"You learn something new everyday don’t you?" | Reuters


Whilst staying in the United Kingdom we are sharing a house with my mother-in-law Maisie, who is both as sharp as a razor and over 90 years of age. While chatting the other evening over a glass or two of wine, she informed me that on most days she receives at least one phone call from ‘scam’ artists keen to either sell her something she doesn’t want, or - to get from her, personal information that they would surely use to their own advantage in some way.

I guess that I knew that this sort of attempted fraud took place, but I had no idea as to the scale of it that took place on a daily basis. Maisie told me that nowadays she mostly just slams the phone down on these people as she can “…tell them a mile off” but she confessed that recently these criminals were becoming a lot more subtle in their approach. At one time she could tell immediately who these people were from either the tone of their voices, to the abrupt way that they would demand certain information.

Then there was those who worked from a ‘scam factory’ somewhere on the subcontinent, who Maisie being more than a little mutt-and jefe - “…couldn’t make head-nor-tail of what they were saying.” In our discussions I expressed the view that I thought that the authorities had clamped down on this sort of dodgy activity, but it appears that it is happening more and more in these difficult Covid times. Funnily enough, what alarmed me most - wasn’t the usual male low-life’s who older people can spot at once trying to con them out of their hard earned money via some incredibly unlikely scheme, but those with a more devious approach.

It seems that ever-so-friendly women are now being used to soothe their way into older people’s confidence, talking quietly and persuasively to extract certain information and keeping up a friendly dialogue that can often last throughout a number of phone-calls as the scam artist seeks to gather fraudulently gained information from their unwitting victims by pretending to be both friendly and empathetic. As I mentioned before, I was very surprised that save for people who continually ‘monitor’ their incoming phone calls, it seems that older people in particular, are seemingly under constant pressure from these criminals and unfortunately nobody, the police in particular - appear to want to do anything about this modern day outrage.

The anomalies of life!
After being based in middle England for the past few weeks I have started to notice one or two of the more visible differences between Spain and the United Kingdom. Yes, all-right then okay, there is a great deal of difference in 18ºC and a blustery, showery, northerly - and 40ºC without a breath of air and being constantly soaked in your own sweat - but, that’s a given isn’t it?

No, what I am talking about is the fact that I haven’t had any bank notes in my wallet since the day after our arrival here. Indeed, because of Covid-19 some shops will not accept cash under any circumstances and I even put my daily newspaper on my card - whilst feeling rather guilty for some reason as well! Funnily enough, I had to draw some cash to bribe my grandkids with last weekend, because it seems that they have yet to have fallen for a casual card swipe for their prezzies, preferring - nay insisting upon shiny bank notes that they can both see and feel.

Other UK based anomalies in life are legion, but - as I don’t want to bore you any more than usual I will keep my list to a minimum. Where I am staying there seems to be a large number of posh apartment blocks being built for the elderly - or, as I prefer to call ‘Them, er-er us?’… coffin dodgers! Anyway, there seems to have been quite a lot of thought that has gone into branding these rather expensive establishments.

And as it appears that the words such as ‘old-elderly and pensioners’ have been banned from use in this context and so as you drive past the aforementioned new block of expensive flats the hoarding outside talks of - “Quality Apartments - For Later Life.” Personally, I think I’d prefer the strap-line to be a little more vigorously honest, as in ‘Before you kick the bucket’ - or maybe “Thinking of turning up your toes? Then this is the place for you.”

Finally, I am always fascinated why the word ‘Organic’ will immediately double the price of the foodstuff that your are about to buy. It’s quite amazing, people are willing to pay double the price for a carton of eggs with that word attached to it - and added to this, so as to reveal its authenticity - you will often get a designer smear of chicken poo on the egg to prove that very fact.

My phone folly
As we are in the United Kingdom for an extended break, I have bought a local mobile phone which although working perfectly well, does - it seems, produce a certain amount of hilarity amongst friends and family alike. It may have cost just £10 and is produced by a company called ‘Alcatel’ - but it works perfectly well.

Unfortunately, this flip-lid state-of-the-art mobile doesn’t take photographs, nor can it link me to the internet and it is strictly push button and so sliding a finger along it doesn’t help at all. Nevertheless, it serves its purpose very well indeed and I must say that I get very upset indeed when people mock it. However, my son insisted on telling me that this phone and others like it, are supposedly used by drug dealers and other criminals - because it can be thrown away after being used in various nefarious ways. You learn something new everyday don’t you?