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Contribution to the book Tales out of School


Collectors Books Limited

Doc. No. 1983.017

Article donated to ‘Tales out of School’ (ISBN 0 946604 00 2), a book a of stories about ‘The early misdeeds of the famous’ produced by the charity ‘Help the Aged’ in order to raise funds (Collectors Books Limited)


Page 39


Francis Bennion.

Barrister, Oxford University lecturer, author on legal and professional subjects.


The year was 1929. Aged six, I had a morning off from Miss Steele’s Infant Academy at Harrow. There, a week or two before, I had first


Page 40


encountered the joys of the Sand Tray. You could make any country or landscape you liked in that, loose sand being so versatile. I have never since felt such power.
Although well supplied with pocket money, I must have convinced myself that I needed cash. We lived in a small terrace house in Butler Road. A narrow, rarely-used alley ran alongside the house to the pavement. You get cash by selling things, but I had nothing to sell. Not put off by that, I decided to sell whatever was lying about the house and portable.

We owned a rickety folding card table with a green baize top. Father, who worked in the Exchequer and Audit Department, had won this table by saving an enormous number of coupons from Player’s Navy Cut cigarette packets. I dragged the table along our narrow alley, and set it up by the pavement. On it I deposited a tray laden with such trinkets as I had been able to lay my hands on. A ring of my mother’s in a white ivory box. A silver-plated button hook. An empty photograph frame. Our crystal set (to which I was not allowed to listen). And so on.

Feeling I should contribute something of my own, I carefully cut several used envelopes into strips. These I offered for making shopping lists, at a penny each. It took me an hour to write out a label conveying this information.
Throughout its commercial existence, the stall had one paying customer only - a gracious lady who bought a shopping list, and smilingly handed over one of those old heavy copper pennies. I was overjoyed. Shortly afterwards my mother arrived on the scene. Failing to understand her rage, I was enraged myself when she confiscated my hard-earned penny.

That afternoon mother took me shopping in Harrow. For years I could not understand why her anger broke out again, was indeed redoubled, when, as we passed a sweet-shop, I righteously demanded that an ice cream cornet be purchased with my money. Her refusal has rankled ever since. By my labour I converted a worthless used envelope into something exchangeable for value, and sold it on the market. Isn’t that what economics is about?