C Richard Miles
Coin Collecting - Poem by C Richard Miles
Though quite a Europhile, I'll willingly admit
One thing the single currency just cannot do
Though, sadly, truth to tell, the self-same problems sit
Within the British monetary system, too.
I was a coin-collector, as a geeky kid;
I scoured for specie in my pockets from loose change
Which in those times so many of us children did
Though numismatic hobbies nowadays seem strange.
Back then, in that half-faded halcyon bygone age
Before February fifteenth, nineteen seventy one,
When workers earned much less, a leaner living wage,
Paid Friday night, then spent before the week was gone.
We still had pennies then, thick solid copper jobs,
Twelve summed a shilling, twenty shillings per the pound.
Six pennies to the tanner, twelvepence made a bob,
While two-and-sixpence totalled up to half-a-crown.
Two shillings were a florin and, with some good luck,
You'd find a silver thruppence, called a joey, which
Mum hid in Christmas puddings, feeling like you'd struck
Gold in the desert, though you'd not be strictly rich!
These, plus old ha'pennies and the much more common brass
Twelve-sided thruppenny bits, completed all the set;
Though finer farthings had gone out of tender, stashed
Down backs of old settees, you might unearth one yet.
So there it was: old money, dating to the days
Of venerable Victoria and, more rarely, one
Worn smooth, from the four Georges, just might wend my way,
A schoolboy's treasure trove, those years so long since gone.
I'd pick them up from popping to the village shop
For blackjacks, penny chews and sherbet dabs, sweets that
Would rot my teeth; for some I'd trawl the kerb for dropped
Loose change; yet more were gifts from uncles: Jack, Tom, Matt.
My summer holidays provided one more chance
To fill the gaps, blank dates I eagerly desired:
The Slot machines and tumbling Penny Falls which danced
In dim Arcades, Amusements near Scarborough's South side.
I still possess, in leather-bindings, tucked away
Deep in a drawer, in mother's terraced weaver's home
Those squirrelled savings, sadly tarnishing today
Forgotten farthings, pennies, ha'pennies all alone.
Our modern infants don't have opportunity
To find such ancient coinage in the daily round:
The Euro's cash does not outspan this century
While British currency's just passing forty, now.
They are denied excitement which I once enjoyed:
The thrill of new discoveries from long-lost times,
That loosened links with history; these girls and boys
Have missed the mystery which magically was mine.
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