Funnily enough, I was given a similar warning in Malaga some twenty years back - 'watch out for the gypsy flower-sellers' said the girl at the hotel desk. Now Laban pictured someone sitting in front of large flower-baskets in the style of the late Buster Edwards at Waterloo, and wasn't too worried.Beware, they told us in the train stations of northern Italy, of the Gypsy baby trick — an old ruse by Europe’s most reviled underclass. A woman will suddenly ask you to hold her child, and then just as you fumble to respond another Gypsy will grab your wallet.Watch out, they cautioned us in the lovely Turkish port city of Kusadasi, for the Gypsies who prey on tourists along the waterfront. And old lady will bump you, while a teenage hooligan grabs your bag. The Gypsy old-lady trick.
Those Gypsies, known by the less pejorative term of Roma, are getting kicked around the continent again, hardy perennials of European scapegoats. Unspoken characterizations based on ancient stereotypes — they are shiftless, clannish, prone to petty thievery and to begging, prostitution and dark motives — are now out in the open.
About to cross a road - a lady of maybe sixty blocks the way, thrusting a carnation at me and smiling. A younger woman with her.
"Cuanto es ?"
"Una peseta - para fiesta" (it was nearly Christmas and large fireworks were being sold from open street stalls - not at all like the UK)
(Rapid calculation - about 0.5p. Much too cheap to be kosher)
"No. No peseta. No fiesta"
Would you believe, she wouldn't take no for an answer, stepped up to me and started pinning it. I leapt backwards about a yard. Which pulled her left hand (empty) out of my right-hand rear trouser pocket. Impressive - my eye had been on the hand with the carnation, had not had a clue.
I spoke to them both in English then. They seemed to understand and went away.