Thursday 22nd March
Ah me, I must be getting old – I have just been caught out by the oldest scam in the book. It happened like this, and of course I wasn’t expecting it at all, it came right out of the blue. I had walked through Hyde Park, and fancied a look at the river, so decided to cut through Knightsbridge and head down Sloane Street and to the Chelsea Embankment. I was ambling along, enjoying the early morning sunshine, and marveling at the outrageously rich boutiques inhabited by the super rich and wondering how anyone could really justify paying several hundred pounds for a rather ordinary looking pair of shoes. I crossed the road toward Cadogan Gardens just near the Carlton Tower and just a few feet in front of me a woman in her early thirties suddenly threw her hands up in the air, and bent down and picked something up, exclaiming, “A ring. A gold ring!” Of course I stopped and, intrigued, walked the few steps toward her. “How lucky,” I said, “I wonder who could have dropped it?” The woman, who I guessed from her accent was East European of some sort, was trying the ring on her finger. She suddenly turned to me and said, “it doesn’t fit me, you have it.” and shoved it into my hands. I turned it over in my hands, it was certainly chunky and had some sort of mark inside. “I will take it a police station, then.” I said, not really sure if I would because I suspected that most lost property is never claimed and will be taken by the police themselves. I was still in some sort of surprised shock I suppose, when I felt my sleeve being tugged quite violently by the woman. “You must give me some money, I have no food to eat.” And her hand went to her mouth as if putting invisible food there. I half-realised, but wasn’t completely sure that it was a scam, and maybe out of embarrassment, maybe out of conscience I opened my purse. Luckily I had no notes there, and I gave her some small change and a couple of pound coins. This of course, failed to satisfy her, and she kept repeating the gesture of hand to mouth at me. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I have no notes.” even though I did have some in the side pocket of my handbag all along. I walked off with this woman following me and tugging at my sleeve every so often, and putting empty fingers to her mouth. I knew by now she was just a beggar; well I had given her a few coins so please leave me alone. The gold ring was almost certainly made of brass, maybe a plumbers’ olive bought for a few pence in a hardware shop. Eventually she gave up the struggle.
At school there used to be a bit of a racist joke. What is the definition of perpetual motion – A Jew trying to get sixpence out of a Scot. Well, she had met her Scot in me, and I had won. And maybe as a souvenir, or as a trophy, and brass or not, I had kept the gold ring.