Alison Goulding: ‘Free! We’re just going in the free bit!’

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WHEN you’ve lived a few years you realise things go in circles, rather than straight lines.

This struck me last Saturday, while I sat in a car drinking coffee out of a flask as the rain thundered down.

I remember many moments from my childhood. Swinging on the swing and enjoying the song the sun made: it was a while before I realised this was actually the sound of a passing ice cream van (we had a high garden fence and I wasn’t bright).

Or the Day of Fatalities, when George Henry the goldfish gave up on life and was buried in the garden. Ten minutes later we found a dead chick and out came the spade again as we shuffled around like tiny, tearful undertakers.

The main winter occupation was Jumping Down The Stairs, going one step higher everytime until you got almost halfway up and the chances of getting a carpet burn started to rise sharply.

But what I remember above all else were the trips. I moaned a lot and dragged my feet and always seemed to be tired, hungry, or both, but actually they were pretty cool.

We spent a lot of time in the park where one of us lost a shoe in the stream and in various museums. Between the ages of three and five I saw more Egyptian mummies than I ever have since.

And like any sensible young family on a budget we would always take a picnic, marmite or cheese sandwiches.

But at a certain point we all became old enough to choose our own hobbies and family outings suffered the same fate at George Henry

At roughly the same time I got my first job as a paper girl and here I parted ways very firmly with the sensible economics of my younger years. Aged 12 and with £7 a week in my pocket I was skidding along on a rollercoaster of Zube and Push Pops.

Adios thrift, eat my dust. Marmite sandwiches no longer cut the mustard, instead I’d throw my money at chips and Fanta. As I progressed my way up through a variety of Saturday jobs my casual attitude to cash continued. I’ve probably spent about ten grand on lattes since my 18th birthday.

But now, aha! My parents’ thrift – buried deep in my guts – has burst forth and I have developed a newfound love for free entertainment and bargain sandwiches.

And so we return to last Saturday, where myself and my companion found ourselves at the Bowes Museum for the Vamos Festival, which had something to do with Mexico and Frida Kahlo, the painter lady with a monobrow.

A kindly man greeted us: “There’s a free bit or you can pay admission and go upstairs and see everything up there too,” he explained, confident that our middle class exterior would fork out a few quid and help towards the roof repairs.

“Free! I screeched, “We’re just going in the free bit!”

After listening to La Cucaracha sang by a group of men waving pan pipes, we paid a token visit to the cafe.

But only so we could estimate how much we were about to save ... Five minutes later and we were back in the car, drinking the coffee I’d made that morning and eating dried-up leftover pizza.

I was triumphant: “Look, look how much money we’re saving!”

My companion looked nervous, as well he might. This weekend we’re going to the park. And if his shoe ends up in the stream he’s not getting a new one.