Torquay

I will never forget last week. When I wrote the previous post, I was waiting to hear back from the garage about my car’s MOT test. Seconds after clicking publish the phone rang. My car’s engine had died. I could either replace it for £1200 or put the money towards a new car. I can’t believe I was freaking out about money before this phone call! I burst into tears on the phone (I really love my car) and said I’d have to think about it.

But I had to think fast, I was due to drive the 250 miles to Torquay in 3 days. I knew I didn’t want to rush into buying a new car so I got consent from the event organisers to hire a car. The problem was, I’m under 25, car hire companies don’t generally give estate cars to youngsters like me. However, with a little eyelash fluttering I was soon driving this beauty:

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Yep, a brand new diesel Vauxhall Astra Estate. Getting the harp in was a bit of a squeeze – new cars always seem narrower on the inside – but I managed it and (a tad gingerly) set off for the South Coast. The car was lovely to drive, 6 gears, a working radio and a really quiet engine all helped to make the journey fly by. Five hours later I had arrived at my destination.

The Riviera Convention Centre, Torquay, was hosting the 2012 Festival Dinner for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB). The reason I had agreed to travel sooo far to do this gig is that the RMTGB, or to be specific, the branch of RMTGB known as TalentAid gave me a grant to cover the cost of my harp. It is because of them that I’m even in this business. So, I thought the least I could do would be to drive down and play during their annual dinner, plus, the exposure surely wouldn’t do any harm either.

I dropped the harp off at the centre and drove the short distance to the hotel. The RMTGB had very kindly put me up in a room at the Grand Hotel overnight. The car park was more like a big garage, with rows of expensive cars so close together it was difficult to navigate my huge car in amongst them – especially as it was an unfamiliar hire car that, if scratched, I would be charged heavily for.

Playing for the dinner went very smoothly, there were 600 people there and I only had twenty CDs to sell, I thought I’d get rid of them all in minutes. Nope. 595 people walked past me and my little CD stall on their way out, five stopped to buy a CD. Wow.

Anyway…

Am I the only one who gets really excited at having a hotel room to myself?

This was the hotel:

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This was the room:

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And this was the view!

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In the morning, the sun was beating in through the window. It honestly felt like Summer. Leaving Torquay was so hard, it was so beautiful. The air was clear, the sea was blue, no clouds in the sky. A complete contrast to Manchester – the weather here is usually pretty grim.

I’ll just put in one more photo that I took just before leaving – I think next time I go to Torquay I’ll have to take a suitcase and stay there a good deal longerImage:

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Fresh Starts and Money Dilemmas

Last Sunday was my birthday.  I guess I am now in the category of ‘mid-twenties’ – or simply ‘old enough to know better’.

Today’s task is to get my car through its MOT.  Today’s mission is to pay for it.  I am so happy with what I do as a career but I am also sick of worrying about money!  Gig-wise, it’s either feast or famine.  I’m either driving myself crazy trying to fit everything in or freaking out as I see the empty pages of my diary looming – right before rent goes out.

It all seems to be averaging out though, I guess the feasts get me through the other times.  But I feel like my bank balance is just ambling along – a certain amount into my overdraft.  I have to ask myself, will I ever make a profit?  Will I ever get out of debt?  Should I have gone to Dubai when I had the chance?  Will I ever have a savings account with more than 75p?  Yes that’s the actual amount I have saved for you know, emergencies such as car repairs and MOTs.

So what do I do?  Keep plodding along with the belief that somehow it’ll all turn out fine?  Or do I get a real job with a real salary and the possibility of disposable income?

There are pros and cons to each possibility of course.  I have so much freedom now to organise myself and my schedule that it wouldn’t be the same without that flexibility.  I am meeting new people all the time and every week is different.  Plus, if work isn’t coming all that easily or frequently, there is always more I can do to put myself out there.  

Freelancing is the kind of job where, at the end of the day you can never say ‘I’m finished!’  … more often than not what I’m thinking at the end of the day is ‘Have I done enough?  What more should I have done?  What do I need to do tomorrow?’  There isn’t the work/home distinction that comes with a more corporate job.

But, all in all, when I’m actually doing the gigs – orchestras and shows in particular, that’s when I think yes, this is my place, this is what I’m meant to do.  I guess it’s just the in between times when worries set in – and the only way to diminish them is to do more in terms of self-publicity and pushing for those all important gigs.

Musings

I am writing this post from my living room.  This is unusual because I usually write from my bedroom/office/harp room.

Yes, I have been banished from my usual hide-away by two men who are re-tiling my shower.  I see it all as karma really.  The other day I was cleaning my bathroom and lamenting on the state of the tiles, then, the following day, three tiles came tumbling down while I was washing my hair… I was lucky not to break several toes!  The upshot of this is that it all has to be redone, and I am in exile for the day.  But, on the upside, I will have lovely new tiles to replace the frankly grotty old ones.

So, the Central Manchester gig I referred to in the previous post was in fact the Idina Menzel concert that took place in Manchester’s Palace Theatre.  It was so exciting to be in that gorgeous building playing for her.  Idina seemed really lovely and the concert had an amazing atmosphere.  The stage-crew were very reluctant to help get my harp out of the building – they thought it would be appropriate/possible for me to go out the front way and barge my way through about five hundred screaming fans in the rain… errr no thank you!  

Being in this line of work is definitely teaching me to stand up for what I need and to make a fuss if I don’t get it.  It makes a huge difference to stress levels on the day if staff are actually helpful in showing you where you need to be. I heard once that harpists have a reputation for being divas who insist on having things done their way.  The more experience I get, the more I sympathise.  I doesn’t matter how much you plan on the day of the gig with regards to parking, accessible entrances etc but something will usually happen that you hadn’t thought of before.

For example, a couple of days ago I had an engagement to play background music for an Army Cadet dinner.  However, the contract was written in the dim and distant past and since then, the venue had changed and nobody thought to tell little old me.  They were very sweet about it though and even made me some food!  So I munched quietly on cheddar cheese sandwiches while the cadets tucked into roast beef and Yorkshire puddings followed by what looked and smelled like chocolate fudge cake.  Torture.

But that’s the great thing about this line of work.  Every day is different.  Every gig is different.  It’s a rare gig where everything runs to perfection but that’s all part of the experience.  And, if I’m lucky, I’ll get an interesting anecdote out of it – as well as enough money to put food on the table… cheese sandwich, anyone?.