One downside of living in a small Norfolk Village is that very little happens. When it does, however, word gets round quickly: the incident becomes a much-repeated topic of conversation. Our communal village facilities consist of the Church, a Village Hall and a telephone box. Shortly after we moved here there was an event that caused great excitement: it transpired that, for several days, the telephone box had become the temporary overnight shelter for a passing itinerant. Eventually the person moved on and things went back to normal. The box has remained empty and unused ever since. See the picture above that draws attention to the spiders’ webs and intruding greenery.
I have made this a topic of my blog because our local our local Labour Party has embarked on a bizarre campaign to safeguard the future of this amenity. BT (British Telecom) is proposing the removal of over seventy phone boxes in rural villages in the county. Although BT has stated that it will not remove boxes in areas where the mobile signal is poor, their commitment is treated with scepticism. Hence the North Norfolk Labour Party’s initiative: it is “opposing the removal of this lifeline in our rural communities”. Note the word lifeline.
We first came here in 1997. Over that 19-year period I have never once seen anyone enter and use the phone box; I did not witness the passing itinerant personally. Some good friends who live opposite the box tell me that, very occasionally, they have seen men in flashy cars pull up outside and make a call – the purpose of which is unclear. So if the box is removed we could be making it more difficult to make untraceable calls, thus diminishing local provision for illicit relationships and for criminal activity. As for the ‘lifeline’ argument, I am sure that any real emergency would be dealt with by a landline call from the home of a sympathetic resident.
Locally–driven political campaigns need to be carefully judged. In North Norfolk our Labour candidate at the last General Election, the excellent Denise Burke, built up her reputation with a well-researched, high profile campaign on deficiencies in the local ambulance service. The local Labour Party has continued this theme with a petition on excessive charges for parking at local hospitals. Such campaigns have a resonance because everyone feels they might, at some time, need an ambulance or spend long periods visiting a relative in hospital. This doesn’t apply to telephone boxes; they are a charming relic of a bygone age, now only used in period drama. I am sure that those behind the phone box campaign are well intentioned – but the Labour Party needs to be identified with forward thinking and new solutions not nostalgic retrospection.