Excerpt for Adventures in Currency: Head-Side Up by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

ADV£NTUR£$

IN

CURR£NCY


Head-Side Up



By


Geoffrey Kevin Walby





In loving memory of the original one-pound coin.



For Grace and Wren





Published by Geoffrey Kevin Walby


Smashwords Edition


Copyright 2014 Geoff Walby





Smashwords Edition, License Notes


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.





Contents



Prologue

Chapter 1 – Made by Machines

Chapter 2 – The Squeeze of the Coining Press

Chapter 3 – Inside the Cash Container

Chapter 4 – At the Bank

Chapter 5 – The Old Lady’s Purse

Chapter 6 – Inside the Electric Meter

Chapter 7 – A Strange Reaction

Chapter 8 – The Newsagent’s Till

Chapter 9 – A Pongy Pocket

Chapter 10 – From Pongy Pocket to Pongy Room

Chapter 11 - Stolen

Chapter 12 – Back in the Till

Chapter 13 – A Wallet of Unrest

Chapter 14 – A Nightmare of a Dinner Party

Chapter 15 – In the Hoover

Chapter 16 – Quarrels of Another Kind

Chapter 17 – Stuck in a Vending Machine

Chapter 18 – A Word in Edgeways

Chapter 19 – A Most Beautiful Sight

Chapter 20 – Escape For Dear Life

Chapter 21 – Good Riddance

Chapter 22 – A Crash Course in the Big Wide World

Chapter 23 – A Joyous Reunion and an Important Question

Chapter 24 – The Amusement Arcade

Chapter 25 – Warning! Germs!

Chapter 26 – Coin Do Not Qualify to be Here

Chapter 27 – A Trip Across the Atlantic

Chapter 28 – Lucy Learns to Count

Chapter 29 – The World in a Bottle

Chapter 30 – Stolen Once Again

Chapter 31 – An Utter Insult

Chapter 32 – At the Cash Exchange

Chapter 33 – RIP the Once Pound Coin

Chapter 34 – A Divine Resurrection

About the Author

Connect with Geoff Walby





Prologue


I, Dizzy, am about to take that great leap into the Big Wide World as a brand-new, shiny one-pound coin. To be spent and traded with, and to join the flow of global currency that makes that Big Wide World go around.

What does it mean to be a pound coin? What does it mean to be spent? What will it be like and how does it happen? What is that Big Wide World I’ve heard so much about? And just what is global currency?

I feel a bit afraid about entering the Big Wide World. Because of the mess the coining press made of me back at the Royal Mint it seems the other coins are going to bully me and make my circulation a misery. But I’ve been advised to keep my head-side up and not let them defeat me. I’ll take on the bullies. I’ll beat them all. And I’ll try my best to enjoy being a one-pound coin.

Okay, Big Wide World, here I come. I hope you and the bullies are ready. Because I’m not! In fact, I haven’t a clue what a one-pound coin is even supposed to be.





Chapter 1. Made by Machines



Dizzy had been a brand-new, shiny one-pound coin for only a few hours. But before actually becoming a coin, Dizzy had to be made into one in a dark coin-making factory called the Royal Mint.

Being made into a pound coin hadn’t been very nice. In fact, it had been rather painful.

Dizzy had begun the journey as part of a vat of liquid metal in a hot, fiery casting furnace. The furnace was big, round and dark and the bubbling liquid splished and splashed from side to side.

‘I am the casting furnace,’ came a booming voice. It sounded like a giant volcano erupting within a vast cave. ‘This is your first step to becoming many coins. You are a mixture of three different kinds of metal – copper, nickel and zinc – melted down here in my belly. You are cooking at the stifling temperature of 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot my friend, very hot. But very soon, when this is all over, you will become hundreds, if not thousands, of brand-new, shiny individual coins.’

The furnace wasn’t joking. It was tremendously uncomfortable. The liquid metal bubbled and popped as deep rumbles echoed throughout.

Just as the heat became too much to bear, the liquid metal took a great big drop, and was poured into a long, round metal tube – a mould – the second stage of the coin-making process. And in that mould, it remained still until it cooled and became a long, thin bar.

Then the mould spoke, deep and stern, very much like the voice of the casting furnace.

‘You are now a bar of solid metal, one and a half inches high, five inches thick and very long. You may now pass through the roughing mill, which will roll you out flat. Very soon, my chum, you will become many coins.’

There was a clunk and a thud as the mould cracked open and let the bar fall. Then it was passed down the production line towards the roughing mill – the third step of the coin-making process.

The roughing mill – a long machine with lots of rollers top and bottom that looked like giant rolling pins – squashed the metal bar as it was forced between them.

Back and forth it went between the powerful rollers until the metal bar became flatter and flatter and flatter.

The metal bar didn’t like it one bit.

‘Stop doing this to me!’ it cried. ‘This is horrible.’

After a while, the rollers stopped.

The metal felt different: somehow smaller, flatter.

‘That’s it. All done,’ said the roughing mill, and laughed. ‘I’ve flattened you into one long, thin strip of metal. Now off you go to the finishing mill, where you will be flattened out some more.’

The strip of metal moved further down the production line.

‘I don’t want to be flattened anymore,’ the thin strip of metal blubbered. ‘I just want to get out of here. I want to go somewhere else. This is horrible. Stop! Somebody, please make it stop.’

The metal strip arrived at the finishing mill – the fourth step of the process – another long machine with many powerful rollers.

‘You’ve just had the life squashed out of you by the roughing mill,’ the finishing mill said. ‘Now you’re nice and flat. But not flat enough. You’re only an inch thick – not thin enough to be coins. But you will be once I’ve seen to you with nine tons of pressure.’

The metal strip was forced through the mill’s powerful rollers until it became a flat sheet.

‘Ha, ha, ha! It’s not a very nice start to becoming a coin, is it? Never mind, the worst will soon be over.’

‘I wish there was a bit more sympathy from these machines of torture,’ the metal strip said. ‘It might not be awful for them but it certainly is for me.’

‘Ha, ha, ha!’ The finishing mill laughed once more, its job done. ‘Now you’re nice and flat; as flat as you can be. So off you go to the blanking press. That’s not much fun either.’

The metal sheet moved further along the production line towards the fifth stage of the coin-making process – a big, blue-and-white cube with hole-punchers inside.

Du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du!

‘Hello, chum. I’m the blanking press,’ an out-of-breath voice said. ‘My job is to punch lots of little holes into you to make lots of faceless, coin-sized metal discs called blanks. Every thud you hear is another blank being punched out. And every blank is just a moment away from becoming an individual coin.’

The thudding sound echoed all around. Du du du du du du du! It got closer. Du du du du du du du!

The metal sheet felt itself hit, knocked and beaten. This was followed by a ching ching ching as many blanks were punched into a tray below, then a thunderous thud as the punchers came crashing down to cut out one, special, faceless coin-shaped blank.

Crash! The special blank hit the tray below.

It felt very, very different from the way it had just a moment ago – smaller, lighter and slightly more normal.

In fact, all the new blanks felt this way. Like they had an edge. Like they had sides. Each more individual. Not liquid, or a bar, or a strip, or a thin sheet, but something new. Like they were developing into little selves.

‘You feel a lot better now, don’t you?’ the blanking press said.

The blanks agreed. They did feel better. Better than ever before.

‘Just a moment ago, each and every one of you belonged to one sheet of metal. And you thought the same thought and felt the same feeling. But now you are blanks and can think your own thoughts and feel your own feelings. Each and every one of you is now an individual. Isn’t that good news?’

The blanks agreed again. It was good news; great news. Being an individual was fantastic.

‘And what’s better,’ the blanking press continued, ‘once you get your own heads and tails stamped, you’ll also have your own identity. You will be individuals with an identity. And each of you will truly feel more like yourself.’

The blanks gasped. ‘Wow! It gets better than this?’ ‘This is great! This is amazing!’

‘Now, off you all go,’ the blanking press told them. ‘It’s not over yet.’

The blanks landed somewhere new and were spun and tossed in the air for the very first time. Then they felt a peculiar tickling sensation around their tops, bottoms and edges in this, the sixth step of the coin-making process.

‘Ha, ha! I’m the rimming machine,’ a mischievous voice said as the special disc was tickled all over. The machine was a small, grey cube, much the size of a kitchen oven. ‘My job is to terrorise you all while I give you a raised edge on your top and bottom sides. That will protect the head and tail that will be stamped on you. I’m also inscribing letters onto your edge – that’s the part that tickles. It’s my little needles working away like fingers poking into ribs. Ha, ha, ha. I love tickling; it’s so much fun.’

‘Stop, stop,’ the special blank wailed. ‘This isn’t nice. It’s awful. You’re tickling me too much. You’re going to make me pass out.’

But there was no escape.

‘Oh, yes, about the letters I’m inscribing,’ the rimming machine continued. ‘All pound coins have letters on their edges. They make a sentence. You pound coins have different sentences on your edges, just as you have different imprints on your tail sides. The sentence on the edge will be Pleidiol Wyf I’m Gwlad. It’s Welsh so don’t ask me what it means. I haven’t got a clue. Okay, my job with you is done. I’ve written the gobbledygook and made the lines. Don’t you agree it was all nice and quick? I wish it could last a lot longer. I’d tickle you all year round if I could. Whoops! I forgot to put the apostrophe in ‘I’m’. Oh well, never mind. Accidents happen from time to time. It might add to your value. Collectors will pay a fortune for coins with mistakes on them. Now off you go. There are more machines that need to deal with you.’

The rimming machine released the discs, and they fell from a height and landed in the spinning machine – the seventh stage of the coin-making process.

‘Hold on tight,’ the spinning machine warned. ‘You’re in for the ride of your life. And I mean the ride of your life! Bring on the beads!’

Thousands of tiny silver steel beads, no bigger than peas, pinged, ponged and clunked on top of all the blanks like giant hailstones.

The spinning machine made a second call.

‘Bring on the icy water and cleaning solution!’

Splash! A flood of ice-cold liquid cascaded down over the blanks and beads.

It was horrible and made them shudder and shiver.

‘I’m going to spin you around like you wouldn’t believe,’ the spinning machine explained. ‘The beads will rub up against you to polish you and make you smooth. And the water and cleaning solution will clean all the grub off you. Hold on tight!’

The discs began to revolve, slowly at first, very slowly. Then they spun so fast that they clung to the side of the spinning machine. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh they went. Now it wasn’t so pleasant – they begun to feel dizzy and sick. And it wasn’t much fun. It certainly wasn’t the ride of their lives they’d been promised; it was more like a dreadful nightmare, a silly accident, a stupid mistake.

‘Stop this machine!’ the discs yelled. ‘Help us. None of us asked to go through this crazy ordeal.’

The spinning stopped and the discs tried to calm themselves down.

‘I don’t want to be a coin,’ the special blank howled. ‘I don’t want to keep going through these horrible machines. Surely none of this is right. Somebody call the boss.’

‘The ride’s not over yet,’ the spinning machine gargled through the water. ‘Now we’re going to spin the other way.’

The blanks revolved in the opposite direction and the machine spun them faster and faster until again they clung to the side of the machine. Once more, they felt sick and giddy, and wanted it to stop. But it didn’t. They span one way, then the other time after time.

‘Stop! Stop! Stop!’ the blanks cried out. ‘We want to get off! We want to get off!’ But the spinning machine went on and on. The water splashed them and the metal beads knocked into them.

The spinning began to slow then stopped. Everything became still. And stayed still.

‘Okay, folks, the ride of your lives is over,’ the spinning machine said. ‘Hope you all enjoyed yourselves. Now off you all go. You’re not complete just yet.’

Once again, the blanks whooshed downwards. They landed and the water, cleaning solution and beads fell away beneath them.

‘Happy days, everyone. This is the eighth step of the coin-making process. I’m the sieve, or separating grid as I like to called because it sounds more important. The water and beads have fallen through my draining grates but you lot are too big. And that’s my job – to separate you … the easiest job in the mint. Now off you all go now to the ninth step of the coin-making process. You’ll enjoy it; you’re about to experience your first ever pampering.’

They felt themselves falling and bouncing. Then their faceless sides were rubbed and cleaned by something soft and gentle. The sensation was soothing.

‘May I introduce myself to you all, my kind guests? I am your luxury hand towel. I ensure there are no water stains left on you from that horrible spinning machine. Just a little rub here and a little rub there. I hope you’re enjoying this pampering. It’s my pleasure to make you feel fresh and new, to relax you after the horror you have endured. You’re becoming nice and dry now, warming up from that cold, icy water. Enjoy this moment of peace and tranquillity. Just a few more rubs with my delicate touch and you’ll feel and look much better. Soon you’ll be real coins with a purpose of the utmost importance; the very thing that every person in the world wants more than anything else – money. Yes, that’s what you are – money. Nothing in the whole Big Wide World means more to anyone than you do. You are the global currency that makes that Big Wide World go around. You’re special. Always have been, always will be. Take my words with you, my friends, and enjoy your existence. It will be a most grand and gracious one. The most wanted of anything.’

Being hand-dried by a towel was the most luxurious feeling the blanks had experienced so far. They wished it would never end. It was bliss. No squashing, squeezing or spinning, and no unbearable heat or freezing-cold water. The blanks hoped the towel-dry would last forever. It spoke so caringly, warmed their nickel and gave them a feeling of grandeur.

Was it true? Were they, the blanks, soon to become money, the most important and special things in the Big Wide World? If so, if it really was true, then all the gruelling pain they’d been put through would be worth it.

‘You’re almost there,’ said the towel. ‘Not long until you become individual coins, enjoying a world that I and the rest of the machines in this factory will never, ever see. You’re all so very, very lucky. Goodbye, now, my friends, and have a wonderful time out there. Make the most of it; I’ve heard it’s a great place to be.’

The towel-drying came to a gentle end, and the blanks travelled further along the production line on another conveyor belt.

Then there came a most unfriendly voice: a huge kiln.

‘I’m the annealing furnace, the tenth step of the coin-making process,’ it snarled, ‘and my job is to toughen you all up. You’re brittle. Each of you could snap easily. You’re weak faceless discs, weak blanks. I’m going to pass you all through my fiery insides and heat you up to make you stronger.’

Then the annealing furnace fell silent, and the blanks passed through its hot belly.

‘I don’t like this,’ the special blank said with a gulp. ‘I want to get out! I want to get out!’

The blanks went through the belly of the furnace time and again. Out the end and back in again four or five times The heat was so intense that they’d have burst into tears if they’d had eyes. Finally they passed through and continued to move forward, far away from the annealing furnace where it was cooler.

But the heat seemed to have worked. The blanks did feel stronger, stronger than ever before.

‘Off you all go,’ the annealing furnace hissed. ‘Off to the eleventh and final stage. You’re one step away from becoming individual coins.’

Then the discs moved along the production line to the coining press.





Chapter 2. The Squeeze of the Coining Press



‘ATTENTION ALL!’ came a loud, bossy, confident bark. The blanks listened intently.

‘I am the coining press, and I’m the one who will give you an almighty squeeze so you get your heads and tails: heads on the top, tails on the bottom. That’s the way we’ve always done it. The top side is called your obverse; it’s where your head will be. The bottom side is your reverse; it’s where your tail will be. The top die will give you your majestic head, and the bottom die will give you ... Oh, let’s see, what tail-side are we dealing with today? Pound coins really are a nuisance. Bottom Die, what tail-side are you giving them today?’

‘Today, the reverse is the leek,’ the bottom die replied.

‘Ah, yes, the leek. There are a lot of tail sides for pound coins like you; too many in fact. I don’t know why they can’t just have the one and have done with it. But that’s the way it is. ATTENTION!’ the coining press called out. ‘This is the legal jibber-jabber I have to tell you, otherwise I get the sack. You’re about to get your heads and tails – your obverse and your reverse. Once you do, you’ll become official pound coins, which is the same as one hundred pennies. Once you’re an official pound coin, you’ll be sterling and legal tender, which basically means you can be used for spending. Her Majesty the Queen says so. And you will also represent Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second. You don’t know who Liz is yet but ask around when you’re out in the Big Wide World. Any coin should be able to tell you. Ha ha! Get it? Tail you.’

There was no response from the blanks.

‘That’s always a wasted joke before stamping. Anyway, back to being serious. You’re made of 70 per cent copper, 5.5 per cent nickel and 24.5 per cent zinc. You are 22.5 millimetres wide and 3.15 millimetres thick, although I’m sure some of you will prove yourselves to be a lot thicker than that. You weigh 9.5 grams; a lightweight in the grand scheme of things. Everything else you need to know will come naturally once your heads and tails have been stamped onto you. That gives you your brain, so to speak. By accepting the strike of the dies you agree to behave in a sterling manor and to remain absolutely quiet and perfectly still when in view of any spenders out in the Big Wide World.

‘ATTENTION, ALL BLANKS! REMAIN STILL! THE DIES ARE ABOUT TO STRIKE.’

There was a clunk, bash and punch.

‘Ow! Oh, my goodness, am I a pound coin now? Am I really a complete individual with my own identity? I feel like I am. I even have a name. My name’s Quid.’

Clunk, punch, bash.

‘Aowwwwww! Wowsers! Hey! I’m a pound coin too. What’s this? It’s not dark anymore. I can see things! I can see! I have a name to. My name’s Bacon.’

Bash, clunk, punch.

‘Ow! I knew it was going to happen to me next! I could just feel it. I’m a pound coin! I feel brilliant. I can speak, and I can see! Oh, my goodness. This is so great; I’m stunned, flabbergasted. I’m finally a pound coin! And my name’s Ego – the best name, the best coin in the whole of the Big Wide World!’

The special blank heard the others and felt the excitement. Then the next thing it knew, it was trapped between the two round die stamps, one above, one below. Both gave an almighty squeeze.

‘Ow!’ the special blank yelped. The squeeze lasted a while longer than it had for the blanks before it. The special blank wiggled and jiggled between the dies. Then the dies released their pressure and the newly made pound coin felt alive; more like a little self, although slightly sick and groggy. And without a name.

‘Whoops! My mechanism jammed on that coin,’ said the top die.

‘No, not again,’ complained the coining press. ‘How long this time?’

‘About three seconds,’ said the top die. ‘It’s not my fault. I’m still waiting for my faulty mechanism to be replaced.’

‘I know it’s not your fault, Top Die,’ said the coining press. ‘But that poor coin won’t be the same as the others after a three-second stamp. I didn’t even hear it cry out a name. Never mind for now. Carry on stamping.’

‘Ow! That stamp hurt,’ the new coin said to itself. ‘And I feel awful – wretched and dizzy. Something must be wrong.’

The dies stamped more faceless blank discs until, eventually, all were official one-pound coins.

‘Do you feel a bit better now?’ the coining press asked. And from all around, hundreds of voices sighed with relief, each shouting, ‘Yes, yes, I feel more like me now.’

But the pound coin that had been stamped for three seconds didn’t feel so good. It felt very ill and very confused.

‘Good, good,’ said the coining press to the jubilant coins. ‘That’s because the dies have imprinted their heads and tails onto you. Now you have your obverse and your reverse. That’s what makes you all feel like you’ve suddenly woken up from a deep, deep sleep. Say thank you to the die casts who’ve done this for you; they work hard to bring you all into the world. They deserve some credit.’

‘Thank you, thank you!’ said hundreds of pound coins all around.

‘And now you have your own heads you can see and speak.’

‘Yes, yes, I can see!’

‘Yes, I can speak!’

‘Right, that’s my job done. No need to tell you anything more about your role. Now you have your own heads and tails you should be aware of everything you need to know: what denomination you are; what your role is as a coin and as part of the global currency; your value and all else that goes with the territory. Give it a few days and it’ll all make sense. Now, off you all go, down the conveyor belt and out of my sight. We’ve got more coins to press.’

The special coin looked up at the coining press – a large sturdy cube that a thousand typhoons wouldn’t budge.

‘I don’t feel well,’ the special coin said. ‘I feel confused and dizzy. Very dizzy. Maybe even ill.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said the coining press. We had a bit of trouble when you were stamped. Your role as a coin won’t come naturally to you like it will to the others. It’ll take you a while to catch onto things. That’s what happens when the stamping process goes wrong. All the information you need to know is there within you, just jumbled up. Like I said, circulate for a while and keep your head-side up and you’ll begin to feel better in time.’

The coin felt sad. This was awful news. A dreadful start.

‘So I’m going to feel dizzy and confused for a while?’ the coin asked the coining press.

‘I’m afraid so, but don’t worry about it for now,’ advised the coining press. ‘Just keep your head-side up and enjoy being a coin. You’ll soon feel much better and less confused.’

‘Well, I’ll try,’ said the coin, bemused and feeling shrugged off. ‘But I don’t even have a name.’

‘Let me help you out. I’ll give you one,’ said the coining press. ‘You can’t go out into the Big Wide World without a name.’

‘Yes, please. I really want to have a name,’ said the coin. ‘I feel very unsure about myself. A name would be a great help.’

The coining press was in a hurry. There were more coins to stamp and it had to name this poor coin quickly.

‘I’m naming you … umm …’ The coining press thought for a moment. ‘I’ll name you Dizzy. How about that?’

‘It’s not quite what I was expecting,’ said the coin.

‘It’ll have to do, I’m afraid,’ the coining press said. ‘Now chin up – you’re British currency so act like it. Off you go now. I’m very busy and have a lot of coins to attend to today.’

The coin was unimpressed. It didn’t want a name that reminded it of how it felt. But it had to accept it. It felt dizzy and it was named Dizzy. An easy name to remember.

Dizzy looked in the direction of the other coins.

It wasn’t so sure it wanted to be a pound coin after the terrible start it had had. This was a shambles.

‘I feel sorry for that coin,’ the coining press told the dies. ‘A three-second stamp will have caused no end of problems. Lack of basic knowledge of its role and an ill feeling that will last for days. It will never survive out in the Big Wide World.’

‘Unfortunately, most of the coins and notes in the Big Wide World are simply horrible and spiteful,’ said the top die. ‘Once they see the mess we’ve made they’ll bully it no end.’

‘I wouldn’t want to be out in the Big Wide World,’ said the bottom die. ‘From what I’ve heard it’s a frightening place.’

Dizzy overheard their comments. And now Dizzy was becoming scared. This wasn’t what the hand towel had promised.

So the Big Wide World wasn’t such a nice place after all, thought Dizzy. It was full of bullies. Am I going to have to be on my guard out there? I’d rather not be a pound coin. I’d rather be something else. I’d rather be something made properly.

‘Move them along,’ barked the coining press to the conveyor belt.

‘Let’s go, let’s go,’ the other coins rallied. ‘Let’s go and start our circulation.’

And off Dizzy went with the rest of the coins, down the conveyor belt to be emptied into the cash container.





Chapter 3. Inside the Cash Container



They were now genuine coins – legal tender. Each had their own identity and a sense of purpose. The stamp on their heads and tails was all they needed to understand the basics of being a pound coin and what their role would be in the Big Wide World.

They knew they’d be used to buy things, that they’d be spent by people, the makers of all money and the rulers of the Big Wide World. They didn’t know what they were going to be spent on, although they hoped it would be something grand and expensive.

But Dizzy didn’t feel so positive. The three-second stamp that should have lasted only a millisecond had affected the poor coin. It felt unwell within itself, unsure of its role, and after the scary account relayed by the coining press and dies, Dizzy was anxious.

The brand-new batch of two thousand glistening pound coins was swiftly put into a cash container and whisked away in a security van. The cash container was a large metal box, strong and solid. The van drove them from the Royal Mint to the bank, where they’d begin their important journey.

It was dark inside the cash container, and the coins were stacked on top of each other in towers. Emotions were mixed. The coins at the bottom were squashed by those above, and those at the top had a chance to feel proud and important.

‘We’re so lucky to finally have our own heads and tails,’ said Quid. ‘Now we can see and be seen.’

‘Yes, see and be seen. Just like the royalty we represent,’ agreed Ego. ‘Aren’t we grand? More important than anything else in the Big Wide World. Just like the hand towel told us.’

‘I don’t feel grand and important,’ Dizzy complained from the bottom of one of the towers. ‘I feel quite useless. I haven’t got a clue what I’m supposed to do as a pound coin. And the weight of you lot is crushing me down here. I feel sick enough as it is.’

‘Stop interrupting my grandiose thoughts with your complaining and be quiet,’ Ego snapped. ‘I’m thinking about the first time I’ll be used to buy something. I can’t wait.’

‘Me neither,’ said Quid. ‘I want to buy a cream cake with chocolate-sauce topping or a colourful superhero toy with lights and sounds.’

‘I want to buy a Ferrari or a mansion,’ Ego said. ‘Or an ocean liner or a space shuttle.’

‘Listen to you,’ said Quid. ‘No wonder your name’s Ego. You’ve just got to choose something a million times better, haven’t you?’

‘Well, yes, but I am a million times better,’ Ego said. ‘I’m a million times better than any coin.’

‘Why are you better?’ Quid asked. ‘We’re the same value. Anything you can buy, I can buy.’

‘That may be so but I’m loaded with luck,’ Ego went on. ‘I can feel it in my nickel. In fact, luck may be my middle name.’

‘Now, now,’ came the thunderous voice of the cash container. ‘No quibbling or squabbling within me. You’re pound coins, and that’s all you are. There are bigger and better bits and pieces than all of you out in the Big Wide World. So quit your nonsense. As a single coin, none of you is worth much; very little in fact. You’ll just about buy a chocolate bar if you’re lucky. More than likely, your circulation will be spent on buying things as a team – five or ten of you. One of you will rarely be enough to buy anything, so start learning to work together.’

The coins fell silent. They hadn’t expected the cash container to tell them off.

There was a bash, a bump and a clunkety-clunk, and the coins swayed to the left, and then the right.

‘What’s going on?’ Dizzy yelled, alarmed. ‘We’re not going back into that spinning machine, are we?’

‘Calm down,’ the cash container ordered. ‘It’s the driver. He often drives like a raging maniac. He wants to get you all from the Royal Mint to the bank quickly.’

‘Goodness. What a careless lunatic,’ Ego muttered.

‘Okay. Now, let’s see who was listening!’ the cash container bellowed. ‘Do you know where you’ve just come from and where you’re going?’

‘We’ve come from hell,’ Dizzy cried. ‘It was horrible. First, I was burning away in the casting furnace, and then I was squashed by—’

‘Stop it, stop it, stop it!’ the cash container said. ‘I’ve heard it all before and I don’t want to hear it again. We’ve all been through it – all of us that are made of metal. We all go into a furnace and get melted down; we all get squashed by one thing or another; we all get bashed into shape. How else do you think we end up the way we are? But we’re made of metal, so act like it and stop complaining.’

The cash container paused, took a deep breath and continued. ‘Where are we all going now, I hear you ask.’

‘Where are we all going now?’ the coins echoed.

‘I’m glad you asked,’ said the cash container. ‘To the bank. Every coin that’s out in the Big Wide World starts their journey from the bank. You’ll be there for a little while. You won’t like it much; it’s a quiet, boring place. But soon you’ll be passed over the counter by one of the cashiers who works at the bank, and then you’ll end up in the pocket or purse of the people you serve.’

‘What? Serve? Me, serve somebody?’ Ego yelled out in disgust. ‘Are you mad? I’m the most important thing in the world. The hand towel said so. I’m not serving anybody.’

‘You’ve got a lot to learn, buddy,’ the cash container said. ‘But you will learn, you will.’

The van came to a stop and the cash container was taken out and rushed into the bank. The coins bounced as the container was dropped on the floor.

‘I do wish he’d learn to put me down gently,’ the cash container mumbled. ‘Every day, the same careless brutality.’

Light shone inside the cash container as the lid was opened.

‘Goodbye, coins,’ the cash container called out. ‘Your journey starts here. Enjoy yourselves.’

Then Dizzy and the other two thousand coins were emptied out of the cash container, split up into groups of a hundred, and slotted into various coin holders within the drawers of the bank clerks’ desks.





Chapter 4. At the Bank



In one of the drawers the coins were driven wild with excitement. The chatter was of beginning their journey and venturing out into the heart of trade; a journey that was only moments away – that great leap into the Big Wide World.

Beyond the drawer were the sounds of hustle and bustle, phones ringing, electronic doors bleeping, the beep, beep, beep of the buttons on the chip-and-pin machines, and the voices of people asking to withdraw sums of money.

Eagerly, the coins waited for that first and most yearned for slide from the coin holder into the cash tray, to be picked up by a spender and put into a pocket, money bag or purse.

Dizzy, however, had no idea what to expect. The three-second stamp had messed up its awareness of role and duty, and the poor coin still felt slightly feverish.

Head-side up, Dizzy. That’s what the coining press had said. Keep your head-side up and don’t let anything beat you. And be on your guard for those bullies.

From the top of the tower came a shriek of excitement.

‘I can see!’ the coin at the top of the tower cried. ‘The coin who was on top of me has been taken and now my head is looking up into the air! I can see. I’m crowning the tower. I’m the crown for the very first time. Come on, somebody, take me. I want to start my journey.’

But at that moment all the customers were asking for five-, ten- and twenty-pound notes.

‘Pardon me for butting in on you all,’ said a strong, sinister voice – an older pound coin in the next tower with eight years of circulation. ‘But you new arrivals sound like freshly made pound coins.’

‘Yes, we are!’ Ego snapped. ‘We have to start somewhere!’

‘Very true,’ the sinister coin said. ‘But let me give you some advice before you enter the Big Wide World.’

‘I’ll be glad for that,’ Dizzy said. ‘I need all the advice I can get. I’m very confused. I don’t even know what I’m doing in this coin holder. Tell us what you can.’

‘The most important thing to know is that we are lucky to be one-pound coins,’ the sinister coin went on. ‘We are of a particularly respected and prestigious value compared to all other coins.’

‘What do you mean?’ Dizzy asked. ‘How?’

‘I mean, you could have been made into a fifty-pence piece, which would have been ghastly,’ said the sinister coin.

‘Oi, you watch who you’re calling ghastly!’ snapped a fifty-pence piece crowning a fifty-pence tower.

‘Or,’ the sinister coin went on, ‘you could have been made into a twenty-pence piece, which would have been an insult.’

‘What a cheek!’ yapped a twenty-pence piece. ‘How dare you refer to me as an insult.’

‘Worse still,’ the sinister coin went on, ‘you could have become a ten- or five-pence piece, which would have been an absolute waste of time.’

‘Shut your gob!’ yelled the fives and tens. ‘You’re right, Twenty. This coin is running us down, as if we’re rusty paper clips.’

‘Even more of a joke,’ the sinister coin went on, ‘you could have become a copper coin like a one-penny or a two-pence piece, which could have quite easily befallen you. And quite frankly, if that had been the case you might as well not have been a coin at all.’

‘Thank you very much!’ shouted a two-pence piece from a tower further down the cash drawer. ‘That’s the nicest thing a higher denomination has said to me in a long time.’

‘If you listen to the one- and two-pence pieces I’ve spoken to out in the Big Wide World,’ the sinister coin told the newer pound coins, ‘all you’ll hear them moaning and groaning about is how they’re always thrown away by their spenders because they’re worthless.’

‘That’s the first honest thing you’ve said,’ the two-pence piece shouted. ‘We spend a day in a shop till, then we’re given out as change for chocolates and crisps, and then thrown onto the ground just like the wrappers. No one cares about us. There’s no fun or adventure in being a copper coin.’

‘You’re not a coin,’ Ego corrected the two-pence piece. ‘Not a real one anyway. You’re a mere pence. A two-pence piece, not a two-pence coin. Pence are inferior to coins.’

‘Typical pound coin,’ the two-pence piece said. ‘Nothing nice to say to a lower denomination.’

‘Please, my new friends.’ The sinister coin giggled. ‘I said that you should consider yourselves lucky to be a pound coin … not be big-headed and arrogant about it.’

A yelp of excitement broke the discussion.

‘Somebody wants me!’ the crowning coin on the new tower cried out. ‘A customer has just asked to withdraw twenty-one pounds. I have to be the one; surely I have to be that one. Hip, hip. Somebody finally wants me.’

‘You’re lucky you’re going out on your own,’ spat the twenty-pence piece. ‘You pound coins usually go out in groups of five.’

‘Yeah, be grateful you’re not,’ said the fifty-pence piece. ‘Or else you’d be stuck in the company of more annoying coins like yourself.’

‘Ha, ha! Your fate is worse than going out with a bunch of other pound coins,’ the sinister coin said. ‘It looks like you’re going out with two ten-pound notes instead. Take that! They’re worse than any pound coin.’

‘I’m going! I’m going!’ the crowning coin cried in delight. ‘Goodbye!’

The cashier slid the coin from the tower and threw it into the cash tray.

‘What are you doing here with us?’ the ten-pound notes groaned. ‘We don’t want to leave here with a measly one-pound coin like you. Go away!’

‘Sorry,’ said the pound coin, ‘you’ll have to put up with me for a short while. Twenty pounds’ worth of misery or not. There’s nothing I can do about it, is there?’

Then a hand came down and swept the coin and notes into its palm, and was gone.

‘Next, please,’ the cashier said. A little old lady came walking up to the counter, dragging her shopping trolley behind.

‘I can’t wait in that post-office queue,’ she said to the cashier. ‘It’s as long as the road to Damascus. Can you change this ten-pound note for ten one-pound coins? I need them for my electric meter.’

Well, here we go, thought Dizzy. My first transaction as a sterling pound coin. I’ll either sink or swim. And judging by the way I’m feeling, I think I’m going to sink. But the coining press had said Dizzy would feel better in time, that it would understand its role better the more it circulated. It just needed to keep a royal eye and ear out for those bullies and give them back everything they give it.

The hand came down and they were off.

Dizzy was grabbed from the tower with nine other pound coins and thrown into the cash tray, passing another miserable ten-pound note.

‘I can’t believe I’m being exchanged for pound coins,’ moaned the ten-pound note. ‘This isn’t what I expected as a senior denomination. They’re not even change. I’m not even buying anything.’

‘Boo hoo,’ Ego jeered. ‘Circulation is just not fair, is it? Ha, ha, ha!’

Then the ten pound coins were picked up by the knobbly and poky fingers of the old lady and dropped into her purse.





Chapter 5. The Old Lady's Purse



A second after seeing light for the first time, Dizzy was plunged back into darkness with the other nine one-pound coins. Then there was a CLICK! as the purse fastened shut.

‘What happened?’ Dizzy asked.

‘I don’t know!’ one of the others replied.

The coins jolted against one another as the purse was dropped into the old lady’s handbag.

‘I want to know what’s going on,’ said Dizzy. ‘I wish I understood all this a bit better.’

‘You’ve been thrown into the old dear’s purse,’ came a snappy voice. ‘There’s nothing complicated about that, is there?’

‘Who’s that?’ Ego demanded.

‘Who are you?’ the voice countered.

‘We are prestigious one-pound coins. Now, who are you and what is your value?’

‘We’re a set of front-door keys – Chubb Key and Yale Key – and our value is indefinable,’ the voice snapped back.

‘Front-door keys?’ Ego tutted. ‘I’ve just begun my circulation; remind me what that is and what you do.’

‘We let your new owner in and out of her home. We’ve been in this purse for the best part of twenty-four years, so know your place and have some respect for our hierarchy.’

‘My goodness,’ Ego responded with a giggle. ‘A hierarchy. Whatever gave you that impression? Twenty-four years inside this shabby place is hardly what I’d call the dwelling of a hierarchy.’

‘Well, bet your bottom penny, pound coin, that we’re indispensable compared to you. You can be lost and another pound coin found to replace you in no time. If we’re lost, it causes this old lady no end of trouble.’

‘If you’re lost another passer-by will see you and leave you there because they have no use for you,’ said Ego. ‘If we’re lost every passer-by will be happy to pick us up because we’re useful to all of them.’

The keys tutted.

‘All these pound coins are the same,’ Chubb said to Yale. ‘Each wants to climb the ladder of superiority once they end up in this purse.’

‘And quite rightly so,’ said Ego.

‘Thankfully, you won’t be in here long,’ Chubb snapped. ‘Once this old dear gets home, you’re destined to land in her electricity meter like all the other pound coins before you. That’s all the good you are to her.’

The coins and the keys began to sway from side to side as the old lady picked up the purse and opened it. The magnificent brightness of daylight shone in, and those who were heads up saw the woman’s face as she held the purse up to her eyes and glared in. The nostrils of her big nose inflated with concentration as her beady eyes scanned. Then, nibbly-knobbly fingers came into the purse and poked about, knocking all of the coins from one side to the other.

‘What’s she doing? What’s going on?’ Dizzy yelled.

‘This is where we leave you miserable tykes for a moment and do our job,’ the keys said.

Then the old lady picked up the keys. The purse clicked shut.

‘Well, I’m glad that miserable pair have gone,’ Dizzy said. ‘They seemed like bullies to me. And I want to go as well. I don’t want to stay in this dark, stuffy purse a moment longer.’

And just as Dizzy spoke, there came a distant cry as the keys’ teeth slid into the lock of a door and twisted. An almighty clunk followed.

‘Aaahhh!’

‘Actually, that doesn’t sound very good,’ Dizzy said. ‘I think I’ll stay where I am.’

A moment later the keys were dropped back into the purse.

‘I do wish she’d learn to open that door with a gentler hand,’ Yale said. ‘She’s got a terrible habit of forcing the lock. The lock hates her – says she cringes whenever she sees the old dear walking up the garden path.’

Ego laughed. ‘So you don’t have such a great existence after all. That’s all I wanted to know!’

Light came into the purse once again as it clicked open.

‘Ha ha back to you lot,’ said the keys. ‘You’re going into the electric meter, and you’re going to stay there for a long time. It gets emptied once a month.’

The coins, whose heads were up, looked in horror as the nibbly-knobbly fingers of the old lady fished around, tightly pinching them one by one.

One was put into the slot of the electricity meter and clinked onto the other coins inside. One after another, the coins were picked out. Then the poky fingers came closer and closer to Dizzy, the last pound coin in the purse. The coin braced itself in fear as the fingers pinched it by the head and tail and pulled it out.

‘And number ten,’ the old lady said as Dizzy glided through the air towards the slot of the meter.

‘What’s happening?’ Dizzy cried. ‘Am I going into that electric meter? What is an electric meter? Will somebody please tell me what’s going on? Why did I have to become a blasted mis-struck pound coin?’

‘Cheerio, Your Majesty.’ The keys laughed. ‘Enjoy an eternity in the darkness.’

‘And have a nice time getting your heads jammed in the lock every time you open it ... for the rest of your days,’ Dizzy yelled back to the bullying keys.

Dizzy was slotted into the meter, and dropped.





Chapter 6. Inside the Electric Meter



Dizzy landed with a bump.

‘Mind where you’re landing,’ came a frightful yell from Ego.

‘Sorry,’ Dizzy said. ‘It wasn’t my fault. The old lady dropped me in.’

It was dark, warm and cramped and there were many other coins inside. Dizzy sat at the top of the pile.

‘I just want the electricity man to come and collect us all,’ one of the coins at the bottom moaned. ‘I’ve been stuck here with you lot on top of me for a week.’

‘I sympathise with you,’ Dizzy said. ‘I was stuck at the bottom of the cash container for only an hour and that was awful.’

‘One week in the squash zone is nothing,’ a pound coin said cheerfully. ‘Some coins stay there for months.’

‘It’s all right for you,’ the one at the bottom said. ‘Wait until you’re beneath thrity coins and then let’s see if you’re still so full of beans.’

‘I’ve been in the squash zone many times,’ the cheerful coin said. ‘In a phone box, fruit machine, drinks machine … the list goes on. And beneath a lot more than thirty coins.’

‘Ah, the old phone boxes,’ another coin said. ‘I do miss them. I made many friends in those.’

‘Ten more coins in here means ten more coins on top of me,’ the one at the bottom went on. ‘I hate ending up in places like this. It’s always dark and a tight squeeze, and I always end up here at the bottom. I suffer from claustrophobia and shouldn’t be treated this way.’


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