I took this picture when I walked to Hyde Park about a week ago. These phone booths, a slightly later iteration of the iconic red "K-series" type first designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1924, stand near Marble Arch. They might make a nice backdrop for a tourist photo, but a closer look reveals them to be pretty sad-looking. There's a phone in only one of them, and I wouldn't touch it. The others look like this:
A year ago, there were about 10,000 of these boxes still on streets in Britain, about half of them no longer functional -- they exist for purely decorative purposes. There are campaigners who fight to preserve the boxes, arguing that they're a key component of British heritage, and some are protected under historic preservation laws. Some people have repurposed defunct boxes for uses including miniature lending libraries, art galleries, coffee or phone repair stands and even the "world's smallest nightclub."
I'm all for reusing them, and if they can be maintained, I don't mind having them around. But when they become eyesores, that's another matter. We've got a couple of old phone booths in our neighborhood that are routinely filled with bags of rubbish and plastered with graffiti and fliers from prostitutes. (Ours aren't even this cool 1920s style -- they're more modern ones.)
Apparently local governments have a hard time controlling the presence of pay phones because utility companies are given wide leeway for installing and replacing them -- often with sleek modern pillars covered with digital advertising, which are arguably worse. (Personally, I'd rather have the new pillar than a filthy old disused phone box, but that's just me.) It seems to me there's a gap somewhere in the regulations. If old phone boxes are going to stay on the street for aesthetic or historic purposes, they need to be better cared for.
As I often say, the only thing people don't do in a British telephone booth is make a phone call.
(In all fairness, this is probably true of phone booths all over the world nowadays.)
This is my purple heart plant, Tradescantia pallida, a cousin of the once-common houseplant known by the dubious name "wandering jew" (Tradescantia zebrina). I haven't seen a wandering jew plant in ages -- seems like they were all the rage back in the '70s. I wonder if it's less cultivated now because of the culturally questionable name?
Anyway, when I washed down all our houseplants on Wednesday, I didn't move the purple heart outside because it's so brittle. But I belatedly realized it was pretty dusty too, so yesterday I gingerly lifted it outside the back door and gave it a good rinse. It's now back indoors unscathed and appears much happier.
We did get rain yesterday -- about five minutes in the afternoon, and a good (but only slightly longer) downpour at about 10 p.m. We're supposed to get more this evening, and temperatures are only climbing to about 76º F (24º C), thank goodness.
Dave and I binge-watched a BBC mini-series called "Years and Years" over the last two days. It's a dystopian look at the near future -- the rise of an autocratic British populist leader (played by our neighbor down the street) and the fortunes of a middle-class family who find themselves suddenly struggling to survive amid bank failures and job and personal losses. We thought it was a brilliant show, though so realistic in places that it's scary. The latter half of the last episode fell a bit flat -- there was a lot to wrap up and it seemed rushed -- but overall it's worth watching, if you have a chance.