Notes from West London

2 2’s and a 1

As someone who still uses cash for many purchases I always have change in my pockets. I stopped carrying a wallet some years ago and use the following method to organize notes and coins in the back pockets of my jeans. Larger notes (£10 and £20) go in the left pocket, along with coins that are 50p or greater. Smaller notes (£5 and £10) go in my right pocket, along with coins that are 50p or less. If I want a £1 or £2 coin I use my left hand. If I want a silver coin I use my right. I do not carry coppers (1p and 2p coins) by choice.

I still carry enough change with me to make a call from a phone box if necessary, though the last time I did so was in 2005, which was probably the last time I forgot my mobile phone when going out for the evening. The last time a 2p coin had any value for me was when public call boxes only took 2p and 10p coins, back in the 1980s. We have moved on since then.

Many of our cash transactions end in 5p. Back in the early days of the last decade (around 2002) the weekday Guardian newspaper cost 45p. I bought it most weekdays. Occasionally I would pay with the exact amount but more often it would be a 50p or £1 coin, and I would expect a 5p coin (small, silver) in my change. There was a newsagent, near where I was working in Redhill, where I bought my daily paper most days, for months on end. One morning the newsagent gave me my change in coppers rather than a single, light 5p coin: 2 2s and a 1. I pocketed it and started walking out of the shop, annoyed but unwilling to say anything about it. I took it as an insult. A shopkeeper who gives you coppers instead of a small, lightweight coin is getting rid of his unwanted change and probably doesn’t think much of you as a customer. The next day it happened again, and rather than complain I took my custom elsewhere. I never bought anything in that shop again, and I continued to work in Redhill for another two years.

All of this came to mind yesterday as we were returning to our holiday home here in South Devon from our afternoon out at Kents Cavern. My wife, son and I stopped at a small shopping centre. While my wife went to a supermarket to do some food shopping my son and I went to a well-known High Street retailer to buy some socks and hankerchiefs. (I couldn’t wait until my birthday.) My son was thirsty so we went to the food section and picked up a bottle of water. There were long queues at all the cashier-operated tills and no queues at the self-service tills. I loathe self-service tills (and realize that I haven’t yet written about them on these pages) but we had to get back to the car so I scanned the bottle myself (85p), made sure that there were no “unrecognized items in the bagging area” and paid with a £1 coin. My change came out as a 10p piece, 2 2s and a 1. Just like that newsagent in Redhill, the self-service till in South Devon insults me. Next time I’ll use a credit card, but I find the idea of using a card to paying for anything less than a pound ridiculous.



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