Why having less money won’t necessarily make us unhappy (& the Affordable Art Fair 2011)

This is the brilliant venue for the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea Park. Photos of my favourite art there is displayed ARTISTICALLY throughout this post

I’m starting to feel the pinch of the recession – are you? My council wants to charge me for recycling garden waste and fine me if I don’t put my bins out at the right time or something, my bills have gone up, my car insurance increased so much I had to scrap my beloved Skoda, Boris. I’m worried I won’t ever have enough money to buy a grown-up house in London. I’m worried I won’t have enough money for my kids (which I don’t have yet) to go to a good school.  I’m worried about wheat prices and pensions and petrol prices and taxes and salaries. I’m not spending money on clothes or shoes or bags. I’m contemplating holidaying in Scotland. I’m cycling to work.

And yet there are two things that I’ve been spending money on. The first is food. Both treating myself to deli food –  nice cheese from Neal’s Yard, nice pate and chorizo and wine. But also eating out with good friends and The Chef, to places with great wine and inspiring food or just beautiful venues for gossip and good conversation. Its food as an art form, food so good it makes you forget all your worries and just listen to your tastebuds.

And the second is my flat. Well, it looks like I won’t be able to sell it until I’m 80 so I might as well make it nicer to live in. New curtains, shelves, wardrobes, plants, painting, moving things around, re-discovering old nic nacs and travelling trinkets, becoming more minimalist. Sounds dull but creating something better, making your home environment nicer, is hugely rewarding. I’ve been inspired by Be More With Less and the lovely Caroline No and What Katie Does and the wonderfully arty Seeds and Stitches (who has promised to write me a guest blog post on how to be creative in London).

And I don’t think I’m alone in this. From my extensive research (a hastily invented cab sauv-inspired theory), I reckon there are more supper clubs and new restaurants popping up all over London – Blumenthal’s Dinner, the new Vinoteca and Hawksmoor, Polpo’s new Sputino, Ottolenghi’s Nopi. What does this show you? We may be skint, but we still like to eat.

And I suspect if we haven’t already, we’re going to turn into a nation of DIY kings and queens. We’re going to start painting our flats, buying little trinkets from markets, making things, doing our places up. We may no longer be a nation of buy a place, wait two years, and sell on at a profit – we may become like Brussels or Paris, where you rent for decades and make your place lovely and homely and cosy and cute.

So this has sort of a tenuous link with the Affordable Art Fair (do you like my new chatty magazine-article-type blog writing?). Because maybe at times of economic turmoil we stop worrying about the unimportant material things – cars, clothes, shoes, handbags – and instead look to what is inspiring and beautiful and important in life. Love and books and home and food and wine and art.

And the Affordable Art Fair is very much in this spirit. It’s like the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, because its informal and relaxed and open to everyone and anyone, and full to the brim with art of all shapes and sizes and flavours and tastes. It was wonderful to speak to the artists or gallery owners about the art – I learned more in one night than I had in years of trawling round art galleries. It has the modern (the melted sneaker and the dartboard ram) and the traditional oil paintings and watercolours. We saw art from £150 to several grand, buyers from students and couples with their first flat to sophisticated art buyers hoping to pick up the new Hirst on the cheap. Its democratic, accessible and quite brilliant.

One day I will buy something that I put on my wall that takes me away to another place when I look at it, that inspires me. An oil painting, of a seascape maybe, or a rugged mountain range. It will be sunny and open and full of opportunities. It will be original and I will meet the artist and talk to him or her about what inspired them. It will make people talk when they come to visit, it will be remembered by my grandchildren.

So, to summarise. We’re all skint and there are scary times ahead and we’re worried about ourselves and our friends and our partner and our parents and our kids. But when we can’t renew our wardrobe regularly, or splash out on weekends away, or fritter money away on the next new thing, then we’ll maybe start to make the most of what we have or prioritise on what makes us happy. And maybe we’ll appreciate more what counts in life, expect less, mend and fix and build and polish and paint. We might see the beauty in the simple things, savour tastes and smells and sunsets and views, spend money on what makes us truly inspired and happy,  judge a person by their personality and their tastes and their creativity and not their car or their salary or their handbag.

Thank you mucho to the lovely Hannah at Van Communications and Vive Le Cheese for allowing me and Vodka Princess to drink wine, eat cheese and see a huge amount of wonderful art.

3 responses to “Why having less money won’t necessarily make us unhappy (& the Affordable Art Fair 2011)

  1. One of my favorite Time Out’s ever was when they did the piece on how to get drinks for free and they just went from one art opening to another . My friends and I replicated this when they were doing the Time Out First Thursdays and I would highly recommend it as a fun night out. (You may want to bring fabulous sunglasses though.) As a plus, many of the gallery owners are absolutely lovely and chatty and informative. Definitely try it out…http://www.firstthursdays.co.uk/

  2. Sasha- first of all THANKS for the mention! I have had lots of ideas for my guest post, its a-brewing and will be here soon!

    Secondly- what a brilliant blog post- you just sumarized exactly how i feel about these tough times. And by that I mean the fantastic opportunities offered by these touch times. Its why i started my blog, its why I love ‘thrifty treats’ and bargain dinners and flea markets and holidays at home. And its also why I increasingly shun extravagant spending and disposable fashion etc. And I dont think we’re the only ones either!

  3. feeling the pinch indeed…

    cycling to work, finding stuff to sell on ebay, shopping for household stuff in asda (and food in waitrose : ), no more new clothes, and homemade soup for lunch.

    it’s DULL. but those little treats, especially fab food, make it ok. we’re lucky to live in such a great city where even just a walk around the streets can be entertaining!

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