A while ago, on a sunny Sunday morning, I was attacked by a famous actress. We were giving her a lift to a friend's lunch party when as we went in, all having been very pleasant beforehand, she turned on me and accused me of being part of the Black Economy.
It transpired something in a newspaper she had read had given her this impression. It seemed.I had made the great mistake of admitting paying cash to persons, known or unknown. The ghastlly incident came back to me in a rush. I had been rung by a Sunday newspaper just when Mr Pug had been in the middle of one of his reverse sneezing attacks (a puggy speciality) and asked if I paid cash or cheque to people - and as I have never been in charge of our businness affairs, I joked I always paid cash. Christmas daisies, never make a joke to a Sunday newspaper when your pug is reverse sneezing - the second being even more alarming than the second.
To continue the story, as they say in newspapers. After this accusation I have to tell you the sun seemed to go in, the joy went out of the morning, and our friend's quite delicious lunch tasted like sawdust. For weeks afterwards I was reduced to jelly at the thought of this Black Economy of which I was so much part. Gradually the memory of the ruined day faded, until a few weeks ago when a daily newspaper headlined that anyone paying their cleaner cash was a criminal.... More knee knocking, not because I have a cleaner (I don't because they don't) but because it brought back the Terrible Before Lunch Incident.
Then gradually, the idea came to me slowly, because I am the kind of person to whom ideas do always arrive slowly. (One of my nicknames has always been Mrs Slow Burner) What, I asked myself, what if your cleaner doesn't have a Bank Account? (Please put in a host of exclamation marks here.) The dialogue between Mrs Housewife and her cleaner will have to go like this.
Mrs Housewife: 'Juanita. You see this headline in this well known daily newspaper?'
Juanita: 'Si, Madame?'
Mrs Housewife: 'You don't want me to be taken to court do you, Juanita?'
Juanita: 'No, Madame.'
Mrs Housewife: 'Good, nor do I, Juanita. So here's a cheque.'
Juanita: (Staring in dismay at carefully written cheque) 'But Madame I have no Bank Account.'
Mrs Housewife:(using moral tone) Fair enough, Juanita, but surely your husband has one, Juanita?'
Juanita: 'He had one, Madame. But no longer. It was called Northern Rock, Madame.'
Mrs Housewife. (Leaving a long pause, eyes straying to famous daily newspaper and then chucking it in the re-cycle bin.) 'Well, I do see his point, Juanita So then - I suppose it will have to be cash after all,'
After I had written this little playlet in my mind, I then examined my misplaced, ill timed, completely out of line Joke to a Sunday Newspaper, which had so riled this famous actress.
To whom did I, in fact pay Cash? I thought and thought, and I finally came up with the answer. The young woman who washed my hair once a week at the Salon. I always put a pound in her pink piggy money box because she is a trainee, and everything is so taxed, so expensive - and she has to have enough money to drive to work to train, because there is no transport in the country. No buses, no local train service, no hoppers - and she works from eight thirty in the morning until, seven at night. Anyway, she is jolly good at hair washing, and I think she deserves some help getting to work.
Oh, and I put cash in the church plate of a Sunday, or at least my beloved does, in a little envelope.
So, phew! That is my contribution to the Black Economy. I'm sorry I don't feel too bad about it. Hair washing and church? I feel I can sleep nights. Just don't get me on how the government of this day, or any day, spends our heavily taxed money, because I might start to become as cross as that famous actress, except, forgive me, I think I have rather more reason.