A bit beyond the graveyard at Bendochy in Perthshire, there’s an Intriguing Sight parked up on grass just off the road.
At first sight it might not seem all that intriguing. If you’re familiar with the British landscape you might think it was just one of those old – probably defunct – red phoneboxes:
In my youth we didn’t have mobile phones. In order to make calls when out and about, we relied on the Post Office to provide red phoneboxes with public phones in them. You could shove a 10p piece into a slot to make a call, and when the money was running out the ‘pips’ would alert you to the fact that you were about to be cut off. This was all part of normal life.
In this day and age, with virtually everyone having a mobile phone, I don’t know how many red phoneboxes still contain working phones, but it seems to me to be not very many.
Britain’s red phoneboxes, or kiosks as they were first known, came into being in 1921, and were painted red to make them stand out. There have been a variety of designs over the years, all of which are illustrated and described on the impressively detailed website, The Telephone Box.
When you get closer to the phonebox at Bendochy, you find that where it used to say ‘TELEPHONE’ in the white space at the top, it now says ‘Bendochy’ and there’s a little ‘i’ after it, signifying ‘information’.
As you approach the door of the phonebox, you might think you’re seeing shelves of books inside:
And you’d be quite right:
The sides of the phonebox that are not supporting books or acting as the door, are mounted with pinboards, one of which has maps of the area stuck to it, and an explanation of what’s going on inside the phonebox:
The pinboard on the other side has been left for advertisements:
I keep meaning to pin up a little flyer about my book on the pinboard, and stick a copy of the book on a bookshelf.
Bendochy’s phonebox is just one of over 1,500 such boxes to have been adopted by local communities and put to good use now that they no longer contain phones.
The decomissioned boxes have found all sorts of new leases of life. Quite a few contain defibrillators purchased by local villagers and installed in case of medical emergencies. There are also phoneboxes that have turned into art galleries and grocery shops.
If you fancy adopting your local phonebox, you can do it for the bargain price of £1.00 by applying to British Telecom.
They have a website all about it here, and they’re very keen to hear from people with interesting suggestions.