The mission: Quentin Fottrell has a pile of pennies burning a hole in his pocket. Will the change do him good?

alf an hour from home and I'm in desperate need of spending a penny. After an agonising search, I find a public toilet in a busy railway station. A grim attendant stops me. "Twenty pence," he says. I give him one 10p piece, one 5p piece and three pennies. I am two pennies short.

Is he going to turn me away? Being refused admission to a public toilet must be like having your application rejected by a religious cult. As it happens, I've no need to worry. The attendant waves me through with the suspicious air of a customs official - but not before handing back my three pennies in disgust. My silver is good enough for him, but my coppers are not?

This is too bizarre. I cannot spend a penny in order to spend a penny? If ever there was a mission to be had, this is it. I don't have a piggy bank to break, so I set off to NatWest clasping a pounds 1 coin. "I'd like to exchange this for 100 pennies," I tell the cashier. Quick as a flash, she hands me a bag of pennies. It's heavier than I thought.

My first port of call is my favourite Fleet Street sandwich bar. This is risky. If my Scrooge-like prudence offends them, I'll never be able to show my face there again. My lunch comes to pounds 4.45. My face reddens as I approach the counter.

"I'd like to give you the 45p in pennies," I say. When I pull out my bag to extract the pennies, the person standing next to me glares. You'd think, by his expression, that I'd just pulled out my colostomy bag. But I stand proud. The assistant, to her credit, maintains her steely charm.

Still reeling from this success, I decide it's time to raise the stakes, so I brave the grumpy Tube man at my local station. "A weekly pass for Zones 1, 2, and 3," I say, feigning doe-eyed innocence. Still frowning, he starts to process my request.

I am dying to see my pennies whoosh down that copper chute under the pane of glass and into his scrutiny. But I dare not provoke him. Instead, I place the bag of 50 pennies in the chute, along with pounds 21. His expression doesn't change. The person behind me politely turns away.

The man empties the bag and slowly begins to count. He creates five stacks of pennies and, lo!, there are two pennies extra. Fancy that: I miscalculated. He slides them back to me along with my Tube pass.

I am on a roll. At the weekend, I lace my pocket with loose change before meeting a friend for dinner. We disagree over the choice of restaurant. I lose. My "medium rare" steak is black. The waitress responds to my complaints with an anaemic smile. To vent my frustration, I top up the (already healthy) tip with a sprinkling of pennies.

This was a big mistake. "What do you think you're doing?" my companion barks. I tell her that I'm, firstly, fulfilling my mission to spend pennies and, secondly, giving the restaurant its just deserts. "You can't do that," she says. "You can't blame the waitress for the poor food." I am thwarted.

My last temptation, however, is still to come. A brown envelope lands on my desk at the office. It's a whip-round for a colleague heading off on maternity leave. This is a perfect opportunity to spend my pennies anonymously. I glance around to see if I'm being watched.

But then it hits me: my menial gift could mean the difference between Baby Gap and Woolworths. Enough of this madness. My penny pinching is over

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Client IT Account Manager

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client IT Account Manager is ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / Analyst (CIMA finalist/newly qualified)

    £32000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant / F...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - .NET

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of a mark...

    Recruitment Genius: Help Desk Specialist

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides Reliabili...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor