All Change

A staff member stood at the entrance to Wilko, apologising that the computers were down and they were only taking cash. I was vindicated, smugly waltzing in with a £20 note in my purse. Anybody who has been to Wilko’s will know you can get quite a few things for £20.

How many of us have been ’treated’ to a meal by younger relatives only to see them turn from the till and say ‘Have you got any cash on you, the card machine is broken.’

Will cash be phased out, should it disappear? Covid hastened the avoidance of real money in those early pandemic days, when we were told to avoid touching anybody or anything. Even shops that had been cash only started accepting cards. Anyone who has hands that don’t work properly, whether through stiff joints or peripheral neuropathy, will ruefully remember their school days; Saturday shop jobs when they were amused to see old people tip the whole contents of their purse onto the counter, as they could not see the coins properly. Swiping your piece of plastic, phone or watch could be seen as a great way to avoid fumbling around as the queue at the till builds up behind you. So why should we preserve the Royal Mint?

How can children learn about money if they can’t see it and see their pocket money disappear when they buy comics and sweets? Who doesn’t look back fondly at jobs where their weekly pay came in a brown envelope. If your salary goes straight in the bank you never see your hard earned money.

You may be reluctant to buy a coffee if you have to break into a shiny new note, but loose change is handy, vital for lots of things. Putting the smallest coins in your piggy bank probably won’t amount to a holiday, but you can have fun pouring the contents into a Coinstar machine or taking a bagful of coins to an amusement arcade. If you are selling raffle tickets at your club’s evening event you hope everyone has real money in their pockets. At the library coffee morning there may be glares if you have no coins to drop in the ‘voluntary contribution‘ tin.  Then there are the times parents have used a coin to unlock the door of the cubicle in the public toilets when their child was locked in…

Counting up other times I need cash there is the Big Issue seller ( yes I know some of them have card machines now, but ours haven’t ) , spending less than £5 at the greengrocers and putting a pound in the saucer for the Wick Ferry.

Money is part of our national identity and a highlight of your first holiday abroad is working out the ‘foreign money.’

Do you take cash out with you? Wads of notes because you are laundering money or just a fiver and a few coins?

Friday Flash Fiction – digital dialogue 440 – What Now?

‘Shall I put the news on?

‘No point…’

‘I thought you liked to catch up with events?’

‘Nothing to catch up with now the funeral’s over.’

‘Only what’s been going on in the rest of the world.’

‘No thanks, it was lovely having a break, I really miss The Queue and the marching oh and the vigils. There’s nothing to talk about at work now. Back to hearing about Thelma’s operation and Kitty’s boyfriend.’

Do you mind if I put it on, I want to see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer revealed in the Fiscal Event.’

‘The Fiscal what?’

‘Budget, mini budget, bound to be bad news, whatever it’s called.’

‘I can’t remember what the new chancellor’s called.’

‘No, nor can I, but apparently he’s very clever, won a scholarship to Eton and won University Challenge single handed.’

Friday Flash Fiction – The Find

Even before I opened my cupboard I unlocked the fire escape door; fresh air is vital in my job. Today the cupboard was tidy, as always after Val’s shift. A reassuring smell of bleach meant she had left the mop to soak. By the mirror was a vase of fresh flowers from her garden. I would do the same for her; the others didn’t bother but we knew our patrons appreciated it. I felt ready to start my day. All was quiet, no coach parties yet.

I went both sides and did the refills, checked everything was working then went over to have a quiet coffee with Dave at Costa before he opened. He was moaning, someone hadn’t cleaned the coffee machine last night. I walked over to Chris at Smiths to get my newspaper. She was in a good mood; the weather forecast was promising and it was the start of the school holidays, a busy day lay ahead. Judging by the cars outside I must have had some visitors already, time to get back to work.

I checked all the notices were in place.

A male attendant operates in these conveniences.

That was me; not a man, not even a person, better than being called a bog cleaner though. It was a busy day, dashing back and forth between the Ladies and Gents.

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When asked, I am diplomatic, both as messy as each other, you wouldn’t believe the things some people do, hence the plethora of notices. But most people respect the facilities, even if they don’t respect us.

Don’t notice us would be more accurate. In too much of a hurry on the way in and thinking of other things on the way out; what to eat or which junction to exit, that’s life at Grimley Park Happy Break.

I’ve worked for lots of companies, but I’ve always been here doing the same job; only the name of my employers changes. At the moment it is ‘SpeedClean’, not an accurate description of most of their staff, but I take a pride in my job, at least I’ve always earned my living. Not on disability allowance.

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Now days at school, a kid like me would have his own lap top and personal teaching assistant. I didn’t get assessed; they didn’t notice one problem, let alone two. They figured out the hearing eventually, but dyslexia wasn’t bandied about like it is these days; it was easier to suggest I was thick.

Modern technology, no one would notice I’m hard of hearing and since I went on that adult education course I can read and I’m on the internet all the time; just needed a bigger screen and the right colour cellophane over it.

I wouldn’t grumble, we’ve had a good life; Nicky isn’t one of those women always wanting things. She works hard at Sainsburys; she knows what we earn and what we can afford. We’re Housing Association, not Council; with the ground floor flat we get the garden. I love gardening and the other residents admire my plot. Of course if we’d been council they would have moved us to a three bedroom, once David and Becky got to a certain age. Luckily the living room’s big enough for our double bed and the kids are glad to have their own bedroom each.

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My busy day never let up, so I didn’t know how long the bag had been hanging on the back of the cubicle door. For the first time that day the Ladies was empty, at least if it was a bomb there was no danger to the public. I didn’t need security to tell me the bag was safe; a quick glance inside the plastic carrier bag revealed wads of money and nothing else. I needed to act quickly before anyone saw me.

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The kids were still out when I got home.

“You won’t believe what happened today,” I said to Nicky “this could change our lives.”

I started to tell her the story.

“Did you tell your manager?” she asked.

“No way, he’d probably have kept it for himself, but I was worried I’d be caught with it on me. So I called Joe from security.”

“You handed it over to him?”

“No, I used my brains, he was my escort.”

“You shared it out between you?” she asked, aghast.

“No, we took it straight to the Happy Break manager; I insisted he counted it out in front of us, write me a receipt. Joe signed as witness.”

Nicky was looking very nervous now. “What have you got involved in?”

“Then he called the police” I reassured her. “What else could he do with me and Joe standing there?”

“So who’s got the money?” she asked puzzled.

“The police of course.”

She sighed with relief. “For a moment I hope… thought you had been tempted.”

“Of course not; honesty and responsibility go with my job.”

“But I don’t see how this will change our lives.”

“Recognition, respect, that’s the most important thing. If they identify the owner perhaps there might be a little reward. It will be hard to identify her with just a carrier bag, have to wait till she comes forward.”

“If no one claims it, I think you are entitled to it, you could enjoy it with a clear conscience” she said wistfully.

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I didn’t hear any more, didn’t really expect to, well not for a while if it was unclaimed. A few weeks later Val said our SpeedClean manager was going to be on the local news, some award or other. Nicky and I watched the news that evening and sure enough, there he was, smiling. SpeedClean at Grimley Park had won Motorway Services Loo of the Year Award for an excellent standard of cleanliness, patron service and impeccable honesty.

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For more short stories of people and places dip into  one of my collections.

 

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction – Happy Days

 He leaned back in the chair and smiled; the best things in life were free. The afternoon sun bestowed its life giving warmth and he understood why the ancients worshipped the golden disc. Myriad specks of light danced on the calm turquoise sea, a scene to delight the impressionists, but no painter could do justice to such a view; the chalky cliffs of the Isle of Wight and the green sloping downs of the Purbecks.

He languorously reached out for his glass of wine; it tasted like the nectar of the gods. Silky arms wrapped themselves around his neck; Tasha crept up behind him and kissed the nape of his neck. He sighed contentedly, love in the afternoon.

Tasha stretched out on the other chair and they watched life below on the promenade and beach; happy cries of children drifted up to them. They pondered where they would eat tonight, what they might do tomorrow. The sea air made them pleasantly drowsy.

Friends said he would tire of the sea view, but if he did he would call a taxi to the station. At Waterloo he would step off the train and stroll along the embankment to another balcony, with spectacular views of the Thames; watch the sun set and the city light up. Then perhaps go to the theatre, dine late, take in a club.

12

He opened his eyes from his daydream as he felt Tasha’s fingers on his cheek. It wasn’t a daydream, it was real. Money could buy you happiness; a seaside apartment, London penthouse, holidays to anywhere, a beautiful woman and a life free of debt and work. Winning the lottery was certainly helpful if you wanted to exchange a grotty rented room in a rundown house in a dreary suburb, for a new life.