A little rite of passage for my daughter yesterday. We live in busy west London, where even adults cross the street in fear of the vans and cabs that seem to swerve to hit them (elderly pedestrians score more, I guess) so I hope you’ll understand if we’ve been reluctant to say, up until now: “Sure, darling. You go and meet your friends in the park a mile away.”
And as the father I added, in my paranoid head,
. . . a mile away, down King Street in Hammersmith, crossing eleven different side roads, with how many dangerous strangers clocking you as you pass? WHAT KIND OF MAD FOOL AM I TO LET HER OUT?
But it has to happen one day, and yesterday it did. The front door opened and off she went. My daughter left the house alone, front door key in pocket. Down the high road. A mile of busy pavement and intersections. Left at the park gates. Meeting friends. Going to the café in the park. Oh, and trying to pay with a Scottish banknote and being refused.
The phone rang. As parents we rushed to it, full of fear. Had she been mown down? Abducted? None of those – she had been told that she was trying to pay with toy money.
No, my wife told her firmly on the phone, you go back and tell them a Scottish note is real.
“They won’t accept it,” our daughter replied. It was a fiver like the one below. Apparently not legal tender in Hammersmith.
I checked the café website.
Come rain or shine, Fait Maison The Tea House is a great place to meet friends in the beauty of Ravenscourt Park.
“Unless,” they might have added, “You try to pay with one of these.”
As I say, it was a rite-of-passage day. One of the lynchpin moments in any English adolescence is trying to pay for something with a Scottish banknote and being refused.
An adult can handle the knockback, and would probably respond by arguing about “legal tender” and standing firm. An eleven-year-old girl does not have the confidence to do that.
So my child was sent away from the till with her money. In the end her friends paid, but I could tell she was a little mortified — and confused. Coincidentally, we have just returned from a two-week holiday in the Highlands where I tried to explain the complications of the Scottish position in the UK.
“But are we in the same country?” my two daughters asked. “Absolutely we are. For now, yes,” I told them.
It seems I was wrong. Hammersmith has already declared independence.