Thursday, 2 May 2013

Austerity measures?

On the tram coming home from Manchester this afternoon, I listened to a young mother trying to entertain a fractious baby in his buggy. She sang to him; it was that old song about the little piggy who went to market, the one where you count the baby’s toes and finally tickle him. This is how her song went: 
    “This little piggy went to market. 
      This little piggy stayed at home. 
      This little piggy had cheese on toast. 
      This little piggy had none. 
      And this little piggy went Wee, wee, wee, 
     All the way home.” 

Now, I’m sure that one little piggy used to have roast beef while the next had none. When was roast beef replaced with cheese on toast? Is this the austerity version of the nursery rhyme? 

In any case, it only worked for a while and after that the baby started to whinge and whine again, possible because it was a sunny afternoon and the mother had placed the buggy with the sun directly in the poor child’s face. 

After getting off the tram, I hurried to the nearest bus stop for the next stage of my journey home. I had, according to the printed timetable, about three minutes to get from the tram stop to the bus stop. There is just time to walk the distance provided you don’t dawdle and provided the pedestrian crossing lights are on your side. I do this every week and each time I have half an eye out for the bus in case I need to run. Today I had a nice series of little green men to see me across the dual carriageway. What’s more the bus was late. 

At the stop I got talking to another young mother, this time with a fairly new baby in a buggy and a toddler alongside. She told me she was only going a couple of stops and would have walked but the little chap had refused. One of the reasons for her outing this afternoon had been to look at double buggies. When I suggested one of those new(ish)-fangled “buggy boards, a contraption you fix onto the buggy so that the toddler can stand on it and be pushed when his/her little legs get tired, she confessed to having spent £60 on one but the little chap wouldn’t stand on it. So she was contemplating spending £500 on a double buggy. I suspect the little chap might refuse to go in the buggy as well. Well, nne of my business and not my problem! 

When mine were that age the baby was carried in a sling and the little chap mostly walked but we did have the buggy just in case. 

Anyway, there she was, planning to spend huge amounts of money on a baby buggy. No austerity there! What’s more, if she had had her bigger buggy she might not have been able to get on the bus as there was already one baby buggy on board and they get a bit sniffy about cluttering the bus aisle up with too many baby carriages. 

All of this austerity stuff got me thinking about banknotes. Winston Churchill is going to appear on £5 notes in 2016. News reporters seem to think it will be called a “Winston” or even a “Winnie” instead of a “fiver”. I’m not convinced. 

I still find it strange when I go to a cash machine in Spain to withdraw money and receive €50 notes. I have yet to have a cash machine in the UK issue £50 notes. Even if I withdraw £200, it comes in combinations of £20 and £10 notes. And even the £20 are sometimes subjected to scrutiny in shops, checking their validity I suppose, in the same way as some €50 notes are in Spain. 

I think it was last summer in Sanxenxo that I stood behind an elegantly dressed, extremely old lady at a supermarket checkout and watched her hand over a €500 note to pay for something costing under €10. All credit to the cashier; she didn’t blink but just called her manager over to give her the OK. 

I have since discovered that the last £500 notes were issued in the UK

1943 and stopped being legal tender in 1945. That’ll be why I’ve never seen one then. Mind you, if people are going around spending £500 on baby equipment, maybe they’ll reintroduce them.

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