MY brother had spotted them in a drain beneath a grate.
I don’t know why he was looking there, but he was, and there they were, a collection of silver coins. Old coins, the likes of which we had never seen before.
The discovery delayed our progress to school; my brother David, Robert Hart (whose mum was an early recipient of a successful kidney transplant in 1973, the organ lasting more than 40 years) and myself.
My mum was with us. She would normally have rushed us along, but there was the chance of some unexpected lucre to be gained from this.
Robert was too fat to get his arm through the grate and push his fingers near enough to grab the coins, which must have been, at the very least by my educated estimation, early Roman. My brother failed to do it, though I can’t remember why, my mum wasn’t about to grovel around and we couldn’t lift the grate.
So it was down to me. With the thought of “winner takes it all” in mind, I lay on the pavement, pushed my face into the chippings and worked my hand and wrist in between the bars of the grate, edging my arm further down towards the money, which was perched on a ledge.
“Be careful kid, don’t knock it off,” my brother, unable to do the job himself, instructed (warned).
Eventually I could touch the treasure, which I thought could have been worth numbers the rest of them couldn’t even count to.
It was hot, I was nervous, part of that being, as well as the risk of knocking the coins down into the scummy water, the very real possibility I would not be able to get my arm back out.
I pinched the first couple between my thumb and forefinger and carefully moved my arm up and out of the grate without, unlike those grabbing machines at the amusements, dropping the prize.
I then, like a hero from a Coliseum-based ancient games staged at the time I envisaged these coins had been minted, successfully avoided being fed to the lions by triumphantly freeing the rest of the cash from its drain-based prison.
Brilliant. I was loaded.
“Gi’s it ‘ere. I saw it first,” my brother demanded.
“Nah, it’s mine, I spotted it,” Robert said — if he had been clever he would have made up some story about putting the money towards a kidney-related fund-raising appeal for his mother. But he wasn’t that bright.
“I’m having it, I got it out,” I countered, not unreasonably. It doesn’t even seem wrong now.
Incredibly, the judge in this legal dispute, my mother, decided the spoils should be shared between my brother and his (not mine, not now anyway) mate.
I can’t remember what happened to the coins. I think they were sold to some expert, who probably ripped them off.
What I do remember is none of the rewards came my way, which just goes to show that putting the hard yards in doesn’t pay. Don’t even try kids, it’s not worth it.
I don’t know how much the coins raked in, but their sale probably explains the privileged lifestyle my brother was able to lead — school adventure holidays, designer clothes, a flash bike etc.
I might just buy a hungry lion this weekend and seek retrospective justice on this one.