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We Called London's Most Popular Phone Box to See Who Picked Up

Because why not.

The red phone box in Parliament Square (Photo: Jillian, via)

It takes a real soppy fuck to romanticise a phone box. These days they're basically bins for chicken shop boxes, very public urinals or message-boards for sex workers. But this week they celebrate their 80th birthday, and it's hard not to consider all they've been through: a world war, people having a piss inside them, rain-soaked lovers getting steaming up the windows, more piss, people who ran out of credit on their 3210 using the 47p in their pocket to call their weed dealer. A bit more piss.

It's a magical thing, when you think about it. Spotting a working one is like witnessing a Wimpy or a Little Chef that's still in operation – a tangible, if slightly unnecessary, remnant of the past. And even though many have been shipped to Nottingham's phone box graveyard, or spruced up and converted into photo-booths for twee cafes, there are still 9,400 in operation, tucked-away behind hedges or plonked on the corners of concrete streets.

If there's one that's still very much alive and kicking, it's the phone box in Parliament Square, near Big Ben. It's visited by hundreds of tourists a day – but they're there to take identical photos for Instagram, not to use it for its original purpose. So to take the box back to basics in this, its 80th year, I tracked down its number online and called it a bunch of times to see who would pick up. And then, because the red phone box is a British icon, asked everyone what they think about the UK of 2016.

ROY, LONDON

VICE: Do you mind answering a few questions?
Roy: Of course, that's alright. How did you get my number?

You mean the phone box number? I got it online.
How did you get it online?!

From a weird blog that lists phone box numbers.
I was just walking past – you know what happened? I was just walking past and was with some tourists, and opened the door to see if it would smell – as a lot of the phone boxes round here smell – then it started ringing!

And here we are! What's your name?
My name's Roy.

Nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you, too!

Where do you live?
I'm a Londoner.

And what do you think of the state of Britain now?
It's alright. I mean, I was pro-Brexit – I think Britain needs to control its borders. Not just its borders – it needs to control everything. Are you going to say I won a million pounds or something? No?

Sorry, Roy, not today.

MICHAEL, GREECE

VICE: Hello, how are you?
Michael: Oh, hey! I was just here to take a photograph – we are tourists. I heard the phone ring and thought it might be for someone.

What's your name?
Michael. I'm from Greece. It's my second time in the UK, but it's my first day of this holiday.

Cool. What do you think of the state of Britain?
In terms of Brexit, the people of Britain – I think – did the best they could do.

And what's your favourite thing about the UK?
The city is so organised, and the people are so gentle.

Cheers, Michael!

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NADIA, PARIS

VICE: Hey!
Nadia: Hi – who are you looking for? I'm just next to Big Ben...

You! Fancy answering a few questions?
Umm, OK.

What's your name?
Nadia.

Where are you from?
Paris. I've just come to London for a day.

What have you visited so far?
We haven't had time, but we're going to see Buckingham Palace.

Oh OK, I'd better leave you to it. Last question: what do you think of Brexit?
People in France think it wasn't a very good idea.

PATRICIA, MEXICO

VICE: Hi! What's your name?
Patricia: Patricia! I'm from Mexico.

Is this your first time in London?
Yeah, it's my first time!

What's your favourite thing about Britain?
The London Eye – it's pretty impressive. I need to go now – sorry!

Oh, OK.

UNKNOWN, UNKNOWN

VICE: Hello!
Unknown: Hi.

I'm writing an article for a magazine about red phone box—
Same.

Okay?
Bye. *hangs up*

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YVONNE, HAMBURG

VICE: Hi, do you mind answering a few questions?
Yvonne: Yeah, what do you want?

What's your name?
Yvonne.

Is this your first time in London?
Yeah, we're just tourists here [laughs]. We're just at the Big Ben. We have to go to our flight soon, though.

No, stay! Let's chat! What are your impressions of Britain?
I like it! They all have red hair! I need to go! Call again – maybe I'll speak with you again one day.

Until then, Yvonne.

KATIE, MASSACHUSETTS

KATIE FROM AMERICA: Hi, this is Katie, from America.

Cool! I'm calling this phone box to see who picks up. What do you think of Britain?
It's awesome! I'm here from a few months. This is so funny. We've just done tourist-y things and have taken a picture in this box. I don't know. There's a line to get into the phone box, so I really should let you go!

Ok then.

NINA, BERLIN

VICE: Hi. What's your name?
Nina: Nina, from Berlin!

Cool. Is this your first time in London?
No, I've been before. I'm on vacation for a five-day mini-break. I've been to all the sites, the British museum, went out for dinner and going to the opera tonight.

Sounds fun. What do you think of Britain?
I'm not too fond of the idea that Britain is leaving the EU.

Join the club.
I think a lot of young people in London, as far as a friend has told me, are really unhappy about it.

Yep. What's your favourite thing about the UK?
The architecture – it's amazing!

You're not wrong.

@kylemmusic

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