First off, here's a [slightly longer] version of what I said about the phoneboxes.
I'm inspired by telephone boxes. Now I know that 'inspired' might seem like a strong word when it comes to something as everyday as phoneboxes, but they intrigue me. They make me feel, well, a bit excited, when I come across one.
And it started here.
01369 870 212
This is Glen Striven in Scotland, on the western shore of Loch Striven. (No doubt you've recognised 01369 as an Argyll and Bute area code.) It's actually the end of the public road - the gates, and some others you can't see, are to private estates. When I took this photograph about 12 years ago, it seemed to me that the main users of the phonebox were the three-man crew of the LNG Lagos, which at that point had been laid-up there for eight years. Chatting to one of the crew, I found out that each morning one of them would take their small motorboat across the loch to check their postbox and make a few calls. They did have a mobilephone on board the Lagos, but this was back when mobile calls were very expensive and they weren't allowed to use it for personal calls. So I took a photo of the phonebox and wrote down the number. I don't know if I imagined I was going to give them a call or something.
Of course, in some ways, it started before this. It started with a phonebox on Glossop Road in Sheffield. One evening I was on a bus: it was dusk, the phonebox was lit up, and there was a man inside. I obviously couldn't hear what he was saying, but in the six or seven seconds it took me to pass him, I could see from his body language, and his hand gestures, that what he was talking about was important.
And it started before that in a phonebox at Nether Edge crossroads in Sheffield. It was a Friday morning, and I was standing inside it, whilst my girlfriend stood outside, watching me make calls, rearranging my weekend plans, making new travel arrangements. Because half an hour earlier I had got a phonecall on our incoming-calls-only-landline in our shared house, 5 minutes walk away, telling me that I needed to go home to the midlands, and that I needed to do it today, to go to the hospital today, in case any later was too late.
And it started before that on Milking Stile Lane, in Lancaster, where I lived as a student. Because we were poor, and our landlord was crap, we didn't have a phone. So we would give out the number of the phonebox outside our front door as our own phone number, thinking that Greg or I, who had the front bedrooms, would hear it ring. But of course we never did, and we would sometimes open the door to slightly bemused knocks from passersby telling us that we had a call. Our friends and family were only sporadically successful in getting though to us, often finding themselves saying, "Yes, I know it's a phonebox, will you please knock at the door of number 1 for me?"
And on a teenage camping trip with my dad, I remember pausing each night on the way back from the showerblock to look at the telephone box, now free of its tea-time queue, lit up and surrounded by insects.
So the interest started in all of those places, but there in Glen Striven, is where the cataloguing started.
0114 270 0008
0207 278 5424
0114 236 0387
0114 236 1184
0114 236 6550
I like their potential. I like the fact that with the right combination of numbers and enough loose change, you could, potentially, speak to, what, 80% of the world's population?*
And I like the fact that they are located, not by a map, but just by their own set of numbers. On Flickr I just tag them "red" and " phonebox". You can work out where they are from the area codes if you want to. Sometimes people tag them with their location, but I quietly remove such geographical information.
But of course I am also aware that there aren't just any phoneboxes in this collection. None of your modern, flimsy phonebooths. I'm mainly interested in classic K6, red, cast-iron phoneboxes. I like their solidity, their permanence. When I come across a new one, I have a sense that it has been waiting. When I picture them, I often picture them in the rain. Thinking about them this week, I have realised that one of the things I admire about them is their loyalty. They're always there.
So, yes, I'm inspired by telephone boxes.
*a bit of research tells me that this was quite a good guess.
This talk was the kicking-off point for an Inspiration Exchange, that I ran throughout the rest of the day, in one of the great Pods that are part of The Ron Cooke Hub, where TEDxYork was held.
I swapped Inspiration cards with visitors, and then at the end of the day I reported back on what I had been told.
EMPTY BENCHES for
DOGS WITH SQUASHY FACES
SOMETHING MY MOM SAID TO ME WHEN I WAS 19 YEARS OLD for
A SILENT APPLAUSE
DEAD JELLYFISH for
RACING PIGEONS ON SKYE EDGE
BOTTLES OF MARBLES for
A BOX OF MARBLES
VOYAGER 2 for
PICTURES OF EARTH - WATCHING EARTH FROM THE SPACE STATION
MY GRANDAD SITTING LOOKING AT THE SEA for
"CAN'T GET USED TO LOSING YOU" BY THE BEAT
A SWIMMING POOL AT NIGHT
A VENN DIAGRAM OF ALL MY FRIENDS
NEVER TOO OLD TO LEARN
THREE PINTS OF GUINNESS
"DON'T ACT POSITIVE FOR MY SAKE, BE POSITIVE FOR YOUR OWN SAKE."
AIR CRASH INVESTIGATION
THE MISSING RUG
COMIC BOOKS, INEVITABLY
I'VE GOT SOME PIES
Thanks to everyone who came to hang out in the Inspiration Pod, you were brilliant.