So, The Bank of England is withdrawing the face of Elizabeth Fry, the social
reformer, from our fivers, I remarked to Brassica, as I handed over a
couple of the aforementioned notes to the Costamuchamoulah cafe
assistant, in exchange for two Mochas and a shared chocolate slice.
Yes, but apparently there is a mystery female in reserve, in case
Churchill doesn’t turn out well in the engraving, Brassie elaborated.
Oh yes! I joked.
Brassie had a choco-powder moustache, but I wasn’t about to lean over and
erase it from her upper lip; Saatchi has deterred cafe goers everywhere from
making physical contact with their companions in public.
So, apart from the Queen, we are to have no female physiognomies on our
banknotes, I continued. Except in Scotland. I suppose that still
counts as the UK. The Scots have Mary Slessor, the missionary, and Elsie
Inglis, the suffragette, on their notes. But I bet they wouldn’t be accepted if
tendered in Costamuchamoulah.
The Scots or their currency? Brassie quipped.
Possibly both, I replied. I certainly couldn’t envisage a frugal Mary Slessor, nor
an earnest Inglis dropping by for a cappuccino and a tranche of Polenta cake.
Well, Brassie kept up the conversational momentum. There are some
names being currently proposed, such as Linda Lovelace.
I think you mean Ada Lovelace, the mathematician, I clarified, rather
pompously. There is a difference between deep maths and Deep Throat.
Anyway, your suggestion was an American.
Was she? Brassie said vaguely. She had detected the chocolate smear
and was concentrating on removing it. I thought Jane Austen had been
Well, she certainly understood currency, I agreed. And her brother, Henry had
a branch of his bank not too far from Suttonford, didn’t he? At least, before it
went bust and he joined the church! As someone who supported the concept
of thrift, maybe Jane would be a good choice.
We ought to canvass Costamuchamoulah customers, said Brassie brightly,
and then we could present a petition containing the most popular female
names to Mark Carney, when he takes up his new job as Bank of England
Governor, at the beginning of July.
Oh, he’ll probably be too busy at Wimbledon, I said. Mervyn King is always in
the Royal Box, so he’ll probably reserve a seat for him. Mind you, there’s
probably some Suttonfordians heading for Centre Court in the next week or
We could ask them to present our findings to him, even if he is off-duty, I
suppose, I granted.
Good idea! concurred Brassie and she was off with her paper napkin and a
pen before the starting gun had been fired. (I think she gets her prematurity
of behaviour from Cosmo, by all accounts.)
The first caffeine addict she approached was too quick to promote Maggie
Thatcher, which was predictable, given the territory, but I could see one or
two others within earshot- not difficult in Costamuchamoulah!- looking flushed,
or maybe enraged by the suggestion. So, before any iced cupcakes were
hurled by covert Lib Dems, I turned to an intelligent-looking female with a
laptop, in the corner.
What about George Eliot? she proffered.
Nah, love, interrupted one of two local workmen who could afford a daily fix
at this elite establishment. (I had previously observed their regularity of
attendance at about 3pm each day-an unsurprising habit, supported by the
prices they charge for basic DIY and maintenance. Mid afternoon seemed to
be their premature knocking off time. Not in any way a reference to
Cosmo’s entirely different, connubial activities, I must add.)
Nah! We were discussing wimmen, weren’t we? Not blokes! That Katherine
Jenkins is a bit of all right, i’n’t she? Whoarr! I wouldn’t mind seeing her on
a fifty quid note-preferably as Lady Godiva.
Yes, I suppose you handle a fair few of those denomination, I remarked
caustically. But she is Welsh, isn’t she? Maybe they will get their own
currency, or perhaps they’ll revert to Anglesey Druidic pennies.
I bet they wouldn’t charge her as much as they do for services rendered to
local households headed up by femmes d’un certain age!
Educated conversation is completely lost on the average Suttonfordian, I find.
No wonder they didn’t recognise the pseudonym of dear old Mary Ann Evans.
I expect that is why I seek an international audience, Dear Reader. So, I
refrained from adding my own Trinity of female talent: Acton, Ellis and Currer
I especially like the way that the male has been airbrushed out of the
picture. (Branwell knew that he wouldn’t be appearing on any bill of promise.)
The girl behind the counter suddenly said: What about Good Queen Bess?
Better, admitted Brassie, but there is a new book out by someone called
Steve Berry, which suggests that she was a man in disguise.
Maybe she had a moustache.
Or drank too many Mochas, I teased.
Women sometimes had to dress as men to achieve recognition, said
Brassie thoughtfully. You know, like Pope Joan.
I know, said the girl, who clearly hadn’t bee lstening. What about Helen
Well, I faltered. She was born Mirronoff, but I suppose she is as English as
the present Royals , so maybe she is as good a choice as any.
Yeah! Get her name down on your list, girls, approved what we might
laughingly term the ‘workmen’. She looked pretty good in Calendar
Girls and Costa here could supply the strategic cupcakes, couldn’t you,
I’m sorry, sirs. We don’t accept these, said the assistant, returning their
Mary Slessor. She would have in the normal scheme of transactions, but
customers who cheapened their brand by abbreviating its title were
personae non gratae. They had to substitute the note with another from
their rubber-banded wads of paper currency but left, quite cheered by their
ideal candidate for financial commemoration. They were only aware of one
promotional photo of the aforesaid actress and it was from a fair number
of years ago. They thought it would do nicely.
Number One: Helen Mirren, wrote Brassie on the napkin.