Jul 06 2011

‘Hello, is that England’?

Published by at 11:09 am under News

I always remember the Da’ going around to the telephone box on Rathoath Road on a Sunday night to phone my sister in England. I think half of Cabra West used to queue up outside it waiting to make or receive a phone call. All the lads standing there with their collars up and the hair full of Brylcream hoping their moth was waiting on the other end of the phone. ‘Is that oul one going to be in there all night’? Their nerves getting the better of them as they dragged on their cigarette butt, having bought two tickets for the Capitol Picture House on the blackmarket and not sure if the moth was washing her hair again or not. The Da’ would have sent a letter to my sister the previous week letting her know the time to expect his call. I can still see him hopping from one foot to the other and cursing under his breath at some pimply faced teenager whispering down the telephone. And then all hell would break loose at two older women losing the rag when they start banging on the window of the phone box. ‘Here, what are you doin’ in there, gum suckin’ or what?, we haven’t all night to be standin’ out here in the rain. Would you ever hurry up’. Then the ould fella from down the road steps into the picture and declares ‘ I was on the queue before you. I won’t have you skippin’ ahead of me’. ‘Ah jaysus now, hang on mister…tell him Carmel…how long are we here’? And while  they’re at it good and heavy the young fella slips out of the phone box and the Da’ sneaks in without saying a word. It was like a religious ritual that people in our neighbourhood went through every Sunday night, it was almost like going to Mass or Sodality. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood the difference between button ‘A’ and button ‘B’. Then there was the smart lads that shoved a piece of paper up into the slot where people got their money back when they pressed button ‘B’. When nothing came out of the slot people would give it a good bang and storm out not realising that the stuffed piece of paper was holding their money back. Then the smart lad would return at his leisure and removing the paper would pocket the money. I remember one of my pals showing me how to ‘tap’ the phone to make a free call but what use was that to me, I didn’t know anyone who had a phone. I think I was about sixteen when I first used a public telephone. Nowadays even the baby in the pram has it’s own mobile phone. What would the Da’ make of that???

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