The Mothers Union notes, carefully typed for inclusion in the parish magazine and handed to me on Sunday, were nowhere to be found. Having dissuaded people from entrusting me with money, perhaps there is now a need to similarly discourage thoughts of handing the rector a piece of paper with the expectation it might reach its intended recipient.
The problem with the money began in the 1980s. £5 was not a lot of money, but it was enough to go out; it was enough to by a few groceries; it was enough to put some petrol in the car; if you were an older person, £5 was a good chunk of your pension.
It was £5 in relation to someone’s pension that was troubling. Going through the pockets of a jacket before it went to the dry cleaners, a £5 note came out of the breast pocket. Someone had handed over £5 for some specific purpose and it had been put into the pocket for safe keeping; keeping so safe that it had been completely forgotten. The only person who would have given a country clergyman a £5 note would have been an older person, probably housebound, who wanted the money to be applied to some specific purpose; who the person was, and for what purpose the money had been given, had long since gone from the memory.
The £5 note was handed sheepishly to the church treasurer with a word of apology; it may well have been a widow’s mite and had not been noticed by someone too busy being busy.
Since then, I have declined to take money from anyone for anything unless it is in an envelope showing their name and for what the money is to be used. I explain about the £5 note and say that even now, I regret I may have caused someone offence. A few have raised their eyebrows and probably wondered to themselves about the competence of someone who can’t even remember why he was given money.
To have to admit that even parish magazine notes disappear would be a severe embarrassment. A call home brings only a declaration that two people have searched for the notes and they are nowhere to be found, “why don’t you just ask the Mothers’ Union lady for another copy? It would save all the time you will spend searching.” It would, and it would make me appear completely incompetent.
Coming home at nine o’clock, pocket after pocket was searched without success. Then came a moment of recall that a different suit had been worn on Sunday. Tucked in an inside pocket were the notes, the other pockets were also searched, lest there be a £5 note.