collars, plus I provide a leather repair service.

After much of the UK was released from lockdown on May 28, 2020, I went on a saddlery course in Ayrshire for five days in June. I was the only student on the course, as everyone else had cancelled due to Covid-19.

I self-isolated in the evenings following government procedure and I achieved a UK Saddlery Certificate of Attendance after completing the five-day leather course. While at college I made a pony sized bridle for Sugar, my first customer.

I live in Stanley, near Perth and was brought up in the Perthshire countryside. My background is in farming and I have lots of great memories spending time with Gypsy Rose at Strathearn Pony Club rallies in my childhood. I still have an interest in horses and farming.

I like to attend bull sales and sheep sales which takes me into a world of relaxation listening to auctioneers selling. At this time, I am not allowed into marts as I am not a buyer or a seller, due to Covid-19.

This rule will affect many people in the farming community. This will pass I hope – I need back to the mart to listen to that auctioneer!'

For order or repair contact or phone 07585 005 240 – Facebook GypsyRose Leather to see the products made. Or buy on-line at her Etsy Shop called GR LEATHER by Fiona.