On an ‘out and about’ day recently, I found myself in the pretty centre of Wickham Market. I was mesmerised by the 700-year-old octagonal flint church tower with its soaring lead spire.
More urgently, I was in need of a cash machine. I asked a gentleman who looked as though he had lived in Wickham for a hundred years if there was a Bank nearby. He straightened his stoop, adjusted his cap and looked misty-eyed into the distance. After a long pause, he explained that he had just been trying to calculate whether it was thirty, or forty years ago that the last bank in the village had closed its doors for good.
I thanked him for his time.
Wickham Market, I then discovered, has a distinguished connection with currency. In 2008 one of the largest iron age coin hoards was found in a field near the village totalling 840 pieces of gold.
So, my elderly friend, there must have been a thriving bank 2000 years ago!
Wrapped up in thoughts of yesteryear, I then called in at nearby Deben Mills. Founded by Mr. Rackham in 1885 as a water-powered mill, his descendants continued to produce stone ground flour until 1970. Still a family run business the mill now trades in coal and animal feeds. Even better, a handwritten sign stuck to the till advertises free bagged horse manure. So I came away with a steaming car boot full, despite still not having any coins in my purse.
That got me thinking, on my way home, about the joys of bartering. The horse manure was destined for my rose bed. The roses I had gained in exchange for a painting. I have been known to provide hot dinners in appreciation for gutter repairs.
Only last week I met an old friend for lunch. She greeted me with an offshoot of a plant I had once admired in her garden and a book that was the casualty of a de-clutter. For her, I had brought homemade chutney and freshly laid eggs.
For a fleeting moment, I had a vision of myself as an old lady in a market square, wistfully reasoning that I haven’t needed a bank in years!