What would YOU do for a fiver?

Morning morning…

An excellent weekend for Small Change at this end. A trip to Alton Towers last Tuesday marked a very early start, and since then the body clock has woken me between 4 and half 4 every day, aided by the hot nights. Helpful. So, being awake, I find it hard on a weekend morning to refuse the call of duty.

Finding a penny within yards of my front door at 4:30 Saturday morning was a good omen. Walking past the taxi rank along Bancroft I spied a crumpled five pound note. My first note! Hurrah! Admittedly I know of a couple of people who’ve chanced upon £20 notes before, to add to the cause, but this was my first note. I fair skipped through the rest of town. Manly-like. And found a further 76p. And a hole punch and ruler and notebook all wrapped in cellophane. Ok then…

Sunday morning started at a similar time, for no good reason. And I was rewarded with £2.78. A good result all round. During the day on Sunday my girlfriend and I found the odd copper scattered around, and later took a small picnic up to the top of Windmill Hill in Hitchin to catch a bit of sun, read and relax. And at the precise spot we decided to stop, there’s a 2p piece trampled into the grass. Obviously not a big find, especially not considering the weekend’s other goodies (I mean a hole punch – could anything be any more exciting?), but one of those what-are-the-odds moments.

And talking then of fivers, the concept behind the US website Fiverr.com is one of donating some kind of service for just five bucks. So even more generous than five pounds sterling. Nice. Offers on there range from designing a website or teaching a programming language to writing and recording a love song or ‘making sure your ex doesn’t bother you again’! Diverse stuff, but mostly of the professional kind. Worth a visit, maybe worth donating your time?

And, just because, I’d like to share with you the fact that the word ‘fiver’, without exception, always reminds me of the scene in the first Bottom Live when Ade Edmondson mugs himself for a fiver. Twice: ‘made another fiver out of it!’ It was, of course, the same fiver…

Hitchin developments

Morning morning. June’s given way to early October, the sly bastard. For those of us not fleeing Britain for warmer climes until mid-September, this is frankly beyond the pale. Every year my thoughts turn to emigration on a pretty permanent scale. Sadly the reality hasn’t come any closer.

I was up obscenely early yesterday so ambled into town and was rewarded with £1.98 for the Small Change charity collection. While pleased about this, I was not so pleased with the state of the town’s shops. Anyone who knows Hitchin (a largely rather pretty market town with a beautiful church and a fair amount of character in its streetscape; ranging from Tudor to Victorian before a number of vile 20th century blips remind you that yes, nowhere was safe from town developers during the 60s, 70s and 80s) will be aware of the eyesore that is the closed Woolworths store. It’s a large retail unit on the main high street that’s sat dormant since Woolworths’ sudden demise. The final day of trading at Hitchin Woolies was 30 December 2008. That’s a scarily long time the unit has now been empty. The rumour mill churns over the usual fears about it becoming a Poundland or something equally awful.

Hitchin’s well known for having a good percentage of individually owned shops; non-chain retail as well as the usual suspects line our streets. As I walked the streets I counted 14 retail units which lie empty. That’s not including the godawful Churchgate centre that spoils an otherwise impeccable market square, and which is scheduled for demolition and replacement (if the locals are ignored) by a largely unnecessary and overblown development which will kill Hitchin as the historic town it is. The Churchgate development plans can be seen here. They’re not set in stone by any means, but how much do developers really listen to local people? Elements are lovely, but the view down the hill to St Mary’s Church will be gone, and more national chain stores will appear. But that brings me back to my disappointment at all those empty units. One, I notice, will soon be open as a ‘cheap wine’ store. It’s the site of two previously closed off-licences. So it’ll last a year perhaps? For crying out loud. If we can’t fill the units in the prime areas of town (thanks Clement Joscelyne for closing down your admittedly vastly-overpriced shop and leaving a lovely building empty), then what makes anyone think we can fill some massive new development? Grr, to be quite honest with you.

Hmm. I’ve ranted. Most unlike me. Anyway, development or not, there’s still rubbish and money on the streets every morning, so when sleep is not my friend, out I’ll traipse…

Weeding

So it’s June. The garden has been tackled. Largely, I must admit, by my girlfriend. Which is how she came to find a pound coin, a penny and a 5p piece in the front garden. I live in a Victorian terrace on a main road. From time to time, street urchins (it’s a Victorian house, remember) perch on my front garden wall, hailing passers-by with phrases such as ‘Spare us ‘aypenny mister’ and ‘Our Mavis will flash ‘er petticoat if you do’, ‘Flare up, my never-sweats!’ and, far more incomprehensibly, ‘I was, laaak, well gu’ed an’ that, lak, isit.’ Ah, the new made-up accent of the streets these days lacks the charm of our Victorian forebears, don’t you think?

So, closing my ears to the mindless, grating bile that the kind of oiks (got to love that word) that hang around on the streets these days spew forth, I’ll also turn a blind eye if they sit on my wall. Provided they drop their money.

If you’ve not visited the logo design competition page, there are a number of entries now. I think a closing date is in order. The 30th July seems a good date. But we DO need more entries, so please, circulate the website address amongst your family, friends and colleagues.

Logo design competition

Afternoon…

A couple of days ago I alluded to a logo design competition and here it is.

Small Change needs a logo. Something visually arresting, something associated with its concept and purpose, something memorable. Its detail and resolution should be equally compatible with being printed upon a business card or emblazoned across the header of this website.

Anyone who’s embraced the Small Change charity concept will have encountered the moment of spotting a coin of minimal value in the middle of a busy street. You want to pick it up, because the whole premise relies upon the contribution of every single coin, but you fear the strange, pitying or even disgusted look of strangers. Pride’s a terrible thing isn’t it? But it’d be great to stop that glare with a quick flash or handover of a Small Change business card. Vistaprint, among others, often dishes out deals on business cards that contain their details on the back. Usually several hundred cost just the price of P&P. Not bad at all seeing as I’ll be paying for them out of my own pocket – I see no reason why my Small Change pot should foot the bill.

Cards would be great for alleviating embarrassment and for passing on at business networking events, leaving in coffee shops and, well, anywhere else actually.

That’s really the point of the competition. Am I promising you riches, a contract and international acclaim? Nope.

Every entrant will receive my unbounded admiration, their design and a link to their website/design portfolio on this site, and a Tweet out about their entry. The winner will receive all the above, plus a page on the site, and the knowledge that they’ve gone some way to helping an excellent cause.

Thassit really. A winning entry might need to be tweaked for size for the site and a business card, but aside from being in a compatible graphic format, I ask nothing more of graphic designers who are entering.

So, if you’re a designer, whether a GCSE student, an amateur or a freelancer, please give it a crack. And the rest of you – please spread the word so that others might enter…

The email address for competition entries is: smallchange@ahcopy.co.uk.

Good luck everyone, and a big thank you in advance to all who enter and all who aid!

Back at the keyboard

Actually I’ve been at this damned keyboard every day for the past x months. But back and logged into the Small Change dashboard.

Anyway, here’s a quick breakdown of what small change I’ve found over the 13 months since I first came up with Small Change.

402 days have passed since then. Yesterday I sat down and emptied out my VW campervan moneybox, and did a spot of counting. I’m a terrible counter. I can do it, I understand the whole 1+1=2 business, and even double figures don’t faze me, but I’m a self-doubting counter. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Or was it 9? Did I already have 9? Hang on, I’ll start again. Ad infibloodynitum. Takes forever. I grit and grind my teeth in exasperation, and I’m sure all that makes things worse. Anyway, after what felt like several hours, I finally got my counting done. The sums afterwards were easy.

Thanks to my calculator.

Ok…I’ve found 166 pennies. A couple are barely recognisable as such, but definitely ARE.

I’ve found 71 two pence pieces.

I’ve found 110 5p pieces.

Sixteen ten pence pieces.

Thirty 20p coins.

Three 50p coins.

Nine pound coins.

So…over 402 days, I picked up 405 coins. The total value?

£26.68.

No, not life-changing on its own. And I know of two jammy buggers who’ve found £20 notes (and yes, kept them for their Small Change kitties despite the obvious temptations), so for all my effort it seems a trifle unfair.

But look at it this way. If ten of us had found that, we’d be looking at £266 for charity. I’ll let you do the other 10x table extrapolations, but the message is clear. One person’s collection mightn’t be so amazing, but the more we spread the word, the greater the combined impact will be…

Oh dearie dearie me

I knew I’d been woefully lax. I knew it had been six months since I’d updated on here. It’s actually been longer.

I might’ve been rubbish at updating, but I’ve not been rubbish at watching the pavements, roads and fields for money. I shall, this coming week, add up what small change I’ve found over the year since I came up with the Small Change charity concept, and post the probably disappointing total as it stands right now. I’ll also resolve to update regularly once again.

I’ll also be launching a logo design competition, so will be looking for followers to share/tweet/tell in old-fashioned-mouth-opening-sounds-coming-out that news with any designers they may know…watch this space…

The Wasp Factory

I’m a great fan of Iain Banks debut novel, which, for the uninitiated, is outstanding. While not about wasps, they don’t fare too well in the book’s pages.

They are everywhere this year. They’ve not fared too well though in my notebook. Or rather against the outer cover of my notebook. If Small Change had a pound for every wasp I’ve killed battered annihilated stamped on gleefully mercilessly obliterated while cackling in the manner of a 1950s Hammer film fiend despatched of humanely, I’d need a new camper van to keep all the money in.

As it is, the past couple of weeks have been a pretty meagre affair. Perhaps the sun has been reflecting off the surface of coins and making them more noticeable. Who knows eh?

On the plus side, London, where the streets have NOT been paved with gold, turned up its first coin for me. Various Small Change followers have expressed their disappointment in the capital’s forgotten money, so I’m proud to add FIVE WHOLE PENCE to my collection courtesy of a pub in Clapham. Crazy times…

Swine flu or a 2nd-hand bonanza?

Did the early morning walk today – early to bed, early to rise and all that guff.

Someone had kindly parked a shopping trolley outside my house. A teenager walked past as I came out of the front door, his music tinny through the headphones and audible from 50ft away. I contemplated tying him into the shopping trolley with his own headphone wire and pushing it down a hill. Perhaps I’m not a morning person…

As I walked through town I realised that, at the risk of being mistaken for a reasonably well-dressed homeless chap, if I’d brought the trolley with me I could have half filled it with the number of dumped pub glasswear lying in doorways and on window ledges. Perhaps I could sell them back to the pubs. Actually, given that my lazy workmanship recently resulted in almost every single glass I own being smashed, I could have restocked my own kitchen several times over. Then I saw a girl’s cardigan draped across a bench. Then a pair of sunglasses. Not for the first time, an assortment of beads strewn across the pavement from some cheap and flimsy costume jewellery. A flip-flop. That struck me as odd. Who loses one item of footwear and strolls on nonchalantly?

Is that more or less odd than leaving BOTH shoes in a corner?! Which is what I saw next. Bizarre. I could’ve opened an admittedly completely rubbish second-hand store from the discarded items on the streets.

In picking up innumerable pennies from one section of roadside (I think that someone had quite literally just thrown their small change up on the air “This is just too heavy and I must be rid of it!” – there was about 30p in pennies), I remembered a comment made by a good friend of mine a week or so back. She said I should really take a bag or something to collect the coins because they might be covered in all sorts of germs – perhaps even swine flu. True…true. But on the other hand life is fraught with risk anyway, and the very reason we have a generation of kids suffering with asthma and so on is because we’ve created this monumental fear of bacteria. We need to encounter bacteria, germs etc in order to build our immune systems. Kids need to handle crap, and so do we. Not ACTUAL crap; I’m not recommending encouraging your child to juggle dog turds while you nod approvingly and tell your partner the boy won’t get a cold THIS year.

And talking of kids – they’re the worst litterers. Bizarrely, on these early morning strolls, I’ve seen a huge quantity of kids’ stuff cast aside: dummies, those cups with the lids that stop children spilling drinks, bibs, baby booties, tiny sunhats, Kinder Egg toys and more. Can’t blame them for the Kinder Egg toys I have to say… But there are clearly dozens of babies toddling the streets late at night, rejecting the gifts of doting grandparents and well-meaning friends of their parents. They’ve evidently recorded their own breathing to fool the baby monitors so mum and dad watch TV blissfully unaware that their 1yr-old is currently on the rampage, hurling teats from artificial milk feeders into doorways and emptying the contents of their tiny sock drawer into the gutter. One day one had even lobbed his or her nappy at a car. Honestly, something needs to be done about these toddlers – they DO say each generation is getting worse…

People know how to party

It’s a Saturday early morning, and I’m still awake. So, consciously acknowledging a lack of social life this weekend I make the stroll through town as dawn breaks.

The usual scene greets me – I’m not going into detail, I’m keenly aware that I rant all too often on the hitherto unnoticed debris that greets the street cleaners on a weekend morning.

Coins of varying values are dotted around, and I’m reasonably pleased with a 73p haul for the Small Change camper van (the money-box receptacle kindly given to me by a lovely person after subscribing to the Small Change concept). I haven’t added it up as I go, but I’m aware it’s not a bad taking.

Then I stroll through the car park of the local supermarket. I started adding this into my occasional dawn walks because I’d so frequently see a dropped 5p or copper coin when buying shopping during the day. Nothing. There are several shopping trolley shelters dotted around the car park – those perspex tunnels. Several pizza boxes, discarded crusts and an empty Pepsi Max bottle lie in one of these tunnels. I grimace at two things: the abandoned rubbish, and the thought that this was actually several people’s Saturday night. Thank God I’m such a grumpy sod. In gazing in such a judgemental and negative way I see coins beyond one of the pizza boxes. Four pound coins, a twenty pence piece and a fifty pence piece.

I instantly forgave the messy pizza-eaters, embraced their finale to a great night out, and pocketed the coins – a personal best Small Change collection after a week which had until that point seen not a single forgotten penny come my way.

Post-apocalypse

The Saturday night of Rhythms was a late one for me – my friend went home at obscene o’clock in the morning, and I walked off the last of the alcohol in my system ambling into town. And oh my god…

SO much rubbish strewn around it looked like people had just been incinerated where they stood, leaving only whatever they’d been holding at the time. Pigeons picked among broken glass for titbits, strangely avoiding the glaringly obvious and available piles of takeaway trash. That’s quite a comment on the quality of the food that a broken Budweiser bottle (of all the lagers to choose) holds more appeal…

ROTW weekend did result in a couple of pounds’ worth of coppers and silver however, but I may have missed far far more because there was an infinite amount of detritus to draw the eye.

I’m told actually that Rhythms even warranted a front page story of a Sidney newspaper in Australia. That’s quite some reach…but then, leaving aside the unfortunate aftermath, it’s a great occasion.

I didn’t point out to the bizarre elderly preacher I encountered later in the week that the apocalypse he was confidently and threateningly announcing had in fact already taken place. Funny though isn’t it how you tell a chap politely that he’d be wasting his time talking to you, but he persists, asks questions, and when you wrongfoot and outargue him he resorts to sarcasm and insult. Hell hath no fury like a Christian scorned it appears…