As part of National Novel Writing Month, (#NaNoWriMo) I've set myself the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel (1700 words a day), consisting of short stories about my memories of primary school. Just so that you know, all names of people have been changed unless they are publically known. Each story is based on my own memory, so may not be an exact representation of events, especially since I am writing this over 40 years after things happened! But I hope you will enjoy each story all the same, and that perhaps it will spark your own memories of life at primary school.
When I was 5 years old I found some plastic money on the floor of our classroom at Ferndown First School, close by the wooden unit and our individual plastic trays where we kept our books.
It was one of my greatest entrepreneurial moments!! We had been been using the coins in class in role plays, buying things from each other, and doing coin rubbings and drawing around them in our books so that we could learn all about money.
So I decided to put the coins that I found on the floor into the pocket of my school dress. It wasn't stealing because the coins were already lost and hidden in a pile of dust on the floor, so they were already unwanted.
On the way home from school, I got off the bus earlier than I usually would. It would mean a mile extra that I would have to walk home on my own, but it was a nice day and if I could treat myself to some sweets it would be worth it. Especially since I wouldn't have to share them with anyone else for once.
So I got off the bus early, with my friends who usually got off at the top shops stop, and in we all went into the sweet shop. They were all noisy and pushing to the front to get their sweets first since this was something they were able to do every day, but for me it was a huge treat. I felt ever so grown up, with my own money jingling in my dress pocket. I wouldn't be loud and pushy like those infant children, instead I would be all civilised and would take my time, remembering to say please and thank you.
I waited my turn, and eventually got to the front, peering through the glass at all the sweets on offer. I had no idea how many I would be able to buy, but I ended up with quite a big paper bag full. Probably about 10 pence worth. But since half a penny would buy you about 4 chews, it seemed like quite a lot.
There were all my favourites there, and it was hard to choose. Best to go with the half penny sweets than the bigger ones that were a penny each. That way I would get more sweets for my money.
Parma violets, black jacks, fruit salads, rainbow drops (I didn't care for those at all), sherbet fountains that I loved but were more expensive, dip dabs that I loved but always left me in a really sticky mess and would surely get me in trouble as mum would know I'd bought sweets, milk bottles which were always excellent value, dolly mixtures and liquorice - but they never tasted good when they were sold loose as they went a bit soggy and were better in a packet. Candy necklaces were always great fun and perfect for eating on cold days because you could wear them as a necklace and then fumble around with your chin to eat them. They were super crunchy and my sweet of choice when out on my bike because you could eat them on the go - the perfect sweet for doing paper rounds too! No hands needed.
Rhubarb and custard chews, and boiled sweets, jelly babies which were a little bit too sweet and you couldn't eat many without feeling sick, friendship rings - fun for pretending you were married, midget gems and wine gums which were risky because you were bound to end up with the dark ones that tasted all chemically. Strawberry laces which were nice. Fizzy asteroid belts that made your mouth froth up with sour fizziness. Popping candy - but that made your mouth sore after a bit and was a bit too much money. Kola kubes which were hard and sugary on the outside then soft and chewy in the middle. Love Hearts - still one of my favourites and each love heart with a different message written on it. Sugar mice - nice but a bit too sweet and a lot of pennies. Gobstoppers- especially fun because they made your tongue go a funny colour. Chocolate Limes - one my favourites and a treat that nan would give me, so I only had those when I was with her. Flying saucers - I could eat a gazillion of those in one go. They were amazing, especially how the rice paper dissolved on your tongue. Anglo bubbly.
Refresher chews were always a must, though they were usually so sticky that you always ended up finding some of the wrapper still stuck to your sweet. Jazzes - chocolate buttons with hundreds and thousands - those were sacred and only for nan visits. Cola bottles - always a bargain. Drumsticks - same problem as refreshers but tasted amazing. And foam bananas - more expensive at a 1p each and not so nice after a few of them.
Selection made, I handed over my plastic money to the lady behind the glass counter. 'oh' she said. 'This isn't real money I'm afraid'.
'Of course it is, I said, we used it all day to buy things from our classroom shop. I looked serious and determined. I was terrified I was going to get in a lot of trouble, but the lady simply smiled, and took the money.
I munched my sweets all the way home, feeling like I was onto something here. If I could just find more unwanted plastic coins lying around on the floor, I could eat my heart's content of sweets.
But dad somehow knew I'd been eating sweets when I got home. He was usually still at work, but my walk had taken so long that he was already home. It was probably the sticky mess on my summer dress that gave me away. But he wasn't cross with me, he just talked to me and told me that I mustn't do that again. If I really wanted to have money, then the best thing was to do chores in return for something called 'pocket money'. I liked the sound of this. It sounded very grown up, and I really liked the idea of being independent and rewarded for helping others. Imagine all the things I could buy with pocket money, and how amazing it would sound to be able to tell my friends that I bought something with money I earned all by myself, for doing a job.
So we made an agreement and if I promised to clean dad's car each week, then he would give me 50p. Wow! 50p was the silver, shiny one, and a lot of money. I could even save some each week and put it in my building society. I had a special passbook and everything.
Nan used to collect all her loose pennies each week and put them into a pig money box on the top of the wardrobe at her house. She had one each for me, my cousin, and my baby brother. Whenever I went to visit she would let me lift it to see how heavy it was, and when it was full to the top, we would go to the building society and give it to the lady at the desk. The lady would count all the money and then write it in my passbook.
Nan said that when I was 16 years old she would give me the book and I could buy whatever I wanted with the money. I felt very special, and I knew that it meant nan would think about me everyday even when I wasn't with her. That I was always on her mind, and she was spoiling me every day with her love. It amazed me how just the odd penny found here and there could end up as a lot of money over time.