Look At It This Way - January 24, 2014

Mrs Iris Hobson who was targeted by a prolific thief who said she needed work doing.
Mrs Iris Hobson who was targeted by a prolific thief who said she needed work doing.
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Hobson’s Choice. Essentially it means no choice. The term was coined by Lancashire playwright Harold Brighouse .

It’s based on livery stable owner Thomas Hobson’s take it or leave it option for customers; take the horse in the stall nearest the door or none at all.

But for me a Blackpool woman springs to mind when Hobson’s Choice is mentioned. Iris Hobson, 87 , made the choice to speak out to The Gazette after being conned. The great-grandmother gazed straight out from our front page yesterday. Unsmiling, sadness in her eyes, reproach.

She lost £200 pension and a silver pen of sentimental value to a conman – the cheery looking chappie who also featured on our cover.

Mrs Hobson didn’t take William James, 39, for a wrong ‘un. He didn’t look one. Conmen don’t look like conmen otherwise they would never get a foot in the door.

Least of all the chance to con someone like Mrs Hobson who doesn’t suffer fools gladly – and conmen even less so. He had done an odd job for her before, been paid, seemed “friendly and presentable.”

But having conned another woman in her 80s out of £650 and been put on a suspended 18 month sentence he struck again.

He told Mrs Hobson a water main had burst and he was checking her water supply. You check the taps upstairs, I’ll check downstairs, he said.

It would have made no difference either way. He would have still flushed out any valuables stashed upstairs.

Police wonder how many times he may have pulled this off before. His previous victim had dementia. James stole cash on two separate visits. It redefines despicable.

Mrs Hobson is in full possession of her senses. When she found her pension gone along with her cherished pen – which he used to jot down his phone number for her – she thought ‘stupid me.’

But she’s not. She was able to produce for police a receipt bearing his phone number and his fingerprints. Handy, that, when already on a suspended sentence.

Now who’s stupid?

Mrs Hobson also picked him out from a video ID 
parade at the cop shop.

This was not some opportunistic crime committed on impulse but a cold calculated act . Mrs Hobson will never trust a door-to-door odd jobs man again. She will turn to the council’s approved directory of contractors instead – and so will I. Lesson learned.

The elderly offer potential for rich pickings for predatory rip off merchants in an area with a higher than average proportion of retired folk.

No one wants to see themselves as a victim. I remember how I felt when mugged a year ago. I beat myself up about it. My fault. Only it wasn’t. One misjudgment doesn’t justify outrage perpetrated on you.

And each time someone doesn’t speak out it’s left to a copper to do the talking. To use the hackneyed phraseology that this was a “despicable crime against a frail and vulnerable” etc, etc.

Those taken in often feel embarrassed. They don’t want others to know. Including grown up children all too ready to play parents to parents. I’ve done it myself.

Mrs Hobson is no victim. Not in the sense that truly matters. She’s had the nous to speak out not just for herself but to help alert others.

Iris grew up in an age when you could leave your front door open without worrying someone was going to come in and steal your money, vandalise your property or kidnap your children.

Traders regularly went door to door, selling wares, providing services, collecting the rag ‘n’ bones. You didn’t need CRB clearance to let a kid earn a bob a job.

Iris Hobson, one of the last of the Lancashire’s great cotton weavers, will have bawled out banter above the noise of the looms in that great clan of women, bred tough.

Today there’s more of a warp in the weft of society binding humanity together.

It’s far easier for it all to unravel.

When we pick up the paper or turn on the telly and read or hear yet another bobby telling us this was yet another crime against yet another vulnerable elderly person we tut tut about could do such a thing, what a shame it is, and what has society come to .

But it does not have the impact of an Iris Hobson coming forward, speaking her mind and making a stand.

That was this Hobson’s choice...

Educating viewers away from the banal

Tha’ can allus tell a Yorkshireman, but tha’ can’t tell ‘im much.

And sometimes they really do get it right. Educating Yorkshire was a joy – one of the best things on the box.

But would the dozy twonks (it’s a Yorkshire phrase) in judgement wake up to the 
reality that it’s real people 
who make telly really interesting?

There were three winners, for my money, at the National Television Awards .

David Nielson’s Roy Cropper, a character with Asperger’s, is a delight, no matter how gritty the storyline.

Our local lass Jenna Coleman collected the Dr Who awards while I told anyone who would listen how she once called me to canvas support for a TV Newcomer 

But Educating Yorkshire blew poor old penguin Cam out of the water, along with Paul O’Grady and Sir Trevor McDonald. Owzat!