It's easy to spend your Bristol Pounds – mostly
IT sounds like such a simple assignment – go out and spend some cash.
But when the "cash" in question is Bristol Pounds – an entirely new currency, on its first day of trading – it is more of a challenge than you might think.
For a start I had to get some Bristol Pounds, and that meant a visit to the Bristol Credit Union in Stokes Croft, where chief executive James Berry set me up with a Bristol Pound account.
"The great thing about paying sterling into your Bristol Pound account at the moment," James says, "is that, as an introductory offer, we are adding five per cent – so you're better off already."
I start by exchanging £10 into Bristol Pound notes and putting £10 Bristol Pounds into my new account – so I can also test the much-vaunted mobile texting payment method, which all the participating shops also offer.
"We have had lots of people in here today setting up accounts," James says.
"There is real interest in it, and it's not just from the people who normally use the Bristol Credit Union for their savings – we have had people in today from all over the city, keen to get their hands on some Bristol Pounds for themselves.
"There is a real sense of civic pride in knowing that you are spending, but the money is staying in the city and boosting Bristol's own economy in these tough times.
"We have now signed up around 200 individuals and 75 businesses, so it's really getting going, even on its launch day."
With my colourful Bristol Pounds in my hand, I head out to do a bit of shopping. Just around the corner, on Picton Street, I head into the Radford Mill Farm Shop – which, according to the Bristol Pound website I'm glancing through on my mobile phone, is already signed up to the scheme.
Sure enough, inside, the cheerful shop assistant James Phillips is more than happy to take my Bristol Pounds as I hand over my purchases – some West Country toffee and chocolate.
"This is quite exciting," he laughs. "You're the first person to pay with Bristol Pounds."
I head to south Bristol to buy some bread – perhaps not the most ecologically sound way of shopping, but I'm keen to see how well the Bristol Pound is working on the other side of the city.
Once again I'm met with a friendly smile by Sanjay Patel, baker at Mark's Bread in North Street, Bedminster.
"Lots of people have been asking us about how they sign up for the scheme today," Sanjay says. "But you are the first person to actually come in and buy bread using Bristol Pounds."
I've got my sweets, I've got my bread, all I need for a happy night in is some Bristol-brewed beer.
I head to the Better Food Company on Whiteladies Road, where manager Edward Temple greets me with a now familiar line.
"You're the first person to actually spend Bristol Pounds in the shop," he says.
But as this is the final tick on my shopping list, I decide to try to pay by the mobile SMS texting system.
It's actually simple enough – a newly erected sign behind the counter tells me exactly what to do – I text "Pay" then my Bristol Pound pin number, then the code for the shop, then the total for my purchase.
Within seconds, Edward's phone has pinged into life, with a message from Bristol Pound HQ to tell him I've paid my bill.
On the way home I call at the petrol station of one of the major supermarket chains, and ask the cashier if I can pay by Bristol Pounds.
"No you can't," is her abrupt reply. "Real money please."