Trained in the art of communication


It’s true there are some days, so momentous, that you never forget where you were or what you were doing. I can tell you where I was when JFK was assassinated and what I was doing when 9/11 happened. In 30 years’ time I will also be able to tell you where I was and what I was doing on Sunday the 3rd of August this year.

I was standing in the public bar of the Butt & Oyster covered in detached barnacles and weed and shaking the rainwater off my coat. At the bottom of the hard was my Contessa 32, Minstrel Boy, tethered to posts like some unmucked out horse in a pile of scraped off weed, molluscs and slimy things.’Do you have a public phone here?’ I asked knowing damn well that they didn’t but in a voice loud enough to hopefully solicit the use of a mobile.

‘There’s one up the lane,’ said the cheery barman and off I trudged out into the deluge again to find a BT box, lurking in the overgrown hedgerow like some Suffolk version of Angkor Wat. It’s windows had been pushed out – not everyone likes sailing and there’s little else to do in Pin Mill – which had allowed it to become a pigeon loft.

The coin slot had been covered with a rivetted plate which bore the legend ‘No coins’. A poster covered in a cigarette-melted plastic frame told me I could use a credit card instead. I struggled to pull off my ocean layers of Aigle oilskin and pushed wet hands into snagging dry pockets to pull out my wallet. Only then did I discover there was no swipe slot for the card on the phone. I then called the operator: ‘Ah, that’s nothing to do with us’. He then put me through to who it was to do with.

And a voice in a far off country on a bad line took down my credit card details before telling me there was something wrong with the phone and rang off. The operator didn’t deserve to be re-christened but he was by me after telling me it would cost £4.80 just to connect me via a reverse charge call to my wife.

So, dear reader, Sunday the 3rd of August was the day I finally caved in and decided to become a mobile phone owner.