Old Money

Going through Goong Goong’s things I find a dark green vinyl policy wallet from a company that I think doesn’t exist anymore. The M.L.C – the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance company Limited, and in its plastic sleeve some old bank notes. They are fervent reminders of the past when paper money was really paper not plastic. And even though their value is poor – for it is only a five dollar and a ten dollar note – I remember them as if a child when ten dollars seemed so much money. Think what you could buy with ten dollars. The feel of the note is substantial, weighty, crisp. Real. It has a smell to it. If I hold it close to my nose I can smell him – or how he used to smell when he was the provider, the carer of the family, the man of the house. The money has the smell of a man’s wallet. Of leather and trousers. Of corduroys and car travel. Of Adults. Then with another whiff, comes a whimsical careless notion that it has been given to you by a generous old Aunt, the one with the stiff swollen knees, smelling of rose water, from a purse with a clasp, who has told you to spend it on something you want.

It is not like money today that is spat from a machine, stuffed in the wallet before it is seen, handed over as quickly as it is received. Or else a wallet with no cash but bulging with plastic. Paying by card. Tapping in PIN numbers. OK. Fifty dollar notes made of plastic polymer, smaller and less pretty, buying next to nothing, with no smell and no feel.

Australian money – once so playful. So colourful. Like we really knew that money should be fun. Purple, blue, green and orange. Designed as if by clever children. Not sombre. Seventies notes – Not suits and ties, more flowing frocks and bell bottoms.