No Change Man, and the dangers of gambling

Day 72. If any of you have heard screaming in London lately, don’t worry, it was probably my subconscious. I’ve been building up to today, which is my explosion day. Best to get it all out the way in one go. Both of my parents died on the same day in different years. 

Rather than go easy on myself I decided it would be the perfect time to put my bedroom on Airbnb. It filled with a French couple who I discovered were interior designers. Chic and opinionated people staying in my run down boho flat. Arse. I apologise to anyone who saw me in the run up to their arrival. I could think of little other than my futile attempts to Elastoplast over the cracks in the decor, and try so hard to make a silk purse out of a cows bum. And with this day looming fast, I went a little splat.


Of course it turned out fine. They were lovely and very happy here – but then I have a great home. I fed them bacon and eggs, because that’s what English people eat. They took photos of their breakfast, and ate it all. Then they asked me how I made it. I was glad they’d finished. “Beurre. Trop de beurre. Tous la beurre du monde” I didn’t pay much attention in French. Doctor Holland was a grade A motherfucker. But I can make myself understood. Hopefully they’ll write a nice review before they get the heart attack.


Next it was to the launderette to wash their sheets. Knowing how I’m likely to feel this evening I’ve made sure there are people staying in my flat. My cousin outlaw will be in my room, and I’ll be on the sofa with my friend Tom. I’m about to roast a chicken and drink a bottle of red wine before I go off alcohol and meat for a month. But I needed to wash and dry their sheets fast. And a launderette makes sense after being in America where they are a big part of the landscape.


Unlike in America, though, British launderettes suck. No ATM. No change machine! Where am I my gonna get my quarters? Coral betting shop, just over the road. Smiley Al comes in, laundry bag over shoulder. No change machine in Coral. “Hello! Can I get some change for the laundry?” This guy isn’t smiling. This guy doesn’t move his face. This guy doesn’t make eye contact. “No. No change. No. No change.” Shit. I’m not getting angry though. He’s behind a sheet of glass and he’s bored enough to want a bit of fun by fucking with me. I’m wearing a suit. I had forgotten until I got that reaction. I look at the machines.


The machines don’t give change. They give tickets. I put a tenner in, click on the top left game, wager the minimum of one pound, win nothing, click collect, get the token, take it to the man. He looks at my token, my suit, my token. He scowls. He gives me a five pound note and four ones. “Oh er, can I get five ones instead of this fiver please?” “No. No change. No.” I think he is enjoying this a little. “Come on, I only put it in the machine so I could get change.” “No change.” I need six pound coins plus two for the drier. My reaction to him is not frustration or anger. It’s faint amusement at the situation. He’s breaking up the day for himself. I go back to the machine. Five pounds in. Top left game. Minimum stake. Spin. Bing. £24.20. That’s unexpected. I click collect and take it back to Captain No Change. I hope to get some sort of reaction. He stirs when I come back. I think he is ready to fight me when I ask for four pounds, and tell me I am gaming him or something. But the figure surprises him. He looks at my suit again, then the ticket, then the suit. A long lingering look. Perhaps he is in love with me. He gives me the money with an offhand gesture. “Thank you,” I tell him, and mean it. He’s just washed my clothes for free by being weird. There’s something about karma to be learned there. Maybe he is unhappy. He’ll do himself no good if he keeps saying “No change.”


In the launderette I put my coins in the machine and push the button. I watch my clothes spin round and round. When they are done I am disappointed there is no token for £24.20. I try again with the tumble drier. No change there. That’s the problem with these machines. You get a win at the start and then you put it all back in. All I’ve won is dry fragrant sheets. I hump them back home to put them on my bed.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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