Chipmunks, Ewes and Wales
I was in Wales, or more
specifically, I was in Viki’s hardware and pet store in the
poor Pontycymmer district, where houses could be purchased for as
little as 16,000 pounds. But nobody wants to live in Pontycymmer.
There’s no work there since they closed down the coal mines,
and the buildings are in need of major renovations, if they can be
salvaged at all.
So there I was, watching
a chipmunk doing backflips in his cage and wondering why Viki had
put a Not For Sale sign on this animal which could’ve sold for
a small fortune.
unusual combination to mix pets with hardware, but Viki is not your
average Welsh lady. She’s only pint sized but she’s a
bundle of energy and the backbone of LETS Garw (pronounced Garoo)
which has only been going since September this year.
and Lita battle it out for the Best Dressed Sheep contest.
Later that night, Viki
attended the LETS event dressed as a sheep (yes, a sheep!) in an effort
to win the ‘Best dressed sheep award’ which she’d
thought up and was determined to win. Lita, my host in nearby Bridgend
gave her some competition when she came dressed as a black sheep,
but failed to win against the little white lamb. The relevance of
the sheep was name of their group’s currency, called ewes. And
they had a bit of fun with it, writing ‘I owe ewe’ on
the covers of their LETS Garw cheque books.
This LETS event was being
held in the Ffaldau Pub and started off with my LETS presentation.
This was well received by everyone present, and immediately followed
by a LETS Silent Auction. Even I was tempted to place a bid on a couple
of small items. All items for sale were donated by LETS members (to
raise cash for the group funds) and the hottest bidding was for a
set of 6 miniature bottles of Liquor. Viki was the first to bid on
it and the one to make the final and winning bid. A total of 92 pounds
was raised on the night, and everyone left with some great bargains
under their arms.
The next day, Lita and
her son Dave (15), took me on a tour of their area.
“Where would you
like to go?” Lita asked.
“What about that
town with 58 letters in it’s name?” I asked.
“You mean, “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch”
she said. “Well, that’s about a 6 hour drive from here,
and there’s nothing interesting there at all.”
“OK,” I said,
“then what about Tom Jones’ house?”.
“We could got there”,
she said, “but he doesn’t live there any more. There’s
just a small sign saying this is where he used to live.”
“No point in doing
that,” I said. “Where else can we go?”
you might enjoy going to the Museum of Welsh Life.”
house at the Museum of Welsh Life.
The museums in Wales are
all free to the public. And, not willing to be outdone by their smaller
and poorer neighbour, England soon followed suit with this generous
offer to the public.
The Museum of Welsh Life
is a large property displaying historical buildings which have been
collected and transported from all over the country. So in the space
of a couple of hours, visitors can get a realistic view of what life
was like in Wales throughout the ages. It was a cold day, and every
building we entered had an open fireplace going. Unfortunately, the
air-circulation wasn’t the best in some of them, so we only
stayed inside for short periods at a time. But even more unfortunate
were the building attendants who had to endure the smoke-filled buildings
in order to answer all the visitors inquisitive questions.
Two buildings made a particularly
First of all was the building
of the future, which included many energy saving features and used
many recycled materials in it’s construction. So it was cheap
to build and cheap to run, as well as being very pleasing to the eye.
And the other memory was
seeing a long table in the city hall building, something like a cross
between a pool table and 3-ball billiards table. It had only 2 pockets
and several concave holes in it. One end was straight and the other
end was sem-circular.
I asked the young girl attendant.
“I think it’s
called a Bagatelle”, she said uncertainly.
Then as I walked
into an adjacent room, I realized that it was a library with lots
of old books in it. And one of the books was a set of old Encyclopaedia
Britannica. Surely it would tell me what it was. So after getting
permission from the attendant to look it up (I think she was just
as interested as me), I found it very quickly. Under “Bagatelle
Pool Table” was a drawing of the table and a description of
how the game was played. You can always rely on EB, I said to myself,
recalling the days I worked for this amazing company back in the early
Edgar Cahn, founder of Time Dollars.
Banks and LETS Auctions
John Rogers, my host in
Brecon, Wales, was working for the Wales Institute for Community Currencies
(WICC). Fortunately I was visiting him during the same week Dr. Edgar
Cahn, founder of Time Dollars, was invited to participate in a Time
Banks seminar for WICC.
I was always curious about
the difference between LETS and Time Banks, and today that difference
became very obvious.
Time Banks are favoured
by non-profit organisations who traditionally use volunteers to carry
out their work. Time Banks give these organisations a way of rewarding
their volunteers with Time Dollars which can be spent at participating
businesses which accept part payment of purchases in Time Dollars.
Time Banks are reliant on government funding to employ a Time Banks
co-ordinator to oversee the running of a Time Bank System. When they
can get the funding, Time Banks works very well for all those involved.
But LETS, or Local Exchange
Trading Systems, is a group of people in a small community all agreeing
to exchange goods and services with each other without the need for
cash. This can be achieved with or without government funding, and
with or without a hosting organisation.
The following night, after
giving my LETS Favours presentation to my hosting group, South Poweys
LETS, I was asked to act as auctioneer for their LETS Auction. I’d
never done this before, but I was keen to try. John Rogers, the group’s
regular auctioneer, started it off superbly, and soon he was checking
to see if I still wanted to give it a go. I sure did.
And seeing I got a few
laughs and almost everything sold, I guess I did pretty well for a
If you’ve never had
a LETS Auction in your group, I can strongly recommend it. Members
are asked to bring things from home to be auctioned off for LETS currency.
Some of the more expensive items have a reserve price which needs
to be met before a sale is finally accepted, but most of the items
have no reserve at all, and are sold for whatever bid can be obtained.
This is a great way for members to clear out unwanted items from their
homes, and it’s an excellent way for members to pick up unbelievable
bargains without paying any cash. And when you combine it with some
food and drinks brought in by the members, it becomes a very enjoyable
and social evening as well.
Wales has only got 3 million
of UK’s 60 million population, and one third of the Welsh people
speak Welsh. In fact, it’s almost like driving through a foreign
country with all road signs written in both English and Welsh!
But the tension this week
wasn’t between the English and Welsh. It was between the English
and Australians! Yes, I was in Wales on Saturday, November 22, when
Australia and England fought it out for the World Cup Rugby Final.
I was due to leave for London that afternoon, so I’d packed
my bags and accompanied my host, Geoff, to the Walkabout Hotel in
Newport, near the English border. All the Welsh were cheering for
the Australians because England had eliminated them from the finals
in an earlier qualifying round. And as you may already know, England
won the World Cup in an exciting finish. By the final siren, both
teams were tied, so another 2 quarters of 10 minutes each had to be
played to find an outright winner. And the winning goal was kicked
by England only seconds before the end of the second time on period.
But that disappointment
wasn’t the only thing which went wrong for me that day. Because
of the time-on periods, I missed my bus going back to England. And
because my ticket was bought on the internet, it was non-refundable,
and I had to buy another ticket out of my own pocket to get back.
There was an extra 2 hours
to wait before the next bus at 3.00pm, so I bought a couple of Snickers
bars (at 47 cents each) to snack on in the meantime. But I had to
make a couple of phone calls to notify my hosts about the change in
my arrival time, so I needed two 20 cent pieces.
“Can you change this
pound?” I asked, politely handing over a one pound coin.
“Sorry, but we don’t
give change,” the girl replied. “We’d run out of
change if we did that.”
This surprised me because
I was a paying customer. Surely I deserved some special attention.
And I desperately needed to make those phone calls. So how could I
get two 20 cent pieces?
“Then I don’t
want the second Snickers bar,” I said, pushing one of the Snickers
bars back towards her.
So she obliged and gave
me 47 cents back, including two 20 cent pieces. Mission accomplished
As soon as I pocketed my
change, I took out another pound and said, “I’ll have
another Snickers bar please.”
She took my pound and gave
me 53 cents change.
I said, happy to have my 2 Snickers bars again as well as a couple
of 20 cent pieces.
you do the same?
article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey
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