Money: Cash, Credit or Debit? Part One – Cash

Since arriving in the U.K. a month ago, I have some surprises and frustrations when it comes to dealing with money, not unexpectedly, of course. I knew I’d encounter some initial hiccups and was warned by previous Fulbright recipients of what I might run up against while trying to live and work in another country.

But first, here’s some of the cash – or, pound notes:

They are prettier than American dollar bills and remind me of Canadian money in the color, texture, and size. I would imagine the coloring helps it to be less likely a target for counterfeiting. The oval shape in the middle (see where someone wrote a secret code?) is a watermark, so when you hold it to the light you see the queen’s portrait. Other security features include a hologram and these features. The other people on the bills are Charles Darwin and Adam Smith (A Scottish philosopher and economist). Bills not shown: an old paper £5 note, features Elizabeth Fry (prison reformer), the new replacement polymer £5 showcasing Winston Churchill, and the £50, which has steam engine inventors Boulton and Watt. The paper five will go out of circulation on May 2017, so if you got them, use or deposit them! (The identity and type of current banknotes from the Bank of England website.) The other paper notes will be replaced in subsequent years.

Mostly, I carry around a bunch of pound coins.From a Bank of England’s currency standpoint, they last much, much longer than paper notes. The drawback? Soooo heavy.

Starting at about the two o’clock position, the coins are Pence (slightly larger than a US penny), Two Pence, Five Pence, Ten Pence (at the bottom), Twenty Pence (with angled cut), Fifty Pence, A Pound (smaller than a quarter), and Two Pounds. The pound coin is thicker than the others – and heavier – which is helpful when blindly digging into a pocket or purse to find tip money.


If you were around before 1971, you would have used a different monetary system in England, with a 240 based, instead of a 100. (Argh! The Maths!) Here’s a clear explanation of guineas, crowns, shillings, and bobs. Well, as clear as a money system based on 240 can be! Thankfully, I can use one similar to the U.S. system, which helps in conversions and factoring taxes or tips.

Cash is commonly used in England, much more so than the U.S., and tipping is not as common, as workers are paid a living wage (unlike US waitstaff, for instance). Those are topics for the next post!

I posted the math problem below on Facebook, leading to tears, gnashing of teeth, and general angst. My mathematically inclined friends, though, thought it was awesome! What do you think?

Here’s a little math problem for you…
The average price of gas in Burlington, Vermont, is $2.222 and is sold by the gallon.
The average price of petrol in Nottingham, UK, is 112.2p and sold by the liter.
One British pound is equivalent to 1.30 US dollars.
The US gallon is used in the United States and is equal to exactly 3.785411784 litres.
The number one selling car in the UK is the Ford Fiesta, which has a fuel capacity of 41 litres.
The fuel capacity of a Ford Fiesta in the US is 12.4 gallons.
1) Express how much Nigel in the UK will pay for a full tank in both dollars and pounds, as well as how much Jasmine in the US will pay for a full tank in both dollars and pounds.
2) What is the difference in prices of fuel between Notts & BTV?
3) What is the size difference of the Ford Fiesta tank in the UK vs the US?
4) What is your theory on the difference in tank sizes between a Ford Fiesta in the UK vs the US?

A Baroness, a Lord, and Marjorie

The Fulbright organization in London arranged for us to tour Parliament and go into the House of Lords meeting room. parliament

It wasn’t until we arrived I saw the tour was actually conducted by  Victor Akinbile, one of the members of the House of Lords. From Parliamentary
news site:  “That this House applauds the Serjeant at Arms on his appointment of Victor Akinbile, the first ethnic minority representative from the office of the Serjeant at Arms to sit in the House of Commons chamber in parliamentary history; and supports further measures to increase diversity in House of Commons staff, whilst continuing to hire on merit, to reflect the multiculturalism of the UK.” 


Lord Victor Akinbile

He told us about his appointment, which was primarily due to his community service and activism. In addition, he explained how he takes his position very seriously and works diligently to read up on all of the matters before the House of Commons, whom they advise. The House of Commons representatives are elected and make legal and financial decisions. The House of Lords advices and counsels the others, but does not enact laws. For more information, read here. The Prime Minister has great power, much more than the U.S. President, which was under consideration when the Founding Fathers first drafted the Constitution and government of the United States. While we were walking Lord Akinbile asked me what I was researching whilst in England. When I told him I was looking into how the U.K. educates traditionally underserved populations in the U.S., such as children of poverty and underrepresented minorities, he said, “Oh, I can answer that for you.” I waited. He asked, “Are you ready?” I told him I was and poised my pen on my paper. “They don’t!” His laugh boomed and bounced off the marble walls and steps. “Did you get that?” Later, he added, “And it’s about to get worse.”

The photos below: A stained glass window in the entry hall of Parliament (top left) and one of the many marble statues (bottom left). The ceiling in the great entry hall needed to be able to hold much weight and breadth. Since the U.K. was know for its great naval fleet, they designed the ceiling like an upside down ship hull. (middle) The long hallway leading to the House of Lords meeting room. As the government grows, they are outgrowing this historical building and will someday need to relocate.

Another one of the highlights of the day was meeting The Baroness Andrews OBE (Elizabeth Kay Andrews), who is the Deputy Chairman of Committees and part of the Labour party. She explained how the House of Lords reads up on all of the materials in order to advise the House of Commons. Fortunately, I was able to sit next to her in the meeting room. In front of her was an extremely thick booklet: How to Exit from the EU

When she learned of my research topic, she told me, “Wait until you see what Theresa May is announcing later today about grammar schools. You’ve definitely come at the right time.” (Later that evening, I discovered Prime Minister May had made a quite controversial stand regarding the implementation of new grammar schools, which critics claim will set the country back to the 1950s and lead to greater segregation. This article, from The Guardian, uses educational studies to disprove Theresa May’s claims.

Oh, this picture? Just me hanging out with the Baroness and David Pinto-Duschinsky.


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David Pinto-Duschinsky, Marjorie Light, and Baroness Andrews

Mr. David Pinto-Duschinsky is an advisor to the House of Lords and a trustee for St. Giles trust. According to his Linkedin profile, he is a  “Member of top leadership of SCB’s Africa business, reporting directly to Africa CEO and sitting on bank’s Africa Management Committee. SCB is one of Africa’s largest banks…”  Mr. Pinto-Duschinsky gave an amazing talk to the Fulbright recipients (Scholars, Distinguished Teachers, and Visiting Professors), which will be featured in a future blog post.

Marjorie Goes Mudlarking

One of my first memories of the word “mudlark” was from an Anne Perry novel. In these British mysteries showing the underbelly of the Victorian era, a mudlark is murdered near the Thames in the Thomas & Charlotte Pitt series. Later, in her Inspector William Monk series, Hester, his force-of-nature wife, brings home a mudlark boy.


The banks are strewn with bits of pottery, shells, and glass. The red color is from brick fragments and pieces.

So, what’s a mudlark? A person who made their living by searching for anything of value in the mud along the river banks at low tide. In London, the Thames. The Blackfriars Bridge is featured in a number of Perry’s novels, so when I saw the bridge sign and a set of stairs leading down to the bank, I had to go.

The stairs were steep and intimidating, so I didn’t take a photo until after I went back up again, so keep reading. I was surprised at how dry the banks were and how red.




When I first arrived, there was a mother and daughter searching for pieces of pottery, which they piled onto a flat chunk of concrete and left behind. An Italian couple were sunbathing. It was peaceful at the river level. Below you can catch a quick video I uploaded of the Thames at river level to get an idea of what I mean.


The steep stairs  (no railing!) leads to the bank. As I left, a few more people joined in the hunt.


Some of my treasures: crockery, pottery, shells, brick fragments, pieces of clay pipes, and one small bit of blue glass, for luck.











Curious for more information?

Here’s an article about a kayaker’s finds:

What to do if you find something of great historical value, such as a Roman coin:


The Carved-out Caves of Nottingham

The other day, I went off on a wandering. I stroll around the city, looking at the sights and then try to find my way back home – a way to test my inner compass while I discover a new city. I’d walked for blocks and blocks and came to a dead end at a mall entrance. I decided to walk through the Broadmarsh Mall to see what was on the other side. Little did I know I’d soon be UNDER the mall!

cave-signNear one of the exits was a sign “City of Caves” and I thought it was possibly a kiosk for tickets, so I went to investigate. Surprisingly, it was the entrance to a tour! Back when they built the mall, the locals fought to save the caverns below.

According to the brochure from the tour, before it was Nottingham, back in 868, this area was called Tigguacobauc, which means “City of Caves” – all hand dug over the centuries. By the 1600s, the guides said the caves were damp homes to people who were poor. Some caverns under taverns were used for casks and one still had a safe hidden in the wall from the basement of a solicitor’s office.


As we toured, I was thankful for clean water sources. The well for the town was located a scant distance from the sewage pit. Seepage contributed to the high rate of cholera. Children’s jobs here included climbing down to pull junk out of the well. AND going into the pit to lower the levels of waste. Fortunately, they are all clean now and no smell or danger remains.




Soon, the caves were used as tanneries. This is where the tour made the kids squeal, as the costumed interpreter asked if any of them wanted a job. A few brave ones raised their hands. The job for kids? Fetching the poo (waste from animals, such as horses) and pee (human urine, often from tavern buckets).  One of the few perks of tannery work? No plague in the caves. Apparently the smell was too much even for rats.





cave-warAs we wound our way through the tunnels, we were transported to World War II, where another interpreter regaled us with tales of how the caves were turned into bomb shelters. A new cave was dug under a factory and could hold 8,000 people! Although not a primary target for the Germans, Nottingham was bombed during the war. With all of the bomb shelters, most were spared. (Approximately 120 deaths)

While we exited and climbed toward street level, I thought of the pub a third of a mile away – Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – which is built into the hills and caverns under the castle grounds. You can still walk to the back of the pub and see the sandstone walls there since the 1100s. While many of the caves in Nottingham have been filled in or bricked over throughout the years, there are still some prime examples of how the city used the rock beneath them to carve out space for work, storage, and safety.cave-poster

I can’t wait to see what else I stumbled upon in my wanderings!