Wednesday, 25 November 2009

You can't give it away.............

I have a friend called Chris who could not be a better play buddy for me! We have our own wavelength. He's an unusual chap in many ways and very confident about not being mainstream (He lives in a wood). I suspect he will pop up on my blog several times as we have had so much fun together.

A couple of Christmases ago, Chris bought two empty advent calendars well in advance of December. I had one, he had the other and the idea was, we both filled the twenty four (approximately one cube inch) boxes for each other to open - as you would an advent calendar.

There was a paper-people chain (that went on and on), trick sweets, a treasure hunt start clue (that lead to a box of chocolates), a squashed up sponge person, a ‘keep off the grass sign’ on a lawn, a decision dice, many things I cannot remember now - even though we scored each day's offering out of ten. However, the single best box in both calendars was one Chris did for me: a box jammed full with twelve, one pound coins with the instructions, 'You must give away each of these coins to twelve different people that you do not know.’

This might sound easy, but it is not. Giving money away is so outside the behaviour of a ‘normal’ person that it arouses wary suspicion at best. I tried handing it to people randomly in Norwich city centre but most people refused the coin and more often than not my actions induced a scowl! In fact the only person that did receive a coin was a teenager whom I caught off-guard because his hand was sticking out and I managed to place the coin in it. He looked back at me once he realised what he was holding and my daughter (who was sat on the bench beside me) just smirked and said, ‘I know, crazy isn’t it?’ and the lad moved on.

I cheated a bit and put one coin in a busker’s stash. I put one on the ground of a busy street and sat nearby watching it but nobody picked it up, so I felt I had to reclaim it (rules are rules). After considerable time and effort on this task, I decided it was too difficult in a city centre and went home.

That evening, I went out to a regular Friday musical event in Jurnet’s Bar, Norwich. The event typically attracts musicians, artists and outcasts from the majority! I figured giving money away would be easy here. I was wrong. One middle-aged man was so offended he practically threw the money back at me. I thought explaining the reason for my actions would help, but it didn’t. He was still offended! ‘I don’t need your money,’ he forcefully insisted. I had clearly pressed a button of some kind - money is a potentially emotive issue for most of us, I know! I tried younger people but they too were reluctant to receive.

In the end, I resorted to giving the money away with an explanation about the advent calendar and the mission I had been set. People still looked at me as if I was completely unhinged, but, at last, they would accept the money. In fact, a couple of people even went on to smile and say, ‘thank you!’


  1. Your blogs are a breath of fresh air. Read through some of your old ones too. Cant really grasp what your job entails! Perhaps its an age thing. Keep on blogging, you're good!

  2. Thank you Grumpy Old Ken - that's very kind of you to say and it makes me glow inside.

    My job is basically persuading schools to teach sex ed!

  3. Interesting post.

    I have met Satish Kumar many times (long story - fascinating man)- he walked from India to the UK in the Sixties, without carrying any money, relying on peoples charity. He did a similar UK pilgrimage a few years ago.

    Strange that we are more willing to give than receive - but heartening too.


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