I could have asked for something at any time and would have been given it, or the money to buy it, but I never did. I was an undemanding child. Books were regularly bought, of course and I was uninterested in clothes whereas my mother loved them, so she tended to choose my clothes anyway. Sweets didn’t get bought, though ice cream did in the summer, so being given sweets or chocolate was a huge treat. I made them last a long time. As I had no money, occasional gifts of it were spent carefully, usually on presents, as were book tokens when I was of an age to buy presents for my family instead. It puzzles me now that no one seemed to notice that I produced a bought present when I had no money to buy it with. No one, rightly, would ever have thought I’d have stolen it.
Looking back, my sense of honour did become blurred once a year. It started when Pearson and I found a few coins down the back of an armchair. It would have been pennies, a thrupenny bit at most. If I’d told my mother we’d found it, she would have told us to keep it, there’s no question of that. But somehow, the secrecy became the point.
Pearson was my mother’s godson and he lived with his parents and sister Lyndal – I’m not sure how it was spelt – in Basingstoke. He was about my age and he came for several years to spend the summer holidays with us. I got on with him well. I didn’t play with dolls, which I thought were girly – the funny thing was that when any boys came round, they loved a dolls’ tea party and we had to make do with cuddly toys. I liked going to their houses because they had cars and trains.
Anyway, we found some money and then we found more pennies in a drawer of odds and ends. There was no question we’d look in a handbag, pocket or purse. It had to be lost money because that didn’t have an owner, and we’d go down to the village and spend it on sweets and biscuits on the day before Pearson was due to leave and we’d have a private feast. The fact that we bought that sort of food was the reason for the secrecy, of course, because it would have been met with disapproval.
By about the third year, we were running out of places to find the coins, but I suppose we were growing out of it by then anyway. I was about 12 the last time he came to stay.
My mother tended not to use cash anyway, because they had accounts at all the shops they used regularly. And if I was sent shopping, I just asked for it to be put on the account and breezed out with the goods. One could phone and the order would be delivered the same day.
Funnily enough, I just broke off from writing this a minute ago to answer the phone. It was the deli in Yagnub, where I emailed my order a couple of hours ago. I’ve emailed my greengrocer order too and I’ll pick both up tomorrow. I’ve gone back 50 years. The fishmonger called this morning and we bought crabs (Eloise cat was very pleased) and halibut. And I’ve ordered a case of wine and another case turned up the other day from our local vineyard as our annual benefit as members of their supporters’ club.
There are changes coming up at the Zedery, which I’ll tell you about in a week or so. In the meantime, C and I are going to spend a couple of hours painting the fence.