I turn to my friend list and select Jane Buckingham. I need an easy evening. I warn her that she is next and, as with everything, she takes it in her stride and gives me 7.30 ’til 8.30.
She answers the phone in an officious manner, because her number is both business and home and, unlike most phones plugged into the wall, it never stops ringing.
‘You didn’t necessarily think it would be me, did you?’
‘No, it could have been anyone?’
‘At this time?’
‘At any time, people ring us at all times of the day and night and then say it’s not urgent!’
Her husband, Craig, runs his own computer servicing company up and down the Great Ocean Road. We met him 10 years ago just after we had all emigrated and he had a recognisable Essex accent and a Tottenham Hotspur tattoo on his leg. He suggested that we should all get together and that I’d get on with his wife. I had imagined her to be tall with big bushy blonde hair and acrylic nails, saying “‘ere Craig, are you paying for this or what?”
But when she came over for an English night at our house, we opened the door to a vision in white linen, carrying lilies. Her hair was cropped, her shoes were flat and she was so demure she brought out the Essex girl in me (my dad was born in Ilford.)
Jane was born in a flat above the shop that her Mum and Dad ran in Sevenoaks. I didn’t know that until this evening. They moved 10 doors up the road a year later and now her Mum lives 10 doors up from that. Her mum comes to Apollo Bay every year and we all congratulate her for a.surviving the long haul flight and b. the fact that at 80 she still doesn’t have a grey hair on her head. Jane is proving to be of the same stock.
We begin talking about the radio as I was on the ABC 774 today regarding this very blog and then we leap to BBC Radio 4. I ask if she ever listens to R4 to marvel at the eccentric people in the UK, then for some reason our conversation turns to inbreeding and Jane says that living here, that is one less thing for us to worry about.
Jane told me that she liked Richard Stubbs’ question to me about mobiles. And my answer. As far as possible I hope to be talking to people through our landlines so that no one is on the hop. We agree that the cost of mobile conversations and the thriftiness of texting has killed conversation. Of course I will have to call some people via other means but I will try to use Skype, then at least they are sitting down and can’t easily begin running.
Jane’s maiden name is Wond. She is an avid Harry Potter fan so it is perfect that she has that up her sleeve. On marrying Craig she became Buckingham which is also ideal in that I consider her to be the Queen of organisation.
I ask her if one of the reasons that she is so into the Harry Potter books is because they feed into her organisational streak and she is able to solve riddle after riddle by putting this here and that there and she admits to taking notes as she read them!
My organisational skills are lacking and I go to her for tips, she walks into our house and I show her some arranging that I might have attempted in say, the kitchen pantry, and she says ‘baby steps, baby steps’.
We begin reminiscing about the numbers that were in the beginning of the old phone books. 16, that was Dial a disc, directory enquiries, which we both find hard to pronounce now, 192, the speaking clock, (how much did we enjoy hearing that nice lady) and the operator- 100. ‘What was the operator for?’ To check for a fault on the line and to get through to my grandparents in Essex pre 1972ish.
She raised the bar when she mentioned ‘reversing the charge’. Could you? Should you? Maybe it would be better to walk the wet streets all night than to get your parents to pick you up after you had reversed the charges!
She mentions the amount of thought we gave to using someone else’s phone, it just wasn’t the done thing. I went round Australia in 1992, stayed with friends of friends and always called the number that timed my call, prior to calling England. At the end of the call the operator told me how much the argument with my boyfriend had cost plus a load more for the service. I always handed over the cash and starved paying Telstra for that service (I was 62kg when I got home, my boyfriend met me at the airport and we ended it there and then.)
Another reason that we don’t linger on mobiles could be that we are the guinea-pig generation testing the results of putting electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range against our heads. If we are all dead by sixty, the next generation will be able to draw some conclusions from that.
Our hour long call covered our friend Shane becoming the top ploughman in all of Australia (‘did you see that on Facebook?’), the posting on You Tube called ‘Look up’, pumpkins (which featured in an earlier post) and security blankets (which was in the same post as the pumpkins!) I begin to wonder whether for 365 days the same topics will just keep coming round as I share so many friends with friends in the Australian segment of my list.
But I am happy to talk about blankets and pumpkins for as long as I have to, it is just nice to have the lilting tones of a good friend’s voice baby-stepping around my disorganised brain for an hour.
The Victoria sandwich that Jane made for my birthday last year. Another vision in white!