A cashless world, but does this mean an end to 'lucky money?'

A cashless society, political correctness and health and safety gone mad and nothing staying the same — where will it all lead? Maybe it’s as well we don’t know, says John Arnold in his weekly column
A cashless world, but does this mean an end to 'lucky money?'

WHEN CASH WAS KING: O’Reilly’s tripe and drisheen shop at the English Market, Grand Parade, in 1959. Ref: 904K

WE have a hot water tap on the side of the house. I think that when my late father installed the Rayburn cooker around 1951 he put the ‘outside’ tap on the gable end wall of the house.

It’s been a Godsend over the decades because many’s the time you’d need boiling water in the yard for farming chores. It might be simply to wash very dirty wellingtons or mix a bucket of ration for hens or pigs, or sometimes the vet might need it when doing animal surgery.

Rather than tramping through the kitchen to the sink with mucky boots on, ’tis very handy to have the water on tap outside in the yard.

We changed the Rayburn from solid fuel to oil more than 40 years ago and now it’s going, as they say, 24/7, so hot water is in abundant supply, morning, noon and night.

The most amazing thing is the tap itself — it’s the very same original one installed by my father all those years ago and still perfect.

Some things never change and more things are changing all the time. Take money, for instance. When I was young, truly it could be said that ‘cash was king’. Looking back on old farm dockets and accounts, I’d say ’twas maybe in the late ’60s or early ’70s that the cheque book became popular — at least here on our farm.

On all the older receipts, you’d see ‘Received from Mrs M Arnold’ such and such an amount, with the word cash at the end. Most day to day bills for household and farm requisites were paid in cash, the notes long ago seemed much bigger and God knows they were worth more too!

Faith, as a youngster if I was the proud possessor of an orange ten bob note, sure the world was my oyster. I remember one year we didn’t collect the blackberry money from Carrs of Curraglass for maybe three or four weeks, and then we got a new crisp ten pound note — I suppose t’would be the equivalent today, half a century later, of €500.

Ah yes, money was money then and I feel we had more meas in it!

Who would have thought back then that a time would come when money could issue forth from a ‘hole in the wall’, or that by typing a series of numbers and letters on a keyboard of a computer, that one could complete a financial transaction, buying or selling something and ne’er a coin or a note changing hands?

Yes indeed, all’s changed, utterly changed. I suppose it’s what we call progress in some ways. No good, I suppose,in looking back through rose-tinted glasses at the way we were because change is inevitable.

Well, I was thinking the other night as I scribbled these few lines on my computer that it’s just over 600 weeks since I wrote my first column, about ‘Dung’ for this paper. Yes, well, over ten years, lads — where have the weeks, months and years gone?

Even in that decade, I’ve half learned to type with one finger, failed to master the concertina (so far, but hope springs eternal), lost most of my hair and got a credit card.

To tell the truth, I was slow in getting that self same credit card. Being able to spend money that I haven’t got was always a bit of an alien concept for me but I’ve adapted somewhat.

Memorising mathematical formulae like pin numbers was never my strong point but in fairness to men I’ve trained my mind to overcome such mental shortcomings.

I’ve used this plastic card yoke sparingly, only when I was stuck —usually when the ‘petrol’ light came on in the car and I far from home and not a note in my phóca.

In recent years, I’ve got handy with the card in paying bills and the like and I was advised to change my pin number from 1, 2, 3, 4, which I have done and haven’t been the victim of any class of fraudulent cyber-crime.

I started off this piece about an hour ago with the story of the hot tap, — well, that’s what’s worrying me sorely nowadays. It’s not our tap on the wall at home but the latest financial fiddle, faddle of a tapping card in shops.

I had just about educated myself (few still believe that I failed Pass maths in the Leaving Cert in 1973) in the intricacies of the famous credit card — insert correctly, type in the PIN, wait for instructions and take the receipt — and now they’re telling me I must start tapping.

The newest thing now is for smallish transactions, under twenty quid or so, you’ve only to tap the plastic card on the machine thingabob and, by jingo or some other hidden microchip, it knows my number and the deal is done.

Do ye remember the time when we first started getting chips — after a dance usually and with a good sprinkle of vinegar? Now there’s chips in nearly everything and hardly anyone ating them at all. Fair play to the boyos that invented them, as Goldsmith might say, and still they gazed and still the wonder grew, how one small chip could carry all it knew.

I have deep reservations about this tap card phenomenon — it seems that we are truly on the road to a cashless society. What would Will Rogers make of it at all? He was the man who is reputed to have said ‘The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket!’

It will be great for security of course — bank robberies and cash in transit heists will become distant memories. That’s grand, but when you’d sell a cow or a bullock, you’d always give a few bob in ‘luck money’ to the buyer, in recent years I usually give €5 or €10.

I suppose it’s an old archaic custom of bygone years but the idea was and is that the buyer of the stock might have good luck with the animals — and he’d be back next year to buy more!

What’ll we do now? Give him a swipe or a tap on the head or hand?

On the day of a christening, there was always an old custom of leaving a few bob within the cot of the newborn — will babies have to open their own tap-able account now before the ceremony?

In Ireland, the notion of ‘giving a stand’ to someone, especially at Communion or Confirmation time, was a grand old tradition — gone with the wind now.

Wren Boys calling to the house on St Stephen’s Day are getting scarcer by the year, when the ‘tap’ cashless world becomes a reality they’ll be as scarce as hens’ teeth.

I do believe I am fairly old fashioned, but then again that’s no crime. A cashless society, political correctness and health and safety gone mad and nothing staying the same — where will it all lead? Maybe it’s as well we don’t know.

I presume it wont be long before shaking hands, hugging, winking, laughing, practical joking, flirting and courting will all be banned. My motto is to embrace life, laugh, love and friends — I’ll try and keep tapping away... with the one finger!

They say life has just two rules.

The First Rule is ‘Never Quit’, and the Second Rule is ‘Always Remember the First Rule’.

Go on ya boya, don’t mind your auld tap.

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