Sometimes, it’s good to talk ... just ask my mum

Kate Livingstone
Kate Livingstone

I’m not saying my mother talks a lot. Mainly because the words ‘pot’ and ‘kettle’ would be fired right back at me.

But when her latest, convoluted tale of medical horrors (her favourite kind of story) turned out to involve someone with a similar phone number to mine who she had called by mistake, that said it all.

Imagine her horror then when her phone suddenly stopped working, leaving her unable to make calls.

I won’t bore you with the details because, frankly, by the end of my quest to speak to a human being I was losing the will to live.

I’m not anti-technology – but I do understand that some people just want to speak to a real live person.

In my case, it was because I couldn’t understand what on earth was going on – but for some elderly people it’s because, well, that’s what you do.

It turned out mum’s phone bill had crashed through the £100 cut-off point and so – despite the fact she had never missed a payment – they stopped her service.

The result for her; worry, confusion and, most off all, a complete sense of isolation.

And, after many hours of my life lost, I found out why.

Mum had been dialling 118 118, not realising that, while convenient, it’s also extremely expensive.

The man I eventually spoke to was sympathetic. He said he’d dealt with people who’ve run up bills of over £100 from one phone call to that service.

I paid the bill and, as I tried to hammer the message home to mum, I found an unexpected ally. One of her friends received a parcel, mistakenly delivered to her house, and set about finding out who it belonged to.

Eventually, Miss Marple phoned the company on the label ... thanks to a helpful 118 118 operator. Her reward? A bill of £43 for one phone call.

So, mum, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to use your own social network. Start with the queue in the post office, on to the Co-op, nipping into the butcher’s on the way. By the time she’s finished, pensioners within a 50-mile radius will know 118 118 is a luxury most pensions don’t stretch to. Sometimes, it’s good to talk.