The phone rings and the voice talks about your bank card...

There is only one way to be certain, hot-footing to your bank branch to check if your bank account is safe.

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The call came at 8.30am, an English male voice saying, “Your card has been used twice in the last 24 hours, once for a payment of £250 to Amazon and also for a money transfer of £1,300.”

I struggled to find my glasses as the voice went on, “If these payments were made by you, please press One, if they were not and you wish for assistance, please press Two.”

I knew I had not used Amazon for a long time and as for a money transfer, I had no recollection of any such payment. But panicky and fearing more money was being siphoned out of my account at that very moment, I reached out to the phone, only to find that the call had ended.

No identification

And thank the Lord for that! As panic subsided and reason returned, I wondered was this really my bank? They had never called me before, there had been no identification and my card was still in my wallet.

Knowing there was only one way to be certain, I sacrificed breakfast and hot-footed to my bank branch in town. There, a sensible lady named Alison sat me down, opened her laptop and asked me a series of questions – Did I use my card in Tesco’s on Monday? Did I spend this much in Sainsbury’s on Tuesday? Had I made a payment to a dental technician and later concluded an inter-accounts remittance?

Having said yes to all these questions, Alison assured me there had been no other activity in my account, no Amazon payment, no transfer. What’s more, she said, the bank would never, ever, call me on such matters.

Embarrassed, I confessed I had heard such assurances many times, it was just that first thing in the morning when your brain isn’t yet in gear, panicked, disoriented … Alison nodded, she understood.

Horrible experience

So in the end there was no catastrophe, but it was a horrible experience and I wondered if those poisonous conmen and women ever realise how much damage they must do, especially to old folk, even when their evil, greedy schemes do not succeed.

It was a day when I was going to get two views of national life – how banking works and a close-up of the health service.

After months of worsening eyesight and a recommendation from a High Street optician, a kind neighbour drove me to a long-scheduled appointment with the Spa Medica organisation, which does specialist work for the National Health Service.

The appointment had already been delayed by two months since the first date I was given coincided with the funeral of Queen Elizabeth when everything was closed. I was then shunted to the back of the queue.

Finally arrived at the specialist unit, there ensued an hour and a half of varying tests which confirmed that I had a cataract, a sort of membrane, growing over each eye and they needed to be removed. The tests also confirmed that I was in acceptable physical condition for the operations.

Surgery on the left eye was set for January 11 and on the right eye four weeks later. No charge is involved because this is NHS work, and my many friends who have had the operation say it’s brilliant.

So it’s only left to me to buy a 2023 diary and mark in the red letter day.

* * *

That the 2022 football World Cup got under way in Qatar last week is unlikely to have escaped your attention. So heated has been the controversy over that country’s human rights record and how competing nations should act.

On the field itself, England delighted its supporters by trouncing Iran by six goals to two in its opening game. An interesting aspect of the result was that five of the six goals were scored by players of Afro-Caribbean descent, one of them still a teenager.

Bukayo Saka, whose family hails from Nigeria, scored two goals, and three other came from Jude Bellingham, aged 19, whose mother is African, Raheem Sterling, born in Jamaica, and Michael Rashford, originally from St Kitts.

Even the lone white man’s goal, scored by Jack Grealish, was put on a plate for him by Callum Wilson, another of Jamaican heritage.

England’s fans do not have the best reputation for embracing cultural inclusiveness. Let’s hope they acknowledge the contributions outlined above.

* * *

I hate it when people say America is the stupidest country in the world. I’m American and I think Europe is the stupidest country in the world.

I hate it when I forget to press Send and sit there like an idiot waiting for a reply.

I hate it when people act all intellectual and talk about Mozart when they have never even seen any of his paintings.