The cost of painting a hallway

Time for the next edition of Prompts for the Promptless courtesy of Rarasaur.

True Cost is a term for the often-overlooked, comprehensive expense of something, including the time-related and emotional costs.

Example:  You can purchase a cat for money.  Let’s say $100.  That’s the basic cost.  The True Cost of the cat, though, is in the litter box, food bowl, cat carrier, food, vet bills, litter, the time spent on the cat, shirts that are torn by tiny kitten claws, the worry you experience when the cat is ill, and the grieving if the cat passes away before you.

Back in the closing decade of the last century, when running their campaign for an election, the Labour party accused Margaret Thatcher of knowing “the cost of everything and value of nothing”. The quote originated with Oscar Wilde as his definition of a cynic.  It was unsuccessful as a campaign but it is often still quoted when old fogies such as myself gather around the fire to reminisce about the Eighties and how terrible they were.

They were hard times, and we felt like we were living in a Dickens novel. Indeed, Victorian values were being explicitly quoted as superior to modern ones, to which those of us somewhat to the left of fascism retorted sniffily “What? Like children up chimneys and syphilis?”

I can tell you now, my dears, there is not much forgiveness for that woman and her policies in my shrivelled heart. They hurt me directly and painfully, and now “Dave” is trying to rehabilitate the party and appear cuddly, while underneath we see the sharks circling as the media campaigns rabidly against skivers and scroungers and people who don’t fit a mythical norm.

You will have gathered my tendency is to the left wing. I am a vegetarian, pacifist, feminist, non-profit-employed, hippy wannabee. What do you expect? It’s in the person spec.

So, moving on…

I am intrigued as to whether, for the purposes of this post, we can equate “true cost” with “value”. I think I know about true cost. I deal with it daily for my job. “It looks like the development of that functionality costs X,” I tell my bemused colleagues, “but in fact the true cost is Y once you factor in the implementation team, the support, maintenance, and staffing costs.”

At first I thought cost and value were the same. Then that old demon, the other hand, stirred, twitched and finally said, through mixed metaphorese, “Wait a minute, isn’t true cost just cost with everything included – gross, not nett? Quantitative. Value is all the touchy-feely stuff you tree-huggers go on about – the so-called qualitative stuff that’s a waste of time!” (My other hand is very much on the right.)

I hate to admit it, but on this occasion my right hand may have a point.

I am aware that given my busy life-style and fortunate financial position, I will sometimes pay someone else to do a job I could do myself but don’t choose to do because my time is more valuably spent eg blogging or writing village quizzes or visiting with friends or family. I might pay a decorator to paint the hallway so I am free to spend the weekend with a friend. Somewhere in my head I have calculated that (a) the cost (true and / or quoted) is acceptable and (b) the value is favourably weighted. To my right hand, I would say something like “The cost of paying someone to do this is less than the cost of paying me to do this because, while paint is paint, my time is more expensive.”

Well, how very dare I? As if I could paint the hall as well as someone who decorates for a living! Perhaps I also recognise, but do not admit (least of all to that snarky right hand!) that he paints better than I do so I get a higher quality result.

How do I put a cost to the pleasure I feel in a well=painted hall against the pride in a hall painted with blood, sweat, emulsion and tears? That’s where value, and personal priorities, both enter the equation. I might paint badly but feel the integrity of a self-painted hallway is higher. Or I might decide that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well, and so get a professional in to do it.

Yes, the cost of my hallway went up with paying Gary to do it. My satisfaction with the end product is the value, and for me that was greater by getting Gary in.

Thanks, Gary. It looks great!


City Square, 3 A.M

City Square, LeedsI like my sleep. It is a rare and precious thing. I often sleep badly, which is strange to me even after several years of sleeping badly. I blame the pesky hormones and keep hoping it will settle down, but so far it hasn’t.

Last night was my second night in a hotel room overlooking City Square in Leeds. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a fine room with a fine view. I’m quite fond of City Square. In December it has a massive tree with sparkly lights, and sometimes Occupy protesters around the bottom like a modern Nativity. (Take that, St Paul’s, with your eviction notices!) In milder weather, if there is such a concept north of the Watford Gap, there are hanging baskets with pretty flowers looking pretty as only pretty things can. Often they are pink, and none the worse for it.

I’m looking out the window now as I write this, the sky greying and the buildings awash with yellow spotlights shining upwards and dawn shining downwards and streetlights filling in the gap in the middle. It’s 7.30 already and busy and soon I will venture down into the sleepy, shuffling commuter crowd to stride purposefully to the office.

City Square has bicycle lanes criss-crossing it as well as a wild tangle of bus lanes and normal roads in a bewildering one-way system, and lots of different traffic lights and many , many pedestrians so confused by it all that they simply wander where they will at great personal risk. Taxis erupt from the station in all directions like champagne from a vigorously shaken bottle splattering everyone in its orbit. Buses chug and wheeze and occasionally glide along the central, bus-only, roadways. Busy, busy, busy.

It’s all well and good at 7.30 on a Friday morning. It’s a work day and a school day and a doing day. When I toss and turn in my bed at night, missing home, gnawing at a work problem, wondering if my alarm is set and checking it for the third time, I expect a bit more peace and quiet. City Square does not oblige. Sometimes there are sirens for dark, night time emergencies. Last night there was singing.

I lay and listened to the inebriated group of gentlemen singing as they staggered through the square. It felt like they were under my window, serenading me. I am sure the other guests enjoyed the concert as much as I did, way up on the 5th floor. But I was proud of myself, because I was awake for other reasons so it wasn’t their fault and I did not blame them for disturbing me. Rather I thought to myself:

“There’s some pretty good harmony and two part singing going on there; that’s quite impressive given how drunk they are.”

They sounded like they were happy, and happiness is not a bad thing to be heard, even at 3 o’clock in the morning. They eventually found their way out of the immediate vicinity, hopefully in the right direction and not to the canal (unless they were Yorkshire Gondaliers I suppose). I turned over (again) and tried to relax (again) and this time I did. So they sang me to sleep after all, bless them.