I'm presently in the New Forest, in the second week of my last holiday of the year. There was definitely an end-of-season feel to my first week at Lyme Regis, further west, but it's not so apparent here, in south Hampshire. Most tourist attractions are still open, even if everybody turns up dressed in coats and boots to fend off wind and rain.
Not that I automatically visit 'attractions' when on holiday. I generally avoid them, and do something instead that costs nothing, something that often involves open air and scenery. For instance, I have a forest walk planned for Sunday, to a spot north of Burley prettily named Mouse's Cupboard, which I haven't been to since the 1970s. That definitely will be free!
But I'm quite prepared to pay for pleasures I really want. So tomorrow I drive Fiona on board the 10.00am ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, just as I have for the last two years, and travel around the Island ticking off places of interest, with a good lunch thrown in.
I booked the ferry online with my phone last night. Wightlink emailed me an e-ticket that shows a QR Code which the chap at their Lymington ferry terminal will scan, and I then just join the boarding queue without needing to flash any further documentation. The return ticket for my car, which includes me too, cost me £69. Once on the Island, I'll spend another £20-odd on a decent pub lunch, and then a few quid more for an afternoon coffee and cake at a friendly place I discovered last year. Then there's the incidental cost of fuel and parking.
All told, tomorrow's adventure on the Isle of Wight will probably cost me £100. That's a lot, but it will seem worth every penny.
So I really do stump up real money when I want to. I am not however prepared to spend money on things of limited or no appeal. There are two nearby attractions which I certainly don't regard as 'must-see', but which I would nevertheless visit if they were a lot cheaper: the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu, and Buckler's Hard.
I can't take a lot of interest nowadays in motor vehicles, however classic or legendary. It's driving I love, not what I do it in. And I take the view that throughout my lifetime cars have been getting nicer to drive, more comfortable, more reliable, and more durable. I am so looking forward to the powerful, futuristic, high-tech, all-electric car I plan to buy in six years time, when Fiona gets her honourable and well-deserved retirement. I have no love whatever for the tinny, noisy, ill-equipped, cramped, unsafe rustbuckets of yesteryear, even if they bore a fancy badge. Those cars smelled of petrol, gave you a headache, and often back pain as well.
I won't deny for a moment that the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is a wonderful experience for a nostalgic and car-obsessed person. But I'm not one. In any case, I have to ask this: would things have changed very much since my last visit there in 1990, on an office trip? Well, I'm not willing to spend a whopping £23.75 to find out. That's right, £23.75. Look at these prices:
Similarly with Buckler's Hard. I mean, what's there? Two rows of pretty houses leading down to the Beaulieu River, with a green space in between; and a nautical and boatbuilding museum. I've already seen the place several times during the last forty to fifty years, the last occasion being in 2003. And it won't have changed. And yet look what the admission charge is: £7.00.
You pay this to park: the rest is free, including the museum, apart from any refreshments you may buy.
Outrageous! I actually turned up there this afternoon, expecting the museum to be closed and the car park free. It was a cold, dull, late-October afternoon, with sunset less than two hours ahead. But there was a man in attendance at the car park entrance. He confirmed that even a brief visit would still cost me £7. Even though it was the end of the year, and the end of day. I declined, did a U-turn and drove on. As no doubt many a person already had that day.
I don't want to sound miserly, but I think their paltry senior discounts are a joke.
It's my defnite impression that in the last year or two prices for most places you pay to visit have risen sharply. For me, these places are now too expensive. By which I mean that while I can afford the admission, I'll be damned if I give them what they ask.
Come to think of it, I have gradually opted out of an entire slew of charges that other people seem to pay without thinking, such as TV entertainment packages and other kinds of media subscription. I rarely watch TV nowadays, vastly preferring radio. I really don't feel cut off from anything worthwhile.