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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Today's Quiz

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas SEPTEMBER. 16, 2020

[42-365] 16th September 2020- Steve (not his real name) the handyman, came to paint the outside of the house today. We booked him in a few weeks ago but have been waiting for a spell of good weather to fit into his schedule.

So today's quiz question. This is his van. 100 metres to your left is a creek with slipway and high tide is at 18.18 today that's twenty past six "in old money". I want you to guess what Steve (not his real name) is doing after work? Sorry no prizes.

As far as I know "in old money" is a saying unique to Britain, but you can let me know otherwise if it isn't. It derives from the early 1970's when Britain went almost metric. I say almost metric because we still measure some things in ways that aren't deemed to be probably suspiciously "French". I'm joking of course.

Although I can buy a kilo of flour and a litre of milk, I still drive at 30 miles per hour through town, and buy half a dozen eggs. That makes making pancakes difficult. The expression "in old money" isn't just used in relation to money but generally refers to the way things used to be done in the past so it can sometimes be stretched to wider uses. In my example above for example it has nothing to do with money or even with the metric system but refers to the increasing use of the 24 hour clock system instead of the 12 hour am and pm. I think in the US it is called military time.

As for our old money, I'm not really sure how people ever thought it was easier than the metric system. As someone who grew up in India where the coinage went decimal in 1955 it was all I ever knew when I arrived back in Britain a few weeks after decimalisation happened which was February 1971.

People were complaining that counting in 12's was so much easier than counting in 10's. There were 12 pennies to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound. To make matters worse some coins were referred to by their nicknames, like Bob or Tanner. ??????? And that is before Cockney market traders start asking you for a "Monkey" or a "Pony". I have a theory that people in Britain of old only went hungry because they couldn't work out how much anything was.

To make matters even worse some of the old coins dual purposed into the new currency, so for years the shilling pieces which were worth 12 old pennies were now worth 5 new ones. Incredibly this shilling piece worth 12 old pennies was still in use until December 1990, 19 years later.

The Farthing which was worth a quarter of an old penny, so yes, that means there were 48 of those to a shilling and 960 to the pound meant you probably needed very large and strong pockets when it was in circulation. But that went in 1960. It had a very cute picture of a Wren on it, presumably symbolising how small it was. Wrens overwinter in dark places in large groups to keep warm, like a pocket full of Farthings in an old suit at the back of a wardrobe.

So decimalisation put paid to the ha'penny and the thruppenny bit. The thruppenny bit was an unfeasibly large and heavy brass 12 sided coin worth one eightieth of a pound, I'm really not making any of this up. But all you really need to know is that pre-decimalisation if you went into a shop to buy something that cost 42 old pence the shopkeeper would ask you for "three and six", I will emphasise again, I am not making any of this up.

"But I digress"

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