I HAVE spent a silly portion of the past week trying to get rid of my money. I am not dying, nor was this a Brewster’s Millions-type scenario.
It is just that I have a jar of change that I top up with the shrapnel I have in my pocket at the end of the day, and I realised there would be a few soon-to-be-worthless pound coins in there.
It will amaze those of you who see my byline picture at the top of this column that I remember the replacement of the pound note with the old pound coin. “But you are only a strip of a hint of a boy,” you say. “I bet you can’t remember a time when a JPEG was something you used to hang up your dishcloth. I bet you can’t remember when the Yellow Pages would hurt you if you dropped it on your foot.”
But in fact I can remember when Top Of The Pops was on a Thursday AND I can remember Top Of The Pops, so it feels odd to see something that was shiny and new and “the future” become defunct. And I work in the media.
So I had just a few days to get rid of the old-style pound coins still in my possession (four), and so I visited the vending machine in work to buy a can of fizzy pop. I dropped an old pound coin in the slot, but it fell through the mechanism, as these things occasionally do, and was spat out again.
I tried a second time, with the same result. But, instead of picking up the money and walking away, perhaps to visit a local shop in order to get rid of this coin, I was briefly confused by my mission.
I was standing in front of a vending machine, it had not accepted the coin I had proffered, and so I automatically found a coin of a different denomination – a £2 coin, put it in, and chose the drink before I could stop myself.
That one worked and the vending machine gave me a drink and my change – a 10p piece, a 20p piece, and an old-style pound coin. Now I had five almost-out-of-date pound coins, and a drink I didn’t really need.
Later that day I managed to exchange a couple of them in Greggs in an attempt to “keep it real” and also have a steak bake. I now had three nearly-useless pound coins, which was disappointing but at least some progress.
Even later that day I alighted from the bus and remembered I needed to buy a couple of items from my local small version of a large supermarket. They would take care of the last of my dangerously-close-to-pointless pound coins.
I was delighted. I was spending money as if it were going out of fashion, which, technically, it was. I picked up the items excitedly.
But then, just as in front of the vending machine, I was confused by my mission. I remembered I needed bleach, and kitchen roll, and, oh, some milk, and I picked them up and suddenly it cost more than the change I had on me. I would have to use my card.
“No,” I thought. “I will not be defeated now.” Instead I went to the cashpoint inside the shop and withdrew £10. And then I marched to the automated checkout, and put my plan into operation.
I fed £13 into the machine. It would be weird to have handed £13 to a cashier, but machines only judge you if you place an unexpected item in the bagging area, and all my items were completely expected. The worst thing that could happen would be that I got my three pounds back, and I was prepared for that…
The machine gave me change. Three pound coins – ALL NEW – and an odd amount of copper. This was a result. I punched the air. Now all I needed was a five-pound note.
I heard the whirr of the automatic change maker. But it did not give me the money. “Please, no,” I thought.
The machine had run out of fivers. It spat out five pound coins. Five old-style pound coins. Because everybody had been trying to get rid of their own before the deadline.
So now I have five beautiful round pounds, which would grace any collection of obsolete coins, and will accept any reasonable offer for them. Cash, obviously.