Before Skype, before prepaid calling cards, before mobile phone plans offered free international calls, on my first trip to the UK, the way to call home was to take lots of coins to a public phone box, dial, and when I got an answer, read out the box’s number as quickly as possible and wait for a call back.
Sometimes, there were snippets of Australian news on British TV. One night at a B& B in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, while watching a programme about British politics, I heard a Conservative say that John Major wouldn’t go the way of some politicians ‘like Bob Hawke who’s been replaced and forced to resign in favour of Paul Keating’.
That prompted an upset phone call back home, where the sad truth was confirmed. Nowadays, many see Keating as a modern visionary and superlative Parliamentary performer, but he was also the Treasurer who’d presided over 17% interest rates on mortgages and talked about the recession ‘we had to have’. My Australian dollar wasn’t going as far in the UK as it once would have (and later would again). And I wasn’t the only one who thought that in Parliament he was plain rude. But I digress.
I also went to Australia House in London, which had Australian newspapers, including one that mentioned a young spin bowler called Shane Warne…