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About A Week: Watching The Pennies

Peter Hinchliffe lives in Yorkshire, the English county where older folk still think that it is better to save than to spend.

"Scotsmen have nothing on us when it comes to meanness,'' he says.

What a luscious cake! Thick layers of sponge, with lashings of jam and cream in the middle. A monument to sweet delight.

The host eyed it possessively then stared one-by-one at the family guests assembled round the Sunday tea table. "If nobody wants any of that there's no point in cutting into it," he said decisively.

No one spoke. No one dared to speak. The host's wife carried the cake off to the kitchen, leaving disappointed faces in her wake.

Tom Hellawell, of Holmfirth, recalls those boyhood teas at the home of a chap with a deserved reputation for being close with his cash. Each disappointing meal was followed by a disappointingly dry evening during which they played cards. During the course of the proceedings the host would present with great reluctance one bottle of Ben Shaw's pop to be shared between eight of them.

That same tight-fisted gent had his own peculiar way of occupying himself on Saturday mornings. He went from stall to stall around Dewsbury market, noting down prices. Then he went home to tell his wife which stalls to go to, what to buy and how much to spend.

Meanness and greed. The two traits go hand-in-hand.

Jonathan Jake Mangel-Wurzel, alias T.H.E Occupier, recalls a family account of another tea during the Spartan wartime years when food was strictly rationed.

Yet again eight hungry folk sat down at table. Wonder of wonders, there was a tin of salmon to be shared out among them. The plate containing the salmon went around the table. Each person took a modest portion, realising that seven others had to share.

Each person, that is, until-it arrived at Auntie Gladys. She took most of what was left. "Nay Gladys," said another guest in a mocking tone. "You'll never eat all that."

"Eh, but I shall," said Gladys.

"No you b----- won't," said another fellow, snatching most of the salmon from her plate.

You've all met 'em. Selfish meanies who have to waft the moths away every time they open wallet or purse. The sort who hover on the edge of a round-drinking group in pub or club, accept three pints of ale, then find an urgent reason for having to dash off. The type of person who would sooner deliver a 15-minute lecture on the evils of tipping rather than leave a pound coin on the table for the waiter.

Of course we Yorkshire folk have a reputation for being overly cautious with our brass. Many West Riding folk were taught to believe that money is made to be saved rather than spent. Not surprising then that so many well-known high street building societies were founded in our area.

Then there's that dour Yorkshire admonition: "If tha' does owt for nowt, do it for this-sen."

It's only a lucky spin of the wheel that has made the Scots the butt of jokes about tight-fistedness rather than the cash-careful folk who live in the Broad Acres.

By the way, did you know that the Scots have an infallible cure for sea-sickness? They walk around the boat with a 10p piece clutched between their teeth.

Rumour has it that the Grand Canyon came into being when a Scotsman lost a coin while digging a ditch.

And a Scotsman visiting Niagara Falls for the first time described them as a shocking waste of water. "A Dundee plumber could fix them in half an hour," he said.

Then there was the letter sent to a newspaper editor by an indignant Aberdonian: "If you print any more jokes about mean Scotsmen I shall stop borrowing your paper."

The word Yorkshireman might readily be substituted for Scotsman.

Thousands of waiters and bartenders in America would use neither Yorkshireman or Scotsman. They'd say Brit. We British have a reputation in the US for being notoriously mean when it comes to tipping. There a tip of 15 or 20% of the bill is commonplace.

The 37-year-old vice-president of a London brokerage house recently tried to obliterate our national reputation for meanness at the one go. His bill for a celebration dinner in an exclusive New York restaurant was $8,843. The broker, who was not named, tipped $16,101. That's 11,000!

"He tipped for the whole British Empire," said Swiss-born restaurateur Nello Balan.

Imagine going to his house for Sunday tea. Picture the cakes. No chance of them being carted off to the pantry before knife could encounter sponge and cream.

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