When Louisa was very young she became interested in foreign banknotes. I took great delight in scouring Newark market stalls for samples with which to enhance her collection. In her teens she moved on to other things and returned them to me. In 2006 I was to pass them on to a client who was a collector.
Phonecards required me to be a bit more adventurous. In the 1980s, when Louisa began collecting them, I was working in London, which is, of course, full of phoneboxes. These cards contained a reader which recorded the time left available on them. When exhausted, they would often be abandoned in the boxes. Rich pickings for someone prepared to tramp the streets and, if necessary, cross the road to forage. They would come in sets. I remember one celebrating Goldeneye, a James Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan. I would happily try to fill in the gaps for my daughter, proudly presenting them on my return to Lindum house in the evenings.
It was a red-letter day when I found one of the first cards ever issued. Since this was some time after its publication, I imagined it had been deposited by a tourist on his or her return to England. I once mentioned this obsession to a friend of mine. Now, these boxes also contained cards of another nature. Often bearing obviously lying glamour photographs, sexual service advertisements were frequently pasted on the walls. My friend got quite the wrong end of the stick and pulled my leg unmercifully. Cursory glances into more recent telephone boxes on my return to Victoria demonstrated that these wares are still being marketed through this medium. Most are now torn off, leaving stubborn fragments attached to the glass. They look rather like a price label attached to a present, or a charity shop paperback, which you cannot completely remove. Whilst carrying out my research I rather hoped that no-one watching would also get the wrong end of the stick.
That early phonecard, issued by BT (which in those days did truly stand for British Telecom) has now been superceded by a myriad of companies issuing cards without a reader; and the mobile phone has severely limited the call for public phone boxes. Louisa eventually also donated that collection to me. I don’t know where it is now, which is a pity because the Goldeneye set still shows a profit on e-Bay.