Category Archives: mothers

Why don’t we talk on the phone any more?

In the early 1980s, my dad, brother and I would watch Doctor Who, religiously, every Saturday afternoon.

(Religiously is perhaps the wrong word, because being Jewish, we shouldn’t have been watching TV at all on a Saturday afternoon. But anyway…)

My dad would sit in his special armchair, with me aged seven or so on his knee, and my big brother squashed in beside us. This was a good set-up as it made sure we were well protected from the Daleks and any other aliens who might wish the Doctor ill.

One day, though, we were out on Saturday afternoon, and we realised that we hadn’t remembered to video that day’s episode. My mum was at home but – disaster – we didn’t have any cash to phone her. What to do?

You remember how it was with red telephone boxes… you didn’t have to put your money in till the person at the other end answered? You’d hear ‘Hello!’ and then you’d put push in your 5p.

So, we dialled our home number, and when my mum said ‘Hello?’ we simultaneously shouted ‘DOCTOR WHO!’ before we were cut off.

Just to be sure, we phoned again.

‘Hello?’ said my mum, sounding a little bemused this time. ‘DOCTOR WHO!’ we shouted over her.

The third time, her ‘Hello’ was starting to sound slightly hysterical…

It worked, though. When we got home, my long-suffering mother had understood the message and duly recorded the episode.

None of which has got anything to do with why we don’t talk on the phone any more – it was just a quirky story about telephones.

The thing is, I think if you’d said to us that day:

‘In the future, everyone is going to carry tiny rectangular computers in their pocket. If they want to communicate with someone they’ll be able to choose either to:

a) dial their number and talk
b) type a message to them on a miniature keyboard and wait for them to reply…’

…and if you’d then asked us which method people were likely to choose more often, I’m pretty certain we would have answered ‘a)’.

We would possibly have added, ‘Derrrr’… except I don’t think that sound had been invented at the time.

But we would, of course, have been wrong.

So why do people (including myself) treat most phonecalls as stressful, intrusive and unnecessary? I really don’t get it. And yet, I really do embrace it.

The other day at work, I needed to contact the IT department. Being reasonably new to the company, I asked a colleague how to do so.

She helpfully picked up my phone, dialled IT’s extension, then handed me the receiver, leaving me in a state of panic.

‘Oh my god. She’s expecting me to talk to them? I didn’t want their phone number – I wanted their email address! This is sheer madness!’

Luckily, the IT department clearly felt the same way, because the call went to voicemail and I was able to put the receiver down (without actually leaving a message, obviously), find out their email address and write to them instead – like any sensible person.

It only took them 24 hours to get back to me. What more could you ask for?


So, do you dislike using the phone, and why?

Or do you love doing so, and hate that no one picks up any more? 

Please let me know in the comments section.

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Lemons, Radio 4, and Turning Into My Mother


One morning a little while ago, I was standing in the kitchen in my apron, making apple pie. I was rolling out pastry made to my mother’s recipe, and in the background, Radio 4 was playing. Probably I was listening to an interview with a redoubtable old lady who had trekked solo across the Arctic with a band of huskies. Or maybe some comedians were struggling to get to Mornington Crescent, or a resident of Ambridge was worrying about whether he’d be able to dig up the potatoes in the South Field before the rain started.

Anyway, I was feeling completely content and in my element, until a realisation struck me – I had become my mother. Everything about the scene – the pastry, the radio station, the apron – was the very essence of her.

This moment had been coming for some time. My mum always used to say,
“Every week, I buy a lemon. I never know what I’m going to need it for, but I buy it just in case. And every week, I always do need it”.

My husband Anthony had heard her say this, so every time I bought a lemon, he used to asked in anxious tones whether I knew what I was going to use it for. He was checking that I hadn’t bought it ‘just in case’ – which would be a sure sign that I was turning into my mother.

These days, I use lemons in all sorts of recipes and tend to have several in stock at a time, so they can no longer be used as a becoming-my-mother-indicator. Indeed, my friend Adi came over a few weeks ago on the Jewish Sabbath for a post-synagogue meal. It was a last-minute invitation and so I hadn’t prepared anything – or indeed, done any food shopping for several days. So I explained that all I had to offer her for dessert was a lemon or an apple. Then I checked, and realised we had run out of apples.

She said she didn’t want the lemon, and personally I think that’s quite rude. When you’re invited to eat in people’s houses, you shouldn’t turn down the food you’re offered. I felt my hospitality was just thrown back in my face.

Anyway, back to my mother. I asked Anthony yesterday, for the purposes of this blog post, in what other ways he felt I was turning her. He said that he was unable to answer that as it would only get him into trouble. No amount of pressing would get him to say anything else, so I can only guess.

If I ever find myself watering the garden while it’s actually raining, the die will finally be cast.