Z holds the line

The main news of the day is that Dave’s back. He has photos to show us, but he says we won’t see them all – just one for every comment that we left while he was away, I expect.

I’ve spent some of the day making phone calls. I don’t like making phone calls very much. When I was a little girl, I once curiously picked up the phone – in those days, telephones were always in the hallway. No one had one in the living room and certainly not in the bedroom. Ours was in the gun room; not that guns had been kept there for years. A dog bed was at the end of the room in front of the desk, so you stood in the dog bed to make a phone call. Anyway, I picked up the phone and a voice said “Number, please.” I slammed the phone down and ran away.

The phobia lasted for years. I didn’t mind answering a call, but I hated making one. It wasn’t just that barely-remembered memory; I was always sure that I’d ring at an inconvenient time and that the person at the other end would be irritated but too polite to say so. I found business calls much easier than personal ones, so I’m sure that was much of the reason. It was no better if I was going to invite someone for dinner or a similar jolly. I was convinced that they wouldn’t want to come and would be too polite to say so. The Sage issued all invitations for years.

I’ve got over it now. But I still find the whole thing about evening calls is difficult. How do you know when people have their evening meal? We eat around 7.30 – 8 ish usually, unless we’re early or late, but any time between 5.30 and 9.30 might catch people cooking or eating. Emails are so much simpler.

Anyway, I don’t have hang-ups (hee hee) about the phone now, but I still don’t much like it. So, this morning, I stopped thinking about the calls I needed to make and had done for a couple of weeks, and just made them. And now I feel quite free.

Did you know, you young people, that you used not to buy your own phone? They were all rented out by British Telecommunications (or was it always Telecom before it was BT?) and you had to pay a quarterly rent. When we moved house in 1976, we found one in a bedroom that, evidently, had been forgotten. We rigged up a line – we couldn’t get in the phone engineers as we shouldn’t have had it, and had the rare luxury of a phone in the bedroom. We still use that phone. It’s a bit crackly, but splendidly retro. We only answer calls though. However did we manage to dial numbers all those years? My finger always slips and I keep having to start again. Mind you, numbers are longer now and there’s more scope for mistakes. When I was a child, our number was Oulton Broad 40.

20 comments on “Z holds the line

  1. The Manic Street Preacher

    I once ran up a massive phone bill at my grandads trying to track down a bird I’d met (etc) from Liverpool with the surname Morgan. There were thousands of Morgans in Liverpool.

    Never found her but a) the memory was good and b) my grandad paid the huge phone bill without bollocking me.

    I’ve an old ‘candlestick’ phone here. Caz hates it as she keeps hitting herself on the head with it when it rings.

  2. Dandelion

    ooh yes, I used to rent mine. three quid or so a quarter. i think they had that arrangement to encourage take-up in the early days.

    also, i’m pleased to finally realise why the telecom tower was called the telecom tower and not the british telecom tower. thanks for that.

    ps what is a broad?

  3. Dave

    Weed: it’s what they call young ladies around here.

    Z: was going to make a comment, but decided it was rude, so withdraw it, sight unseen.

  4. Z

    Aw, Manic, there’s such a world of tact in (etc). Understanding chap, your grandad.

    There was a time when there was a real shortage of phone lines – you might have a long wait or have to share a party line.

    Dave, good morning. Liked your flower pic yesterday. No one has been rude to me for weeks, I wonder why?

  5. Z

    As for ‘the early days’, young Dandelion, just when do you think the telephone was invented? I think it was just because they had a monopoly and wanted to make as much money out of us as they could.

  6. Dandelion

    z, you do know I’m nearly 40, don’t you?

    Perhaps I’m naiive, but I still believe in the early days a telephone would have been prohibitively expensive for most people to buy.

    And I think viewing a public service as a “monopoly” is ever-so-slightly unkind if you don’t mind me saying. With all due respect.

  7. Z

    Dandelion, darling, you’re young enough to be my daughter; less of this ‘nearly 40’, it makes me feel old.

    Most people had telephones by the 1970s, at any rate, and British Telecom certainly didn’t behave like a public service then. There was a waiting list for a line, you weren’t allowed to buy a telephone even if you wanted to (and £12 per year indefinitely was not good value for money) and they might tell you that all you could have was a party line. Nationalised industries were often pretty contemptuous of their customers, who couldn’t go elsewhere because there was no choice.

  8. Z

    Oulton Broad 40, then Lowestoft 5040, then 65040. When I got married, Lowestoft 67666, then moved house and it was 0502 61930, then 01502 61930. Funny how you never forget your phone number (my own is the only mobile phone number I know, though).

    Yes, there was some romance in place names being part of the number. And letters are easier to remember, especially if they mean something.

  9. Blue Witch

    I think British Telecon didn’t exist in the 1970s. Wasn’t it the GPO who provided telephony services then?

    I don’t think BT came into existence until the PO was broken up in the early 80s.

  10. Ivy

    I have the same dislike of making calls. I always feel that I`m going to be disturbing the person or ringing at an inconvenient time, and so being a nuisance.

    Think that`s why I use emails far more than the phone. That way they can get the message at a time that suits them.

    Why are mobile phone numbers so hard to remember though? I can`t even remember my own!

  11. Z

    You’re absolutely right, BW. I had a feeling there was something amiss there, but I lazily didn’t check. Glad I’ve got you!

    Ivy, I’m so glad I’m not the only one

  12. Dandelion

    Oh yes, I forgot. You were a gym slip mother, weren’t you?

    I was thinking of before the 70s really, but I can see I probably need to eat some of my words…

  13. Dandelion

    Mobile numbers are hard to remember I think because of inconsistency in the chunking.

    If you pick a way of doing it and stay consistent, they’re a lot easier. I do 07970 (say) as the first chunk, and then it’s just two lots of 3 numbers after that. Other people prefer the 4-3 formation as the last two chunks.

  14. Z

    I remember long numbers by their pattern – for example, my mobile has some double numbers and they are what I think of – for example, if it were 07896003311, I’d say 0, 789, six hundred, 33,11 (or maybe thirty-three, eleven). If I say a long number in the wrong rhythm, I can’t remember it.

    Funnily enough, local numbers I find hard to remember because they all start with the same two digits and I only have four to remember. I remember the numbers all right, but not whom they belong to. I ask the Sage. He usually knows.

    Gymslip mother, indeed. Cheeky, you are.

  15. Z

    Don’t look it though, you ask Dave. Why do you think I only show an eye? Vanity, it is.

    I did once put up a misleadingly young picture of myself, but only because it caught me in a good (if big-nosed) light!

  16. Dandelion

    That’s because my mother is very well-preserved.

    And yes, I remember that picture, I just mentioned it to dave, in fact. I think you’re bluffing.

  17. Gert

    I’m so glad BW came up with GPO. I still refer to the Post Office Tower.

    I have a slight fascination with outdated manhole covers (and other street furniture), and I always feel a frisson when I spot a GPO one. They recently relocated the Post Box from across the main road to outside my house (how exciting is that!) and I have just noticed, after 12 years of using it, that it’s GR.

    My sister was born in 1964. Because my father worked for a big company he was able to jump the waiting list for a pram. People who didn’t work in the right place had a ten month wait.

    My brother was born in 1975, and the old pram had long gone to the Sally Army, so we went to Stretford Arndale (colloquially known as Stretford Precinct, immortalised in the Royle Family, and now rebranded as Stretford Mall), walked into Mothercare and bought one, just like that!


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