Sunday, 25 July 2010

Ill communication

Mobile phones, eh? Ubiquitous technology, ever advancing, ever increasing in number and, consequently, edging out the old ways be they proper grammar and punctuation, speaking face to face or - heinously? - the vanquishment of the Red Telephone Box.

The attempts by BT - for surely it is they - to sideline the iconic edifices range from the downright bizarre, "Sorry, this phone box no longer accepts coins", to the economically driven: "If you DO have coins and you're lucky enough to be in a box which accepts them then, please, put in at least 60pence to make a call"! Okay, so your sixty pee gets you a thirty minute UK call but, for goodness sakes, most of the time the public telephone would have been used in the same banal way we now use the mobile: to let people know we're running late or that there's been a change of plans. Even the most rambling of us would struggle to stretch that out to half an hour.

This particular Local Hero style kiosk is on the tiny Hebridean island of Muck. Needless to say, as the knot of blue rope tied around the upside down door testifies, this chap's out of action. I've no doubt this will probably be a permanent measure. This is sad for all manner of reasons, not least because it represents the end of an era in terms of improving the island's links to the outside world.

At a storytelling session earlier this week, the island's previous laird - Lawrence MacEwan - told us how up until as recently as the mid 1950's Muck was phoneless and relied on the post office on the neighbouring island of Eigg to light a bonfire to let the Muckites know when an important telegram had arrived! Far more exciting than checking for messages on your Blackberry.

Perhaps this box can be saved for purposes of posterity and practicality, if not, and if the current patchy mobile coverage doesn't improve, it may well be time for the Eigg postmistress to break out the firelighters once more...

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