When I was a lad in 70s Pontefract, pocket money was rather a thorny issue.
Dad wasn’t the most indulgently generous bloke in the world, not with money, anyway. He was a bank clerk before he became a teacher, which probably explains it. In his defence, there’d usually be a bit of chocolate for us kids when the weekly shopping was done - “getting the order”, as we knew it – so we didn’t go short of treats, even if it was only the chocolate bar you could eat between meals without ruining your appetite. Fat chance of that, my appetite was never ruined by anything less than three courses and two helpings of pudding, and my brothers were equally ravenous.
So it’s not as if any of us really needed cold hard cash in order to survive, not as primary school kids at any rate. Still, peer pressure was a thing, even in those days, and I must admit I had my head turned by the bragging of one school friend who – apparently – got the dizzying sum of 60p a week. A week! Mind you, he was posh. His mum had a lady who used to come in and clean the house, and who was prevailed upon to make tea and toast for us whenever I went round to play records, mess around, discuss the relative merits of glam rock bands Slade and Sweet – whatever. They call it “hanging out” now, so I’m told.
That was my insight into how the other half lived, circa 1972, and I was duly impressed. I’m pretty sure it persuaded me to raise the question at home of my own private income, but my negotiating skills can’t have been up to much. My parents were determined to instil “values” into me as well, which meant I’d be expected to push a vacuum cleaner sullenly around the house in exchange for my weekly pittance. Life were hard in them days; I even had to muck out my own rabbit and make my own bed – though, ideally, not in that order. My introduction to pocket money had happened some years earlier, with the opening phase of my financial independence being marked by a pre-decimal award of 3d a week. A thrupenny bit, we called it, a weird little multi-sided affair that I’m reminded of by the pound coin that came in recently. The rumour goes that the new quid has been designed thus in order to make it easier to prise from the grasp of a Yorkshireman by means of a spanner. That’s pretty much how I felt about getting my weekly thruppence out of my dad. To put the amount in context, it was worth about 5p a month in decimal money – twelve bob a year, as we’d have said in those days. Hardly riches. Mind you, I deserve little sympathy. Don’t listen to me moaning away about an impoverished childhood, because none of us boys wanted for much, really. Our parents saw us through a career change for each of them, both going to college in their 30s or 40s to train as teachers. Times must have been tough, and I do remember the odd chilly evening when we sat on the settee wrapped in coats rather than having the gas fire on. But we had three meals a day, a telly to watch and the roof didn’t leak. Compared with what dad told us about life in Ponte during the 30s, we knew we had it good. And the fact is, though I had to wait until my mid-teens before I got into the 60p a week bracket, my own daughter fared markedly worse. I never did get around to giving her any actual pocket money. To be fair, she never really pressed the issue, either.
Sorry, Kate. But, you know – that’s what grandparents are for...