After walking the length of the path that runs along Puckpool seafront, I sat on a bench yesterday to read my Kindle and to watch the world go by. Presently a middle-aged man and what I assumed to be his son came along. The son was either in his late teens or early twenties. I caught a snatch of their conversation as they went past, which made me chuckle. The man said:
“Welcome to the real world, where you have to spend lots of money on things that aren’t much fun.”
This made me think back to my carefree childhood days of 2s/6d (half a crown – now worth about £1.25) pocket money on Saturday mornings. From that I’d buy a stack of comics and a bag of chocolate buttons in Chrisp Street market. Then I’d happily sit on my front doorstep, eat the buttons and read every page of the comics, quite content.
Then as I grew older, sadly 2s/6d wasn’t enough. I wanted to buy clothes, and most importantly… records (Dad wouldn’t let me wear make-up). Pocket money went up with each birthday, and by the time I was 13 I’d be found haunting the second-hand record stall in the market with my precious £2.50 (enter decimalisation in February 1971).
By the time I was 16 and in the Fifth Year at school, Dad had secured me some summer holiday work at the head office of Barclays Bank where he worked. I’d catch the 8am train into London Bridge station, and walk over the bridge to 54 Lombard Street. My job was to take flasks of tea and plates of biscuits around to the managers and directors ensconced in their plush offices. I cannot quite remember how much I received for this task, but suffice to say I thought I was rich! The middle-aged ladies who usually worked at this job reluctantly let me help them, and I expect were quite relieved when I had an adverse reaction to a piece of canteen Gala pie during my last week (egg allergy began – one of many), and so worked only 5 weeks instead of 6.
Moving on a year to my last year at school aged 17, Dad said he’d found me a better job in Barclays International Bank in Upper Thames Street, as if I thought I could spend the summer holidays sitting on my arse, then I could think again. This time I’d be in ‘Reconciliations’, working with ledgers and making sure each column added up to the correct amount at the end of the day.
Hmm… I tried to tell him I was no good with numbers, but he didn’t listen. Guess who was always last to leave as she had to sit with the line manager who had to painstakingly go over each mistake I’d made? However, I had much fun and laughter with the young men who worked at my table, so it was worth it in a ghastly sort of way. I also received £25 per week for my paltry efforts, and wow… I was in the league of the Croesus rich.
Then I left home aged 20 and it was time to fend for myself. By then I was earning £90 per week and sharing a tiny flat with a work colleague. Our wages came in little brown envelopes each Friday afternoon, but it was never enough. We had rent to pay, food and petrol to buy, and disco entrance money to find on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Responsibility gradually creeps up, and with it an increasing need for money. Hah…good times forever gone, except in my head.