Posted in Family, Writing

The Sixpence That Changed Into a Swimming Pool

King George VI sixpennny piece, seen from either side
Just an ordinary sixpence – or is it? (Photo: Wikipedia)

This post has been written in response to MoneySupermarket.com’s “Pocket Some Extra Cash” challenge, inviting the country’s top bloggers to describe how they’d spend a £20 windfall to put a smile on someone’s face. To oil the wheels of our imagination, they’ve kindly given us £20 each. This is my story…

When I was about 10, my grandmother bought me a wonderful book called The Sixpence That Changed Into A Swimming Pool. It was part of the Judy Picture Story Library, a series of slim shilling novels published as a spin-off from the popular girls’ comic of that name.

On first glance, I thought it was going to be the tale of a girl with a magic coin that she could transform at will into her own private leisure centre. But it turned out to be a much more interesting and satisfying tale.

Inspirational Investment

Cover of the Judy annual, 1967
Comic annuals – such a treat

The heroine, a schoolgirl of around my own age, (let’s call her Sally, as I’ve forgotten her name), has a sister confined to a wheelchair, suffering from a disability for which the only hope of a cure was to have unlimited access to her own swimming pool. Like all Judy‘s heroines, Sally is a resourceful type, keen to help her sibling, but has only sixpence to her name. Determined to save the day by somehow acquiring a swimming pool, she invests her sixpence wisely to turn it into a shilling. I forget exactly how – probably by buying six things each costing a penny and selling them on for tuppence each. She then acquires a shilling’s worth of something to trade for half a crown or so.

And so the tale continues, providing a handy introduction to the concept of compound interest along the way. It’s not only her money that snowballs, but also her goodwill. Other people inspired by her tenacity muck in to help her run jumble sales and other fundraising events. Satisfyingly, on the final page, Sally unveils the new pool to her sister, to the pride and admiration of her family and her sister’s eternal gratitude.

It was a salutary lesson for any child whose first instinct on finding sixpence would be to spend it all on sweets. (My grandfather claims my early mastery of mental arithmetic sprung from his habit of taking me to the sweetshop every Saturday with sixpence to spend.)

Rising Prices, Raising Smiles

Now I’ve been set a similar challenge, but the sum in question is not sixpence but £20. Well, that’s 40+ years of inflation for you.

The challenge has been set by MoneySupermarket.com, whose research revealed that even a small windfall like this can put a smile on the face of the recipient. I’m allowed to spend it however I like – or indeed to save it – to make the most of the opportunity.

On reading the brief, the story of the sixpence and the swimming pool immediately sprung to mind. A little while ago, I befriended online, via Mumsnet, a lovely lady with six children, one of whom has been severely disabled from birth, confined to a wheelchair and often in unbearable pain. Sadly her condition wouldn’t be cured by the acquisition of a swimming pool, even if I had the time and stamina to grow the £20 into one. But I do know that her mother longs for driving lessons which would give her and her daughter more independence and mobility and greatly improve their quality of life.

I’d therefore like to forward the £20 to her, to start off her driving lesson fund. I hope I could also count on the snowballing of goodwill here, as in Sally’s story. For example, a friendly local driving instructor might decide to join in by offering a specially discounted rate for her lessons. A bigger driving school might donate as many free lessons as she needs to pass her test. And is it too much to hope that some kindly motor manufacturer might chip in with a wheelchair-adapted car?

Well, it’s the sort of thing that might happen in Judy‘s world. But even if it doesn’t, I’m sure just the gift of the £20 will put a smile on my friend’s face. And she does have a very lovely smile. I think Judy would approve.

backyard swimming pool
Oh look, a swimming pool! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Post script: Shortly after this post was published, a kind reader offered to donate an additional £20 as her “first random act of kindness of the month”! If anyone else would like to do this, please send a cheque payable to “D Young” to me c/o my work address (I’m slightly nervous of putting my home address up here!):

Debbie Young, c/o Read for Good, 26 Avening Road, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire GL6 0BS

If you prefer to pay by BACS, please contact me and I’ll send you my bank details.

I’ll bank them myself and transfer the total to Jo by BACS, to avoid creating any extra work for her, and I’ll post the total up here in a few weeks.

STOP PRESS! (Thursday 14th March)

I’m delighted to announce that this evening I was notified that this blog post has been chosen as the competition winner! My prize is £200. Needless to say, that’s going into the driving lesson fund. The swimming pool is filling up…

Posted in Writing

Never Too Late

Mr. Micawber on Happiness
Image by Terry McCombs via Flickr

Do you fight a constant battle to fit more chores into the day than the hours and the laws of physics will allow? I reckon multi-tasking is the scourge of the modern world.

Mr Micawber famously observed that having slightly more income than expenditure is the recipe for happiness, while the opposite leads to misery. I’m sure the same applies to time and tasks.

So I welcome any new idea that will help me make better use of my time. And this month I find a new ally. It’s a handy gadget on my new mobile phone. A “Lists & Things” button allows me to compile any number of action lists with deadlines. I can colour code tasks according to priority and hide or reveal items as I see fit. I can even get the phone to play a tune to remind me when a task is due for completion. I need never miss a deadline again.

Equipped with this app and a phone-based calendar, I decide to do away with my printed diary. (Frankly, I could do with the extra space in my handbag.) From now on, my phone will be all I need.

So I set about inputting appointments, tasks and deadlines. Some have very clear time constraints – dental appointments, print deadlines, term dates.

Having input all these, I start on the tasks for which I can set my own deadlines: when to write my next online blog entry, when to complete the first draft of that book… Scrolling down the screen to set the date for the first of these items, my finger slips and I find myself accidentally advancing the year instead of the day of the month.

And so I discover a major difference between this and my old printed diary: the phone version doesn’t end on 31st December 2011. I scroll down the years – 2012, 2013, 2014… A few moments later, I’m still going: 2087, 2088, 2089. Why was I so worried? There’s still plenty of time to fit everything in. The only problem will be if I lose my phone in the meantime.

This post was originally written for the Hawkesbury Parish Magazine, August 2011 edition.