The first time I saw it I had to blink hard: A supermarket customer with a small pile of goods waved her card across the checkout gizmo, declined a receipt and walked out.
That was my initial experience of contactless technology, where you present your debit card for any sum under £30 and the amount is automatically deducted from your bank account. No entering a pin code, just swish and go.
That was about a year ago. Now I do it myself! And so, it seems, does nearly everybody else.
Last year the number of payments by debit cards across the UK overtook the number of cash payments for the first time, and the growing popularity of contactless payments was a big driver behind the change.
Researchers found that 63 per cent of all British people now use contactless payments. Younger people are the most widespread users but even among those over 65, more than half made tap-and-go payments last year.
The choice of how we pay for goods is widening all the time. Barclaycard has started embedding contactless chips into wrist watches, while other everyday products are being considered for the innovative technology.
Alison Sagar of PayPal UK said, “Payments are constantly evolving and we will see more changes in the next five years than we have seen in the last 50.”
However, it is unlikely that Britain will ever be a cash-free society, as some have predicted. The organisation UK Finance said that over the next decade, sterling notes and coins are expected to be the most frequently used payment method after debit cards.
Some oldies resolutely refuse to use cards, mobile phones or computers, but every day brings evidence of the irresistible march of technology.
A survey of house sales has just found that one of the biggest barriers to selling a home is if it is in a broadband black spot.
And here’s another thing: The day is coming when all new homes in England will be fitted with an electric car charging point.
It’s all down to cleaning up the air we breathe. The government wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent of 1990 levels over the next three decades and conventional petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2040.
All automobiles will be electric (or possibly hydrogen-operated) and the thinking is that a charging point in every home or garage will facilitate the change.
It is a criminal offence in Britain to force anyone into marriage and parents found guilty of such an offence involving their children can go to prison for seven years.
As many as 80 per cent of such marriages, frequently involving schoolgirls, take place abroad during the summer holidays.
To forestall this, teachers at the Co-operative Academy in Leeds are urging female pupils to hide a tablespoon in their underwear and thus trigger metal detectors at airports. This will allow them to raise the alarm privately with security staff.
Ms Harinder Kaur, from the school, said, “In the six-week holiday, families have the chance to go abroad and get their child married and come back.” The spoon trick, she said, “can save lives”.
Vicki Rutter bought an expensive £120 ring for her cousin’s 21st birthday and popped it inside a helium balloon as a surprise method of delivery.
Unfortunately, she took her eyes off the balloon “for thirty seconds” as she opened her house door, and balloon and ring floated off into the sky above Edenbridge, Kent.
Mrs Rutter set out in chase. “I was knocking on people’s doors during England’s World Cup match,” she said, but she had no luck.
She later bought a replacement gift, which she placed safely in her cousin’s hands.
The pains of getting old…
In the cemetery just before the burial, the undertaker asked the widow, “How old was your husband?” “Ninety eight, two years older than me,” she replied “So you’re 96,” the undertaker commented. “Yes,” said the widow, “hardly worth going home, is it?”
An elderly woman had two stipulations in her will — she wanted to be cremated and she wanted her ashes scattered over the local supermarket. Why the supermarket? the lawyer asked. “Then I’ll be sure my daughters visit me twice a week.”
The following headlines saw the light of day in newspapers or magazines:
Bugs flying around with wings are flying bugs.
Meeting on open meetings is closed.
Parents keep kids home to protest school closure.
19 remain dead in morgue shooting spree.
Miracle cure kills fifth patient.
Study shows frequent sex enhances pregnancy chances.
Homicide victims rarely talk to police.