Friday, 31 October 2014

'The Best Things In Life Are Free' and privilege.

(This isn't meant to be a preachy post. Just some thoughts)

I've been thinking a lot about privilege recently. For example, when I had the opportunity to go on a study year abroad, I was able to grab it and not have to worry too much about the financial aspect. While I'm here, I've been enjoying quite a lot of free, enjoyable things.

You often hear the saying 'the best things in life are free' from people who've made it. Iggy Pop, for example, just gave a lecture at the BBC and ended with it. (Link at the end of this article

And it's true, some really nice things about life are, or can be, free. For example:
  • Curling up in bed with a book (libraries!)
  • Going for a walk and enjoying the scenery
  • Sitting somewhere and watching the world go by
  • The scent of clothes which have been air-dried outside
  • A really good chat with a friend

But they're not free, not really. For a start, they all require time, which, as we all know, is money. When you have less money, or you live by yourself, many tasks take longer than they do for other people.

For example, the landlord of my student house last year had bought a really cheap washing machine. Sure, it did the job, but the quickest cycle was over two hours long. When you use a laundrette, you have to plan the time to get there, and wait around for your clothes - some are open only for relatively short hours, which makes the job even faster.

When you don't have a car, you have to grocery shop more often so that you can carry things home, and that, naturally, means it takes more time, just from queuing to pay and from getting there and back, both of which take the same amount of time per visit (and the actual getting there and back is quicker if you have a car). If you have a tiny fridge and freezer, you have to shop more often too, meaning that when you might just want to go out after work or university one day, you can't, because you have to go grocery shopping. One way around this, of course, is to use online deliveries. I did a Sainsburys order fortnightly during my summer internship and it was a great way of doing things - unfortunately, grocery delivery isn't really a thing here!

So if you're working five or six full days a week, and especially if you don't know your hours until right before the week starts (which was what I disliked about my summer job last year), it can be incredibly difficult to fit the 'life organisation' around that, leaving you no time to sit and watch the world go by without feeling incredibly guilty for taking the time for yourself.

Going for a walk and enjoying the scenery is one of my favourite 'free' things to do. But there are certain things that you need: shoes that won't fall apart, and a warm layer (especially at this time of year!). You also, more importantly, need to live somewhere where it's safe for you to go out and walk and where there's nice scenery within walking distance. That's something that lots of us take for granted, I think. 

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