The going is getting tough and I’m only on day 4 of my thirty day writing challenge; today, following New, Future and Creativity, it is Communication… heck, what on earth to write about that?
We didn’t have a telephone when I was a child. There was a red telephone box which was opposite the school, about half a mile, just a few minutes on a bike which was mum and dad’s only form of transport. I don’t remember them ever using the phone, but maybe they did, but who would they have phoned? No-one else had phones to be rung on! We lived in the ground floor flat of a house belonging to a dear old lady, Aunty Gladys, and eventually she got a telephone and I think occasionally mum and dad may have used it, but this was much later when there were more people who also had phones, and it would only have been for what amounted to an emergency. When I was about eight, I had to ring a school friend for some reason, and I cycled with dad to the telephone box opposite the school, with the four pennies needed to make a call. I was so nervous, my voice trembled and I can only remember the anxiety and dad trying to tell me what to do.
When I was fourteen we moved to our own house; it was a semi-detached property which had belonged to some elderly friends of my grandparents. There was a garden full of fruit trees, and the attic was boarded over and was a useful storage space. Did it have a window in the roof? I feel as if it did, but maybe that is just my imagination. These days such a space would be converted into another bedroom. We did not have a phone but there was a phone box just down the road, only a few minutes away and I must have been more confident then because I did ring people, I guess friends from school. On one occasion there was a crossed line; this meant that somehow I was connected to a complete stranger. It was a man and we had one of those odd conversations that sometimes happens and I had the sense that we both wanted to suggest we meet. Of course he might have been twice as old as me – I was probably about fifteen, and anyway I was probably too shy.
We moved house again, this time to Weston-super-Mare, from east to west. We didn’t have a phone at first, but I had a friend who did. I would walk up the hill to the phone box and phone her, or she would phone me back, and I seem to remember spending hours gassing away to her about goodness knows what since we saw each other at school each day. Then we got our own telephone at home which was marvellous. I went away to do my degree, and the awful flats and bedsits never had the luxury of their own phone – that was unheard of then. Sometimes there was a communal phone and I was able to ring home – there weren’t any friends to ring because everyone was in the same boat, no phone! Eventually a friend bought his own house and a couple of us moved in with him, and then luxury, a phone of our own! That was the end of my life without telephonic communication; I moved to my own place and ever since we have always had a landline.
Now of course, everyone has mobile phones, and now we are beginning to think that maybe we don’t need a landline anymore. It must be almost impossible for people younger than us to imagine being so out of touch with friends. My cousin wrote me a letter last week – an actual letter on paper, arriving through the post, delivered by the postman. Instead of messaging her, I found some writing paper and wrote back.