Wednesday, 30 January 2008


This is a photo taken by A Greek photographer,
Georgios Makkas and included in an article in a recent Guardian newspaper article about the likely loss of phoneboxes of this type in Britain.

As a student i took a year out to work in a Town and Country Planning office. Most of the time I was given the task of compiling interesting, but finally irrelevant, reports, though I attacked them with enthusiasm every time.

One day however I was surprised when my supervisor handed me a copy of a consultation application from the post office to reposition the public phone box in a local village from its highly effective location in front of the general store to a spot hidden around the corner near the back of the library.

I duly signed out for a site visit, the closest thing to insider trading and abuse of position possible in the job, and compiled a report honestly expressing my belief that the move was unnecessary and that the new location in the middle of the pavement demanded complicated steering skills for anyone with a push chair.

I popped the report in the out tray and forgot all about it.

A few weeks later my supervisor interrupted my pencil chewing and informed me that a representative of the telecommunication industry was waiting in the visitor’s room to see me.I didn’t know that anyone apart from my mother had noticed that I was working there, so thrilled I went to meet him.

A young anxious executive went to animated lengths to explain that the phone box had to move to this new location and that nothing else would avert calamity on a world scale. I listened, gob smacked at his intensity, and meekly suggested that in that case would it not be possible to negotiate with the library to set the box back into a wall recess to maximise pavement width.

My suggestion was dismissed instantly with such venom that I was left with no doubt that my potential choice of future career was sadly misguided. At great lengths it was explained that the regulations necessitated a metric clearance of certain magnitude between broom and wall for secure cleaning etc etc etc.

Dazed I returned to my desk wondering what the point of it all was. Why had my opinion been sought when whatever I said was so phlegmatically dismissed?

Time passed, I learnt that the job was often like that. I remember a man who had permission to build a house refused because it was considered to contribute to unsightly village sprawl. In response he dumped rubbish and planted brambles and nettles on the plot and when it was a right mess he took the local councillors on a visit explaining how he would improve the local environment by building a beautiful home there. His application was accepted.

Months later, just before leaving to a more interesting life I passed the site of the former phone box and turned the corner to see the new one. I couldn’t believe it, there it was proud, and beautiful set back in its own private recess in the library wall.

I had left a tangible mark on the world, I had changed it! For the first time!

Possibly the only time but was I a happy monkey?

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