“Have an Alby” — Reward Systems in Formative Years

I can never work on something without seeing the meaning behind it, or without a proper incentive. I’ve chipped away at this habit over the last year and I’ve managed to turn myself into a somewhat productive person by instituting rewards for working on (as yet) unpaid creative projects.

I blame the need for my reward-based productivity on a system implemented at school during my formative years. It’s likely my own fault, but you can’t get a 1,000 word story out of introspective self-punishment. Only professional authors can do that.

This reward scheme happened in Primary School (or Elementary School but not quite, to any American readers), and was in place between the ages of 6 and 10 — Important years for development and the prime years for being on a bouncy castle.

These rewards were tokens, called Albys (pronounced: Al-bees). Albys were handed out for good behaviour, hard work and achievement — The big three.

Albys were little white slips of paper that you’d write your name on before placing it into a raffle box on the teacher’s desk. At the end of the week, in front of the whole school, each class would draw an Alby from their respective box, and the winning good-child could choose a reward from one of two glass jars.

I have no doubt that other Primary Schools had similar systems in place — It’s a simple lottery-based rewards system that’s akin to modern-day loot boxes. Although you earned the in-game currency through hard work and intelligence, as opposed to draining your parent’s bank accounts by screaming in the aisles of Target until they get you a million V-Bucks.

Albys, and any other systems like them, are better than V-Bucks. (Whatever they are, I had to Google them)

As far as I know, no other school used Albys specifically. I could be wrong, and there’s simply no record of this turn-of-the-millenium, North-East England, Primary School reward scheme left. Maybe every school in the country had an Alby, although if they did I think we’d see social media posts like:

“lol, so random but does anyone remember Albys!? Lol”

I’m actually hoping that if I type the word Alby enough in this piece, it’ll appear towards the top of a Google search and subsequently unite me with someone from a different Primary School who also remembers these little tokens.

Although I’m a little worried that I may be spelling it wrong, as there could be an ‘e’ between the ‘b’ and ‘y’. So I’m going to say Albey once, just in case.

Seriously, I’ll pay money if anyone still has an original Alby (Albey).

The nerds (me) would work really hard to earn Albys, just so we could get our hands in the glass jars and rummage for a prize. To really have something to show for all the hours spent being socially inept freaks.

There were two types of prizes you could receive in the Alby-system; Cool Kid Sweets and Geek Stationary. I bet you can guess which jar yours truly always put his hand in. That’s right, I am in fact a cool kid and I got all the sweets, all the time. Go suck on a lollipop losers, except you can’t, because I have all the lollipops! Ha!

No. Obviously I pocketed stationary at any available opportunity during my childhood. You can’t turn free pencils and notebooks down, not in this economy, I always told myself.

The more Albys you received in a week, the more likely you were to have your name drawn out of the box. It’s basic maths, which I know, because I got lots of Albys.

In assembly every Friday, each kid would wait with bated breath to see if their name would be drawn from the box. Even the kids who didn’t get an Alby that week couldn’t contain their excitement at the possibility they’d get to rummage in the sweetie jar.

(No self-respecting non-Alby earning school kid would EVER rummage through the stationary jar, are you kidding me? No way!)

When your name wasn’t drawn, you’d always hope that the Chosen-One would choose from the sweet jar, because if it was something shareable then there was a chance that you too could benefit from the Alby system, without your name even appearing out of the damn box. What a rush.

In what has become a trend for my entire life, I would always disappoint my peers by picking stationary — Something that you can’t really share with anyone else. Well, you can, I just didn’t want to.

Now, I know what you’re thinking — “But Matt, couldn’t you just take a stack of blank Albys from the teacher’s desk and write your name on them when nobody is looking, before placing them in the box before the teacher catches on?”

Yes. Yes you could. And we all did.

It was a victimless crime because most of the Alby-earning students did it, we all boosted our own numbers. Blank Albys also served as a form of playground currency during lunch hour.

“I’ll trade you my Mars Bar for five blank Albys.”

“Throw in that uncommon Pokemon card and you’ve got yourself a deal my friend!”

In hindsight I’m surprised the teachers didn’t notice that there were far more Albys in the box each week than they’d handed out to students. But as an adult with friends who’ve taught kids of that age — They didn’t care what happened as long as the clock kept ticking closer to 3:30.

If all the extra Albys had prevented them from pouring a glass of wine at the end of the day, then you best believe that box would’ve been policed like Buckingham Palace.

I also wonder which teacher, or member of the governing body, came up with the Alby scheme. It must’ve been someone with a penchant for light gambling. Some genius who recognised that kids get addicted to things just as easily as adults, and that if we all try hard enough with these Albys, we can get them addicted to learning!

The Alby system taught me, and countless others, how to work in exchange for some kind of reward. But it also taught us how to gamble, cheat, lie, swindle, barter and to expect stationary in exchange for good behaviour. And for that, I am thankful.

Years after leaving Primary School I still want to sarcastically say “Oh, have an Alby” to anyone who achieves something mediocre. But that’s a very niche reference, one that would be hard to implement to any friend group outside of the one I had between 1998 and 2004.

So now, in my early adult years, I’m half tempted to print off a batch of my own Albys, that I can give myself as a reward for productivity. My name will be the only one in the box, so I’ll get to rummage in the prize jars every week. Win/win.

I’ll fill one jar with sweets and the other with stationary (keep it classic), and the sweet jar will remain full and unrummaged for years to come, because if I’m anything, I’m regressively consistent. I can already see a pocket notebook with my name on it, because I put it there, and I’m an adult.

Today is Monday, January 7th and it’s time to mellow out and tell some stories (on most days).

Tip My Jar?

If you like what I write and can spare a dollar, then it’d be a greatly appreciated act of kindness! If you like what I write and can’t spare a dollar then I greatly appreciate you! If you hate what I write and also can’t spare a dollar, then why are you still reading this?


A Republican, a Democrat and an Independent Walk Into a Bar

The Republican says:

“Screw you both, I’m going to ignore traditional media sources, believe only conspiracy theories and the mouth of our God-King president, turn my back on traditional Republican values in favour of far-right views and you can all shut up because Ive got this one.”

He then downs a beer and sets fire to the bar, with himself and everyone inside.

Please bear with me, I’m going somewhere.

Now, in case that allegorical joke was a little too much; The bar represents America, and the Republican, well, he represents a Republican. (Of course he was a he)

Let me be the first to say “Not all Republicans”. In fact, I’d like it if moderate and traditional Republicans were the majority of people reading these words. Although something tells me I might’ve scared them off with my poor attempt at a satirical joke. Unless they made it to the part about “Not all Republicans”, in which case, phew, glad to have you!

All the way back on Tuesday, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a Democratic party congressional primary in NYC. Not only that, but she beat out a 10-term veteran in Joe Crowley, 56, who had been tipped as a future party leader or speaker of the house. She did all of this with very little support from inside her own party, and with just $300,000 in mostly small donations. Compare this to the $3.35 million dollars that Crowley spent on failing to achieve re-nomination, and what you’re seeing is a new precedent being set.

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, on a progressive campaign of supporting universal healthcare, tuition-free college and a reform to the criminal justice system, is yet another sign of a potential blue-wave in the 2018 midterms.

Not only that, but by winning as a relative unknown, and finding funding from small donations in her community, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one step towards what draining the swamp actually looks like.

Hopefully some choice quotes from her victory speeches support this:

“The message that we send the world tonight is that it’s not okay to put donors before your community.”

“There is nothing radical about moral clarity in 2018.”


One of the platforms that the 2016 Trump campaign stood on was one of “draining the swamp”, meaning the removal of greed and corruption from political offices. While I agreed 100% with the sentiment, I didn’t believe for a second that the solution was going to come from a trust-fund baby, or the man who spent a billion dollars (of which much of it came from PACs, the most toad-like groups in the swampy politics of our time) on becoming president.

What we’re seeing in NYC, is an example of how to actually drain the swamp. The people of Bronx and Queens turned their backs on a traditional, career politician supported by PACs, in favour of a champion of the people. A true champion of the people, not one who was born rich and pretends to be one for a living.

I’ve found myself talking about the biggest swamp-lizard of them all again. You know what, I’m through making jokes about our satsuma-faced demagogue, so instead of some closing insult here, about his rotund stupidity, I’m going to include a quote from the President of the United States that should always be remembered:

“I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. I just start kissing them…It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” – President Donald J. Trump


If Ocasio-Cortez’s victory can be seen as the potential for a blue-wave in 2018, I’d encourage moderate Republicans to consider what this would mean for America. Now, new-found, hard-right Trump-era politics, which has turned its’ back on traditional Republican values, would tell you to not even consider the benefits. That Republicans should continue to control all branches of our government. But therein lies the problem, they currently control everything and what we’re seeing is monstrous.

I don’t need to regurgitate some of the social and political horrors of the last eighteen months, you only need look to recent Supreme Court decisions, declining international trade-relations (from a man who claims to know business), and a non-reaction to multiple mass-shootings.

When one single party controls all branches of government, as well as the supreme court, America doesn’t work as it’s supposed to. America’s democracy is designed to be a balance of power, so that no one man (because let’s face it ((again)), any dictatorial ruler is always going to be a man) can hold all of the power.

I have no long-held allegiances to the Democratic party, so please trust me when I say that I’d be complaining just as much if Democrats had this much control over America, and had pushed far-left politics over moderate socialist progression, the way that Trump has regularly pushed far-right views over conservatism.

Dear God, how I once more long for the days to have political debates that are simply liberal vs conservative.

So we’ve found ourselves in a county where fascistic policies are seeping through the cracks of government, where the rich are lining their pockets and the average worker has not found their champion. We’re in an America where racism and division are on the rise once more, all because a self-proclaimed rapist managed to whip up a frenzy.

What’s the antidote to it all? How do we end the madness?

A blue-wave.

If you’re a moderate Republican, or traditional conservative, I encourage you to look into the policies of some of your Democratic candidates in the 2018 mid-terms. With the rise of such extreme views in the Republican party, you might see that some Democrats have decided to run on a centrist, or even centre-right platform. You might also find that they are socialist, liberal progressives who you’re not interested in having represent you.

But at least you considered them, you took part in the process of democracy and you didn’t just vote blindly. That, I will always applaud.

My point is this; If we see a blue-wave in the 2018 midterms, it’ll level the playing field for a less-ugly presidential race in 2020. I have no idea who the Democrats will push as their leader, only time will tell. But I do know that people on both sides are sick of the bullying, name-calling and dirty political tactics of the 2016 election. Trump may go on to win a second term, but it needs to be from a fair-fight position, otherwise he’s going to assume an anointed position as the figurehead of a government that is currently toxically Republican.

I always feel that America functions best when government is purple. When there are almost as many Republicans as Democrats. Of course I’m going to say that, my politics lean left. But almost as many Democrats as Republicans is preferable to what we have now.

If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez manages to beat Republican Anthony Pappas she will have partially achieved, with the support of her district, one of the policies of the 2016 Trump campaign. She will be living proof that the swamp can be drained. It’s through grassroots politics, small donation funding and moral clarity that this can happen.

A blue 2018 will be good for America. It will hopefully make for a purple 2020, and we can all get back to our lives.

I’ll leave you with the satirical joke that I want to be able to make:

A Republican, a Democrat and an Independent walk into a bar, through balance and equality, and well-informed political debate that puts the best interests of the American people in the center of conversation, they manage to buy everyone a drink, and then an orgy breaks out.

Today is Thursday, June 28th and this week I’m drinking a guava, papaya and passionfruit flavoured white tea.

Image from vox.com