Alice-Azania Jarvis: Can I really afford £65 for a seat at the ballet?

In The Red
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The Independent Online

So, I've paid my phone bill. It's one of those things: no matter how much you pretend it's not there, it lurks – big, fat and waiting to be paid.

To be honest, it was such a huge amount (so unlike any single bill that I've ever had to pay before) that it almost didn't seem real. And that's the way I want to keep it. Unreal, and dispatched straight to the back of my mind.

In some ways, it could be a good thing. After all, I've just been paid – an event which is usually accompanied by a sudden increase in my desire to shop. I start wondering why I have nothing to wear, and plan a trip to Topshop. I start hankering after a posh lunch at Whole Foods Market or M&S, instead of a hastily chowed-down chocolate bar at my desk. I start thinking that, perhaps, buying a weighty stack of glossy magazines and the latest Amazon bestseller might be a good idea. But now I can't. At least I can't if I want to make it to the end of the month.

It's all very good practice. After all, there is only one more payday before Christmas. By then I'll be a veritable expert at not spending. I'll be able to do all my festive gift-giving on a shoestring. There is one thing, though, that I do want a buy for myself. This year – for the first time in a good five years – I am determined to go to the ballet. It sounds like a luxury and, in many ways it is, but it is one I am going to allow myself.

Let me explain. At the age of two, I was signed up for dance classes, which I continued for the next 17 years. Every year, out of tradition, we went to see The Nutcracker. It all stopped, of course, when I left home and had to start picking up the tab myself. Then, this time last year, I resolved to go again. Happily, the English National Ballet is putting on a performance which should, by all accounts, prove ideal. There is only one catch: the price of the tickets. The Nutcracker, it transpires, is incredibly oversubscribed at this time of year (go figure). By the time I logged on to the ticket-booking website, all of the cheap seats had sold out. In fact, almost all of the posh seats had sold out too – only a few, in midweek, remain. And so it's decision time. Do I take a day off work and fork out £65? Or do I forget my plan for another year and hope to win the lottery. Somehow, I think it might have to be the former.

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