Aside from 50p Phil, there was another kind of beggar in Manchester that I used to meet regularly; these I christened the 11p crew.
They primarily worked the outdoor area along Canal Street, and in between finishing the left over pints on the tables (mine sweeping they call it) they’d periodically pester you for 11pence.
Their method – following a similar unique take on begging as 50p Phil did -would be to show you a palm full of coins, and ask you for 11p.
Not “Can you spare some change?”
But “Can you spare 11p?”
It’s an unusual request and by being both affordable and specific, it’s a clever request too.
This desire for such a small defined amount clearly indicates that they had a specific monetary goal in mind when they set off to work on their days’ begging, and communicates clearly that they are within a sparrows fart of reaching it before retiring for the day.
A bit like Terry Wogan, half way through the night (and therefore half way through a bottle of Baileys) slurring (in the way that only the Irish can and not sound drunk) “We’re almost at our Children in Need target, we just need a few more phone calls”.
How can you refuse?
You fumble in your pocket; aware that to actually start counting out eleven whole pence would take too long; it would take you away from your conversation, beer and normal life, and it looks a bit tight. It’s much easier to just select a coin from the £8.36 in loose change in your pocket; chuck em a 20p piece or even a 50p and send them on their way.
Their daily begging goal exceed by anything between 9p and 39p they move on, leaving you to the rest of your evening/life. You might imagine the red line exploding out of their target meter; fireworks going off and glitter falling into the studio as Terry takes another slurp before cuddling Fearne.
Of course they didn’t need jut 11p, it was a ruse; otherwise they wouldn’t go to the very next table and after enquiring about the state of the half empty glasses, ask for another 11p.
Who needs 11p?
They’ve conned you.
And if you’ve already met 50p Phil on the way to Canal Street, (he hangs out around the Dale Street car park just around the corner) you could find yourself down as much as a whole quid whilst the night is still young.
The clever bastards…