Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Icons of England

On our way back from Wappenshall to Norbury Junction we cycled through the village of Preston upon the Weald Moors. The "weald moors" themselves are a bit disappointing, being just an area of flattish agricultural land, but the village green contains these two wonderful icons of "Englishness" - the post box and the telephone kiosk.
Between them they represent the communications network of the 20th-Century but not, alas, the 21st. Take a closer look inside that phone box:

Yes, the telephone itself has been removed - and not by vandals but officially and the notice pinned up on the wall explains why. This is happening all over the country as use of the kiosks declines and makes them uneconomic to maintain. Actually, whoever composes the removal notices has a sense of humour as they read: "This payphone has been removed by BT. If you wish to comment on its removal please telephone the following number......." Assuming, of course, that your mobile phone a) doesn't have a flat battery, b) isn't out of credit and c) can get a signal in the first place.

Its mobile phones, of course, that have dealt the final blow to the phone box and it was when I came across a similarly denuded box when needing to make a call at a railway station in the north of England that I realised I would have to get one myself. (If they're even taking them away from railway stations......)

For the benefit of younger readers, its no coincidence that the kiosk and the post box are both painted the same shade of red. Its known as "Post Office Red" and, once upon a time, the Post Office ran the telephone system as well as the postal service. The telephones were hived off many years ago, before being privatised in the 1980s but one of the quirks of deregulation and privatisation since that time is that hopeless nostalgics (like me) can now, once again, get their home telephone service from the Post Office, which I do just because its publicly-owned and allows me to put two fingers up to the privateers that have run this country (and continue to do so) for the last 25 years. Political rant over: although the way things are going with the Post Office I wonder how long it will be before that post box joins its larger neighbour as a non-functional monument to a past age at Preston upon the Weald Moors.

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