Tuesday 1 August 2023

Putting you through now

Wow, it's the 1st of August already; where did July go? Those of you still playing along at home will know that last month I set Phone Boxes as August's photo challenge. Ben Dakin's brilliant book There Go the Pips was the inspiration to go out and photograph this endangered species of British street furniture. And, knowing I have a few dedicated followers dotted around, hither and thither, this sceptred isle, I was hoping for a good spread; I wasn't disappointed.

A timely image to kick proceedings off: Hull Images (a great Twitter feed documenting my home town) has come in with a Pride decorated box taken in the city last weekend. What a great way to start. A big thank you to Dave Wise.

I told you I had a readership scattered far and wide - Stevie at Charity Chic got in touch: ''Hi John, my phone box entry is from the wonderfully named Strathbungo district on Glasgow's Southside.'' Cheers, Stevie.

Rol at My Top Ten next. Unable to find anything in his archive, Rol told me he was forced to go out, phone in hand (oh, the irony), to visit one of the only few remaining boxes in the area. ''This one has been turned into a mini library. Not sure what the local charity shops make of this, but it's full of second hand books and DVDs.'' Thank you, Rol. A few round here have gone down the library route, in fact I've got one further down this piece.

Another cracking Twitter contributor next. Carl Thompson appears to spend much of his time documenting the cities of Salford and Manchester and his photo archive will, I'm sure, be invaluable to future generations of historians and psychogeographers alike. This image, however, was taken some 200 miles south: ''Gasping, dying, but somehow still alive. Phone box, Limehouse, London.'' I absolutely love this shot, Carl. Thank you.

The Number One Son has got in on the act this month. This came in a little earlier. (James & I were both listening to BBC's Test Match Special at the time - following the Oval Test): ''The two shitty old phone boxes I walk past every day covered in shitty 'street art' and rained on by the same shitty rain that cost England the Ashes.'' Thanks, James. File under grim.

Swiss Adam has been out and about in his hood: ''This one, an old K6, is in a front garden not far from us. The owner has a collection of signs and bits & bobs but the phone box is the centrepiece. And rightly so.'' Nice one, Adam

My friend Riggsby in America comes bearing bad news this month: Hi John, I've not found a single working box to contribute to this month's theme. I did snap an old fashioned (empty) British box but it's just an oddity outside an English pub on India Street in San Diego.'' As I told Richard, there appears to have been a worldwide cull on these once omnipresent communication icons. It's really quite dispiriting.

Another newbie: my friend David asks, ''Does this count? I think there's a phone in it.'' Of course it counts! Thanks, David.

A fellow blogger next. Khayem, from the excellent Dubhed site, writes: ''This one is in my home village on the high street next to a pub and a bus stop. Not the most inspired of shots, but quite sad with one of the 'telephone' signs smashed and lost.''

''Same phone, different angle, the hazy sunlight making it seem like the phone box has just landed a la Doctor Who's Tardis.'' K goes on to say, and I love this bit, ''Note the phone handset cord is twisted. I always found this when using phone boxes back in the day.'' Quite. Thank you, K. Good to see a working K8, even with a twisted cord! 

Martin at New Amusements, someone who was greatly missed at York's BlogCon 23, has not only a tasty photograph, but what Steve Wright would call, I'm sure, a factoid: ''The little red caps appearing on top of some phone boxes are a BT pilot to make Wi-Fi available for their customers when they're out and about; basically turning phone boxes into hotspots.'' Thank you, Martin. Every day's a school day and all that.

The Swede got in under the radar just as I was typing this: 'Sitting outside my local sorting office is this magnificent beast, which I'd assumed contained a defibrillator, but upon closer inspection is an actual working phone box - Marvellous!'' Marvellous, indeed! Thank you, TS. Always a pleasure doing business with you. 

Living in a large city I was able to find quite a few specimens, but I was mainly drawn to the scuzzier end of the spectrum and as you can see below this particular one (only a mile away from me) is, unsurprisingly, earmarked for a telephonic lethal injection.

It really is a pitiful sight...

Another quartet of dodgy phones, not always in dodgy areas, can I just say, but again, you wonder how long they've got left... 

Before I sign off I'll leave you with a couple of more upbeat images. A mini library that sits outside one of the University campuses in town (where I chanced upon a recent John Harvey). It also comes with a solar panel.

And finally, just around the corner from my auntie and uncle's place in Hull is one of the iconic Kingston Communications white K6 telephone boxes. Thank you to everyone who took the time to join in this month - see you next time...


Next Month's Challenge

Imposing edifices: tall buildings, masts, towers, obelisks - you name it, if it's imposing I really want to see it. Ping them over to me by the 1st - that would be fab.



  1. Telephonetastic! Great selection and I must admit I am most visually drawn to the dodgier looking examples, whilst grateful I can't smell them...
    Sorry I couldn't contribute to this lovely challenge. We have a K6 in the centre of the village but, like so many others, very pretty and all that but now repurposed as a sort of mini tourist information centre (un-staffed, I should add). I'd struggle to find any kind of functioning phone box now within 5 miles of my home. Shame.

    1. Don't worry, C. Your plight is not uncommon.
      Sit tight for September's challenge!

  2. A brilliant selection of contributions, John, not least your own - many thanks for sharing.

    Picking up on C's comment, my personal memory of using phone boxes in the 1970s and 1980s - apart from the constantly twisted handset cord - was the overwhelming whiff of urine.

    I can only hope that's not a (mis)use that's continued as phone boxes have been converted into mini libraries and defibrillator stations...

    1. BT (and the GPO before them) hated the K6s for that very reason...

  3. Glad I managed to sneak in under the wire. Some great shots here. I particularly like Rol's library box that's sunk into a stone wall.

    1. They're all great, don't you think? I may have to post a P.S. as I've just had a text from Adam - he's only gone and spotted a wonderful kiosk in Lindos on the island of Rhodes!

  4. Another wonderful installment.

    Back when I was on the radio, we used to have a competition on our show called The Phantom Phone Box. We'd find a box in the local area, take down its number, then give out clues on air to its location. Towards the end of the show, we'd call the number and give a prize to anyone who answered with the right phrase. Wouldn't be able to do that these days. It's sad that so many phone boxes have been removed... sadder still that we never really noticed them being taken away.

    1. Phone boxes also form the cultural backdrop to so many films, TV shows, novels, album covers; their omnipresence during the last century cannot be overstated.