Tag Archives: street

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…


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.

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?


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…

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…

We got rhythm…

What a stunning day, and indeed a stunning week. Gorgeous weather, blistering sunshine…

My Small Change pot as grown a wee bit too…since my last update I’ve collected 97p, including perhaps the dirtiest and least recognisable tuppenny bit (who still uses that phrase that isn’t also able to describe rationing or thought the Beatles were modern noise?) which was in my brother’s garden. He’s been tarting it up and I have to say it looks fantastic.

I’ve noticed, weirdly, that I have a habit of looking particularly at parts of the street where I’ve previously found money, as though it actually grows there, or spawns there from some alternate universe. Nope. Fool.

There have been a few extremely useful suggestions for worthy charitable recipients in response to the previous update, and of course I hope for many more. I shall shortly create a page on which to track the various options, and towards the end of the year that page will contain a poll on which we can all vote…so keep suggestions coming. Feel free to brag publicly about your Small Change collection or individual finds – I know of at least one person who’s come across a fluttering fiver to bolster their collection.

It’s Rhythms of the World (ROTW) in Hitchin this weekend, and as ever the atmosphere is terrific. Happy people creating a carnival feel. I myself should be heading tonight into the grounds where the once street-based ROTW festival is now held, and probably tomorrow daytime too. Let’s face it, it couldn’t be better weather for what I overheard one man describe over the phone to his friend as “the best plan: sink a few cool ones and chill out on the grass.”