02 January 2009

The Cost of Experience

When I first became a parent someone very wise (wish I could remember who) said to me that the most important thing you can give your children is experiences. It is something that has always been a priority for me and we have many great memories from the times we went camping and hostelling across the UK and Europe. It is something we still try to do, even though my children are, well, no longer children.

Over Christmas we spent two nights in London. Of course we had a blast, but it really hit home the point about how unaffordable things can be in Britain.

It is always easy to find reasonably cheap places to stay, but the cost of rail fare to get to London is getting daft (and even more expensive from today) and the cost of 3 days travel on the Tube, with no multi-day tickets available, amounted to about £60. Even now with the pound at near parity with the Euro I struggle to find a mainland European city with prices as high; the Paris Metro offers a ten-ticket card with unlimited time spans, which would have suited us perfectly and would have cut down our underground costs by over a third.

The first night we went to the Comedy Store to see the Comedy Store Players do their improv stuff. A great night out and really, good value. The Comedy Store is always excellent value and I have no complaints. It is a must do. It was the main reason for our trip.

On the 2nd night we went to Hyde Park to see the Winter Wonderland. A great time was had by all - but what a rip-off. £4 for a beer (so we had none); £5 for a currywurst; and over £40 for the four of us to go Ice Skating, which in the end we also didn’t do. The best value was the observation wheel, which was a great experience. But, if we hadn’t felt like we were being ripped off, we would have spent a lot more cash there. Instead we had our beer and finished off our meal with something from Wetherspoons. (You never feel ripped off in a ‘Spoons). The more we make “experiences” unaffordable, the more we deprive people of experiences. I know we weren’t the only ones who felt this way, we heard a number of comments - so something somewhere went wrong.

I could take this far beyond just London. For instance it appals me what a rip-off the major British rock festivals have become, to the point where I have chosen to boycott them this year and will travel to Europe for my two festival experiences. The cost of flying to Germany, doing the Wacken festival for three nights and travelling back is comparable to going to the cost of the Download festival in Castle Donnington for three days. Food and drink within European festivals is better priced and they don’t have stupid licensing laws that mean all live music has to cease at 11pm; another experience that is becoming unaffordable. I don’t need to bother mentioning the cost of Premier League football.

It worries me sometimes when I talk to children who have disturbingly narrow experience of the wider world beyond their own home Towns, but the more you look at how prohibitively expensive Britain can be, it is easy to understand why.



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