GPO phones

Following on from my classic phone box post, it will probably come as no surprise that I also love classic GPO 746 telephones.

Replica red GPO 746
My replica GPO 746. Modern-day replicas have an additional hash and star on the rotary dial so as to be compatible with telephone banking.

Growing up, we had two original 746s in the house, a black one that came with the place when my parents bought it in 1982 and an ivory one that I think one of them might have brought from a previous flat.  The ivory one died a death sometime in the ’00s, but the black one still sits on the hall table, waiting patiently for me to adopt it eventually.  I think even in the ’90s, we were a bit behind the times  – whenever I had friends from school round and they needed to use the phone, none of them knew how to use the rotary dial.  I’m guessing most people in the UK had switched to push button models by the late ’80s.

I bought a replica 746 (shown above) from GPO Retro a year or two ago.  I love the way it looks, though the feel isn’t 100% right – there’s not quite as much spring tension on the rotary dial as there is on an original model, presumably to aid quicker dialling when dealing with automated answer systems such as telephone banking, and of course it beeps in your ear during dialling as well, unlike the originals.  Still, I’m very happy with it, and when we get round to extending the phone line upstairs in the new house, I’ll probably get one in another colour.


When I was a kid in the ’80s and ’90s, I spent what seemed like an inordinate amount of time in the back of a car, travelling around the UK to visit family, who lived all over the place.  My dad likes to take a lot of driving breaks, and so while we visited a lot of motorway service stations, when we were out on more remote roads our pit stop of choice was always some random country pub.

Country pub in 1988
Country pub, 1988, with my mum and younger brother. Pub drinking starts early in my family.

I don’t know where my hoarding/collecting/general possessiveness tendencies come from (some family members have suggested it’s genetic, as a lot of us are like that), but they’ve always been there, and so as a small child I soon started to notice the brightly coloured and highly collectible bits of cardboard that were always sitting there on the pub tables, preventing my glass of Diet Coke from leaving an unsightly ring.  I think you all know where this is going.

Beermat collection
A small fraction of my extensive beermat collection.

As an adult, I’ve turned part of my large beermat collection (i.e. as many as will fit on the above corkboard) into a slightly dubious-quality ‘piece of art’ that hangs in our hallway.  The display is an exercise in nostalgia as much as anything else – I often pause in the hallway and marvel at the way that some of them are painfully of their time.  The Furstenburg one in the top-left corner is absolutely classic ’80s advert styling, the competition advertised on the Martini one in the third row has a closing date sometime in 1986, and the ‘Head Out To Marlboro Country’ one in the second row brings back memories of an impossibly long-ago century when you were actually allowed to advertise smoking as cool and adventurous with only a tiny, hard-to-read government warning along the bottom edge.

At the same time, some drinks are so classic that I don’t think they’ve updated their beermat design in the intervening 20-30 years (Strongbow and Newcastle Brown, I’m looking at you) and I still see identical ones in the pubs of today.

I stopped collecting beermats around the point in my mid-teens that the alcohol itself became more interesting, but I’ll always have a soft spot for this particular hoard.

Victorian ceiling details

There are many things I am not going to miss about living in a Victorian build – draughts, damp and dust being the TLDR version.  What I am going to miss, though, are the ceilings.  I love ceilings in Victorian buildings.

First of all, they’re nice and high, and coupled with the larger rooms you tend to get in such houses, they give a real airy sense of space.  I grew up in a Victorian building – my parents still live there – and so I often find more modern houses with their low ceilings to be a bit claustrophobic.

The main thing, though, is the pretty detailing you get on the ceilings.  The house in which I grew up has absolutely beautiful cornices, at which I still find myself staring for ages whenever I visit home.  The house in which we live at the moment doesn’t have cornices, sadly, but it does have this lovely arch detail in the downstairs hallway:

Victorian plaster arch
Intricate plaster arch in our current hallway.

…and this ceiling rose in the living room:

Victorian ceiling rose
Ceiling rose with light fitting in the centre.

…both of which I absolutely love.  I will miss these pretty embellishments when we move into a more modern building, but I am looking forward to better insulation and hoovering not being a largely pointless exercise!

New (old) glasses

Since I got my latest pair of glasses in summer 2017, I’ve been wearing my previous pair for cardio exercise, a) to keep my new ones nice and b) because the arms of my new ones are too thin to fit into my Croakies.  This was okay for a while, but recently my old pair have really been starting to hurt my nose (they have those twiddly plastic nubs on wire that rest either side of your nose rather than a moulded plastic bit of the frame – I could probably look up the technical terms, but glasses-wearers will know what I mean), and so tonight I went through all my ancient pairs to see if I could find a better option for exercise glasses.

Glasses collection
My glasses, 2000-present. The fact that a lot of them have broken arms and/or loose lenses perhaps indicates I’m a bit harder on glasses than I should be.

I’ve been wearing glasses since I was fifteen, but a lot of my old pairs are broken.  Yes, I keep them around anyway – I’ve taken steps to curb my hoarding tendencies in recent years, but when a complete collection is involved the lure of eventually running a crazy old lady museum where I can show terrified visitors my Complete! Unbroken! Line! of glasses going back to 2000 is too great, and so the stuff stays in my possession.  I have some issues.

Anyway, other than my current ones and my now-uncomfortable pair, I only have two unbroken pairs in my collection, and one of them a) is my very first pair and hence far too ancient a prescription, b) has similar discomfort issues from what I remember, and c) has thin wire frames like my current pair, so would have the same Croakies issue.  That leaves a grand total of one option, which I’ve been wearing tonight to see if the feel is okay.  As you might expect from an older pair of glasses, the prescription does feel a bit off, but for cardio that doesn’t matter too much – it’s really just to keep me from being so blind I’m bumping into people.  One of the lenses also looks slightly warped in the frame, but after some experimental fiddling I reckon it’s lodged in there pretty firmly and probably not at risk of coming loose.  As such, I think they’ll do.

I probably should just buy another pair for exercise at some point, but due to a new house and car, 2018 is definitely not going to be a spendy year, so that may be a 2019 project.

Red phone boxes

In the month of my birth, January 1985, two important things happened in the history of the telephone in the UK.  One was Britain’s first ever mobile phone call, made in the early hours of New Year’s Day 1985.  The other was the announcement that classic red phone boxes would be replaced with a new design.  Looking 33 years backwards from our world of smartphone zombies, YMMV on whether either of these was a good thing.

The classic red phone box is one of my favourite aesthetic icons of 20th century Britain.  I love red phone boxes and take pictures of them wherever I find them, like some kind of excitable tourist.  Sad to say they are gradually becoming rarer and rarer on Britain’s streets, but lots of them are being repurposed for things like defibrillators and cash machines, so I live in hope that they won’t disappear completely.

Red phone box in York
Me with a classic phone box outside York Minster last year. I spotted it while running the Yorkshire 10 Mile race and went back for a photo the next day.

I have lots of phone box pictures and will be sharing them on the blog soon!

Some of my favourite useful links for info about phone boxes:

Another parkrun…

I went to parkrun again this morning, and shaved two minutes off last week’s time, largely thanks to the pacers that Newcastle parkrun has every second Saturday of the month.  Not bad following a winter slump.

Geth made a huge improvement this week too, following a couple of midweek training sessions.  We spent the rest of the day being deservedly lazy in the house!

2018 Ciders #3: Addlestones

This is another one I had on the 2nd, when I went for pre-birthday drinks with friends in Edinburgh, but as I’m doing Dry January (save the first three days!) I’m spreading these out throughout the month.

Addlestones Cloudy Cider
Addlestones Cloudy Cider.

I usually find Addlestones a bit dry for my taste, but on this particular evening it was quite welcome (especially as I was on the Diet Cokes otherwise, which I’m not madly keen on either).  Typically, though, I only drink it when it’s the only thing a pub has on draught, which is surprisingly often.

Slimming World

I went to my Slimming World group today, as I have every week since the beginning of last February, when I first joined.  It’s sort of become second nature, but at the same time a big part of my life.

Pre-SW I had been trying unsuccessfully for eight years to lose weight.  The thing I’ve found has been most helpful with SW is the weekly group weigh-in – I find I’m so much more motivated to stay on track when I feel like I’m accountable to other people, and having this weekly appointment has really helped me during difficult periods of my weight loss, at times when, during previous efforts, I would take my eye off the ball and end up regaining everything.

Over Christmas/New Year/my birthday, for instance, I put on five pounds over three weeks.  When I went to weigh-in today after a week during which I tried really hard to stick to plan (Dry January is really helping with this), I’d lost four and a half pounds of that weight and am nearly back where I was before Christmas.  Just having a support system to keep track of this kind of thing works so much better for me than trying to do everything myself.

Also, it’s great for magpies like me, ’cause you get shiny stickers with every achievement:

Slimming World members' book
My Slimming World book. You stop reading it once you’ve memorised the Syns in all your favourite foods, and from then on use it solely for sticking shiny things on.

Lost another half stone?  STICKER.  Done enough exercise for a certain number of weeks?  STICKER.  Lost more weight this week than anyone else in the group?  SHINY, SHINY STICKER (not to mention a basket of Slimming World-friendly food).  My SW consultant calls it “bling for your book”, and I love bling.

I’ve lost three and a half stone with Slimming World so far – aiming for four and a half stone in total.  Hopefully, with all the indulgences of autumn and early winter out of the way, that last stone before target shouldn’t take too much longer!

Vintage TV

I’ve always been obsessed with music TV channels, ever since my family first got cable in the mid-’90s and my school friends and I all discovered the wonders of “The Box” channel, where, because it was advertised as “music television you control”, you could waste your parents’ phone bill on requests for videos that were inevitably ignored by whoever was controlling the channel.  I believe the channel still exists, but I don’t know if you can still request videos by dialling up on your landline.  It’s probably all done through social media nowadays.  I bet the requests still get ignored though.

I watched a lot of different music channels as a student and later a semi-employed graduate, because when we lived in Scotland, Geth and I were still able to get Virgin TV with all its delicious, delicious choice.  Since we moved down to England, however, we’ve never been able to get Virgin TV in our area, so for years the only music channels available to me were 4Music and Viva, the former of which I tend to avoid due to too much reality content and the latter of which I only really watch for the chart once a week.  (Except at Christmas, when I traditionally watch music TV all day long.  I’m easily pleased at that time of year.)

About three years ago, however, either Freeview or our BT package decided to grant us access to Vintage TV, first as a streaming channel and then as a normal channel where you could actually set recordings and everything.  I can’t tell you how much I love this channel.  I have it on in the background whenever I’m not watching anything else, and I actually record the ’80s playlists (it typically shows stuff from the ’60s to the ’90s) so that I can watch them later with the adverts fast forwarded.  Geth wants to look into switching from BT to plain Freeview when we move into the new place, so I’ve made sure he knows Vintage TV is non-negotiable (my mother-in-law doesn’t have it on her Freeview package, but I think it depends on location).

For a throwback like me, it’s pretty much the perfect music channel.  They even have interview shows and live performances with all their most featured 20th century artists so you can see how well they’ve aged find out what they’re up to nowadays.  Just a shame it doesn’t have Top 100/50/20 etc. countdowns like the more modern-focused music channels do, but you can’t have everything!

Milestone boots

The first of my online orders from my yearly Christmas/birthday money splurge arrived today: knee high slouch boots from ASOS.  They’re a lot shinier than they look on the website, but if you know me, you know that’s no bad thing.

Glittery knee high boots
I may not take these off for a while.

When I told Geth the other day what I’d bought with my Christmas and birthday money (knee high boots! new handbag! nice bracelet! new dressing gown!) he seemed a bit surprised.  ‘You buy such grown-up things now.  Where are the games?’

I still love games, but I feel like I’ve got enough at the moment (not to mention no time to play them).  Not only that, but I don’t really feel like my new fripperies are the least bit grown-up – shiny, sparkly boots are the kind of thing I used to buy back in my teenage years.  However, I’ve not bought knee high boots since probably…2007, and there’s a good reason for that.  I have ridiculously giant calves, so when I’m even the slightest bit overweight (which I was from 2009 until I started losing the weight with Slimming World last year), knee high boots are an impossibility.

As such, with just over a stone to go till target, these boots are an exciting weight loss milestone.  They’re slouchy, so it is kind of cheating – especially as my still-giant-despite-now-being-a-healthy-BMI calves do a very good job of filling the supposed-to-be-slouchy bits – but I’m taking it as a win anyway.  Hopefully, when I reach my goal weight, they’ll fit a bit more like they’re supposed to.  In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy sparkling through the dull second half of winter!