Wednesday 4 October 2023

Where else can you become happy for £4.50 an hour?

 A customer of my studio, was chatting in reception this morning. She has recently taken up the clarinet and lives in a flat, so cannot practice. She has been coming down for a few weeks, but has been a bit shy. Today she opened up a bit and started to have a chat over a coffee. She explained that she'd always wanted to learn an instrument and fancied the clarinet. Due to a recent change in working arrangements, she has decided that she has time to learn. We've got a small solo reheasal studo, which we charge £4.50 an hour for and she has been using this. More recently, she's been booking longer sessions and it turns out that she's been using the studio to work in, as we have free wifi for customers and it is quiet. So she does an hours clarinet and schedules it for when she has a Zoom meeting (or whatever the app is) after. 

She was telling me that she will soon be doing a Grade 1 music exam and is thoroughly enjoying the instrument. She also said she wishes she'd learned at school, but her parents couldn't afford the lessons or the instrument. I advised her to check out on line tutorials on youtube, as she was also keen to learn to play improvised music and jazz. One of the benefits of playing an instrument is that you forget your worries. She said that the last three years had been very difficult (as they have for many of us). Like many, she re-evaluated what mattered and decided that post lockdown, she'd get a new career, learn an instrument and start to enjoy life.

She said that discovering the studio was a huge enabler. Her comment was that "Where else can you become happy for £4.50 an hour?". A studio allows you to focus without distractions, which makes the time far more productive. It got me thinking. How much do you have to pay to be happy on an hourly rate? Assuming a pint is around £5 a pint and you can drink a couple in an hour, that is a tenner. A trip to a premier league game can be around £60 for a ticket, £8 for a beer and your team may lose and your weekend will be ruined. You can go to a gig (The False Dots are playing at the Bull Theatre in Barnet on 28th October, supporting the Silencerz (details here) for £16, which with a few beers is not a bad deal.

I recall when I was at school, the Parish Priest of the Sacred Heart visited. He told us that the only way to be truly happy was to go to mass every Sunday and the best news was that it was absolutely free. As I had to listen to his sermons, as my parents dragged me along, I was a tad bemused. I had taken him literally and I couldn't see how anyone could enjoy the words of Fr Corkery. But he was right in one sense, I didn't have to pay for the privilege. 

That got me thinking about times I've spent cash, seeking happiness, only to find misery. I think men in the UK spend a fortune on making themselves miserable. How many of us support football teams that constantly let us down? How many of us spend far too much money in the pub, only to wake up feeling like death? How many of us have spent a small fortune on a holiday, only for it to be a nightmare? In my head, holidays are fun, but 9/11 made flying a huge hassle. Now we have the joys of queueing up for ages to get our passports stamped, post #Brexit. If I go anywhere exotic, I invariably spend 2 days inthe loo and if I go to somewhere like Spain, I get people moaning about how no one told them that #Brexit would mean they were no longer welcome in their holiday homes. I was trying to work out the most money I'd ever spent being miserable. A mate told me at a booze up a couple of weeks ago he'd spent over £100K on legal fees for his divorce, fortunately I have nothing on that scale. Probably for me, it was the money I had to spend to have my prostate removed in August. The operation I wanted was not done on the NHS and my workplace insurance didn't fully cover it. Now I am (hopefully) cancer free, but the side effects are pretty life changing. Which reminds me, I have to book the dentist. 

Lets all hope that with the sunny weather at the weekend, we can enjoy a few hours of nice sunshine for free. Usually, I take the opportunity to sit in the garden, have a cup of tea and play the guitar for an hour or two. For me, that is the cheapest way to be happy. If I didn't have a garden, I'd probably stroll around to Flower Lane park and find a secluded spot for a strum. I do feel sorry for people who don't play an instrument. The best thing is, that for me it has an end game. This.

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