Sunday, August 27, 2006

Bring back the groat

What do you do with your 1p change? I mean, when you buy something for 99p, and hand over a pound to pay for it, what do you do with the little diddy bit left over?

It's a dilemma. After all, strictly speaking, it is yours. You have a right to it. But it feels so cheap waiting while the shop assistant opens the till, throws your pound in with a rattle, and then, very purposefully, extracts the spare penny to hand it over.

You may have noticed, also, that if you do wait, the shop-assistant will make a point of announcing to all present just how little you have been waiting for. "That's ONE PEE change," they will say in a loud voice, emphasising it's insignificance, while holding the coin up to the assembled company, before disdainfully placing it in your quivering palm.

It's all too much to bear. Usually I avoid the humiliation by asking for the coin to be placed in a charity box. "Stick it in the Lifeboat," I might mutter casually, before turning on my heel and exiting, as if such charitable urges came entirely naturally; as if, in fact, I hadn't just been browbeaten by the shop-assistant into throwing away what is legally and morally mine.

And those pennies do add up. Twenty of them would buy me a box of matches. Two hundred and sixty of them would buy me a pint of lager in my local. Save them up for long enough and, theoretically, I could afford a holiday in Tenerife, or a night of dubious entertainment in some London club. I could buy a yacht. I could go on a safari trip to darkest Africa. With one thousand, four hundred million of them (give or take a million or two) I could go on a trip to the international space station and bob about like a pineapple for a week and eat processed food out of tubes. Wouldn't that be nice?

The UK Independence Party want to save the pound. What about the pennies, that's what I want to know? Or, as my Grandmother always used to say, "look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves. "

Mind you, I do agree with this policy, I just don't think it goes far enough. Once we have secured the pound, there's all sorts of thoroughly British coins which have been lost and which deserve to be revived. Take the groat, for instance. The loss of the groat as a coin of the realm was such a blow to British sovereignty that I feel certain it has been responsible for most of the ills of our modern society, including car theft, burglary, and forgetting to wash behind your ears.

The groat was worth four old pence - that's just less than two new pence - for those of you too young to remember. Which is all of you, since the groat went out of circulation some time during the Napoleonic Wars.

And there's other coins, too, which have disappeared. Like the florin, the guinea, the crown and the half crown, all of which had an intrinsic value beyond their face value, as symbols of British individuality and verve; not to speak of our historically renowned arithmetic skills. The total value of all of these coins (including the groat) added up to one pound, ten shillings and ten pence. I'll leave it up to you to work out what the face value of each of them was.

So let's stop this pussy-footing about. British pride and British independence demand the return of our ancient coinage forthwith. Dump the euro, I say. Bring back the groat!


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