Broken necklace marks the spot in Broken Britain

Early early early. Up at 5am, cup of tea and then strolled in the crisp morning sunlight into town.

I beat the street cleaners today. Which was good and bad.

Within 50 yards of my house I found a 2p piece on a drain cover, which augured well.

The ‘bad’ of beating the street cleaners rapidly became apparent. Beer cans balanced on railings and the foliage of plants. Smashed pint glasses and alcopop bottles. Flattened gold beer bottle tops, looking irritatingly like pound coins in the sunlight. Plastic forks and innumerable polystyrene fast food containers, usually with their half-eaten contents congealing across the pavement. Crushed cigarette packets, cellophane wrappers and enough dog-ends to keep a town of tramps in smokes for a week. Greasy chicken carcasses in charity shop doorways. Plastic bags and cardboard burger boxes abandoned within yards of bins. The occasional dried stain of urine run downhill from a wall or patch of pink spatter in the middle of the street marking a head-spinning stagger and retch towards the end of the night.

I think, though am quite prepared to accept that my terrible memory misleads me, that it was David Cameron who first coined the phrase ‘broken Britain’. I don’t like the phrase. I don’t like the concept. Most of all I don’t like the insinuation that our country may be beyond repair. But walking through town that phrase rushed to the forefront of my mind, I felt my eyes grow heavy, and my heart grow leaden. Our shallow, greedy, gimme-it-now pop culture is really rather a damning statement on the country’s health, though this interesting article suggests at one point that perhaps by thinking in such terms we exacerbate matters. Hmmm, I dunno, but I can’t help thinking that rather than issuing a fine for dropping litter, dishing out some early morning street-cleaning to any offenders might be more effective. Community service is something I’m very keen on.

But moving onto the positive…my eye was drawn to the middle of the road as I walked through the town centre. Two coins, made into a percentage mark by a black costume jewellery necklace dividing them diagonally. A £1 coin and a 50p coin! Yes, that does merit an exclamation mark. Having bragged the other day about my 55p haul, today’s total, including a couple of other coppers discovered as I continued my walk, beat that by a full one pound sterling.

I need a digital dictaphone, I’ve decided. I write constantly in my head as I walk, and those who know me are aware that I write much as I speak, and I speak much as I think. I do own a dictaphone, but it’s so old Henry II could have used it to play back his REAL complaints to the knights who slew Thomas Becket through misplaced loyalty. The usual quote is “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”, which while poetic is not, it is generally accepted, correct. See Wikipedia’s article on Henry II for more info if you’re interested.

There you go – amateurish social commentary, half-remembered history and just over a quid for charity. Not a bad morning’s work…

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The Shawshank Redemption

Today was rather Shawshank Redemption-esque…

Firstly, walking a dog with a friend through fields we stopped for a break beneath a large oak tree (actually, it could’ve been almost any kind of tree for all I know). There I saw a dirty 10p piece nestling in the mud between dog-tramped blades of grass. Ok, so it wasn’t quite the scene where Red unearths Andy Dufresne’s tin box of cash and the letter that moves the viewer to tears; there was no black rock that had no business being in the field, and not even a wall, but dammit there was a tree and some grass.

Driving back we spotted a crow that had been hit by a car, but was still alive, watching the traffic pass within inches of its beak. I pulled over and retrieved the stricken bird. Her claws (I’ve no idea if the poor thing was female, but I don’t like ‘it’, and I’m damned if I’m writing ‘he or she’ all the time) gripped my forefingers. Her right wing appeared to be broken, and some of her tail feathers were bloodied. We took her home and sat her in the shade of the garden, and I dripped water into her beak, which  she opened wide, like a chick receiving worms from its mother. Such beautiful grey eyes. She even took some bird seed which we sprinkled on the grass before her.

I phoned my mother’s friend, who runs a charity rescuing all sorts of animals, and the prognosis didn’t look good. Wing breaks are hard to fix especially on larger birds, as they’re prone to trying to remove any splints etc. Plus the internal damage might be too great, and the shock could kill her. But at the very least a vet would be able to put her to sleep peacefully.

The veterinary nurse we later took her to seemed to think there was no wing break. Which is encouraging. I’ll have to phone up Monday and see what happened. But what that really put me in mind of, Shawshank-wise, was Jake, the crow that prison librarian Brooks raised, and later freed when he himself was set free.

Ok, so all in all, these links are pretty tenuous, and I’m obviously mighty relieved that I wasn’t involved in having to fight off the attentions of dubious prisoners, but you can rest assured I’m also pretty unlikely to take the proceeds of my Small Change collection and strike out for a remote beach in Mexico, no matter how idyllic and breath-taking it might be…

Return of the sun

Aaaaaah sunshine… After a week or so of weather so fickle that I was even told (surely this is nonsense?) that within a 20-mile radius in Suffolk the other day there was rain, sun, SNOW and even dust devils, it was good to see a return to pretty steady sun today…

Over the past week or so (I know, I’ve been terribly lax and aim to return to regular updates again) the odd 5p and coins of lower denomination have found their way (legally I hasten to add) into my pocket as I’ve ambled around the place, but today I was unexpectedly rewarded.

Walking past the phone box where Nanny from Count Duckula (see previous post) had her rummage, I spotted a penny glinting up at me. Stooping down I saw three further pennies scattered around, so it was with a copper-coloured spring in my step that I continued into town.

Waiting in line at the usual coffee place I saw silver on the floor in front of the counter…a 50p piece with another penny nestling beside it. Ok, we know it’s small change, but 55p in a single day is my own personal best, even if other followers have reported pound coins and more, the lucky swine…

Enjoy the weekend all, and long may the good weather continue. And long may people be incapable of putting money into their purses without spilling the stuff everywhere…

Frugal Friday

In fact the past week has been pretty damned frugal on the Small Change front – no more than a couple of pennies to add to the collection.

Mind you, I did spend the bank holiday weekend in Devon, so was either in picturesque countryside or in the car.  And on that note, if you’re in the area, Lydford Gorge is just breath-taking. It’s very easy to forget that here in Britain we have some fantastic scenery; places where the sound of rushing water, birdsong or breezes through trees are a life-affirming break from the general cacophony of life.

This morning, in an effort to undo my rubbish coin collecting I wandered into town as Hitchin awoke. Had I been looking for rubbish I’d have made a packet. Perhaps pubs/takeaways should be legally accountable for a 20-metre radius outside their property. Might cut out a lot of the fag packets, pint glasses, polystyrene containers and discarded bottles and cans.

But the sun is shining, summer approaches, the England cricket team has remembered how to win (albeit thanks in part to some spectacular capitulation), and it’s Friday…

Tuesday. Nothing more imaginative than that.

Shiny 2008 pennies today. One directly outside my front gate, and the other on the central island at traffic lights in town. I’m still hopeful, given the persistent windy weather, that dozens of unfortunates will lose £20 notes on the sturdy breeze. That’s not actually very charitable of me…

I do love the way young children are so curious about the world around them, so oblivious to certain distractions, absorbed by others and so completely unabashed by their own behaviour. Today a little girl of three or four was so utterly transfixed by a chocolate cake that the couple on the next table at the coffee shop were sharing, as pedestrians weaved around her, that her mother actually had to tap her on the head to get her attention.

Moments later a group of teenagers sulked past. One boy, and he must have been seventeen or eighteen, stamps his foot at a pigeon – an action usually reserved for unruly toddlers – and eats a pastry of some sort with his mouth open and crumbs stuck to his lips and chin. Enchanting…

Just another manic Monday

I don’t however wish it was Sunday. I also refuse to believe that Sunday is actually anyone’s ‘fun day’.

Anyway, inane lyrics from songs that should never have been written notwithstanding, Monday HAS been manic. I did nip out however, as I’d started work at about 6am, and grabbed a coffee and did a spot of supermarket shopping. When I returned to my car there was a 5p piece lying just behind the boot.  Splendid…

Over the weekend I caught up with family, and my sister handed me 10p that a friend of hers had found after hearing about Small Change.  Actually rather a profitable past week for my money box, although a glance at the weather for the remainder of THIS week shows me I’ll be staying inside. Wet and miserable…summer’s over folks…

Leaf blowers don’t move coins

It was a beautiful, sunny and tranquil morning as I sat in Hitchin market square. Well, it WAS tranquil. Mr Road Sweeper soon whipped out a leaf blower. Before he started I had coughed and my cough had echoed back at me. So you can imagine the racket a leaf blower being revved might make.

Irritating for me, and a tediously regular disturbance for the residents (as some of these shops have flats above them). Don’t know what the law is for using noisy equipment early on a Sunday morning, but it wants tightening up.

I do know why the leaf blower was in operation. Hundreds of cigarette butts, mostly outside restaurants and bars. Even people who wouldn’t drop litter discard cigarette butts. I have, when there’s no bin in sight. Unlike dry rubbish, you don’t a filthy ashy butt in your pocket or bag. When the government brough in the new smoking laws in 2007, why did they not make it compulsory for every eatery or drinking establishment to have fixed cigarette butt receptacles outside? I know, nobody says the word ‘receptacle’, but it shouldn’t die out… I’m not saying fixed fag bins would cure the problem – people are often ignorant and lazy – but it would go a long way.

The square was peaceful after a while though, and I sat, undisturbed and writing this update in my notebook, basking in the already warm Sunday sunshine. Eight o’clock and all’s well.

Found 22p actually. Thought I’d best mention that, as it’s kind of the whole point…