Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A big change to small change

I'm just about old enough to remember the changes that happened to UK coinage 40 years ago today, when the old system of pounds, shillings and pence was replaced with the decimal system we have today. In fact I can still remember gooing to school that Monday morning with a 10/- note in my pocket to pay my dinner money for the week (and getting change).

Although working things out financially is now easier, having only to work in 10s rather than 12s & 20s like we used to do, there is still, for those of us who can remember them, a certain romance about the old silver sixpence (the tanner), the half-crown and the thrupenny bit. I remember I used to help our milkman on my way home from school at lunchtime each day, and he would reward me with 3d at the end of the week - that was quite a lot of money to a young boy in the late 60s. It also shows how much we've changed - probably for the worse - as a society, in that no-one batted an eyelid about me riding on the back of his drop-tail Mini van, or helping him. Just think of the Child Protection and Health & Safety issues there would be today!

I can also remember the excitement that there was about the impending decimalisation - we spent a lot of time in school preparing for it, and there was even a song to help us grasp the difference, which (if I remember correctly) went something like:
"Five New Pence is One Shilling,
Ten New Pence is Two.
It may seem very odd at first,
But it really is good for you."
They don't write them like that any more!

There was, too, the confusion in the elderly, who couldn't quite grasp the changes ('twas ever thus!), and the inevitable concern about rising prices as a result of the changes. But maybe it's been for the best. I still miss the old coins - you certainly knew when you had a pocketful of old pennies! - and often find myself thinking 'what would that've been in 'old money'?' Maybe I'm just a hopeless nostalgic, or just a sad, old man!