DWM 475 Urgent Calls…

We are a family of habit, and one of our nicest traditions is to trundle down to Bournemouth every Easter to stay with my lovely mother-in-law (if any burglars are reading this, beware: we leave a very fierce couple of guardcats behind us. Also, at a push, some guard guinea pigs and guard gerbils. The guard goldfish, I have to admit, probably won’t trouble you much). Long-time readers may possibly recall that I was unable to take the trip with the rest of my family last Easter, thankfully this year we were all together (even more thankfully as this year there wasn’t even any new Doctor Who on telly to sustain me).

Now, very close to Bournemouth there happens to be a town called Boscombe, and in Boscombe a brand new police box was recently unveiled. Annoyingly the grand opening of the Boscombe police box had taken place the week before we arrived, but you won’t be surprised to learn that we still decided it was worth a visit. Actually, that day turned into a bit of a TV-related sightseeing trip, as we were first conveyed to Ringwood Health and Leisure Centre, a place I’ve wanted to go to since passing signs to Ringwood on my first visit to Bournemouth well over a decade ago, knowing it to be the filming location of my favourite ever sitcom, The Brittas Empire. Quite why I found it exciting to stand outside a (closed) leisure centre peering in at the empty swimming pool and posing for photos by the fire escape I found rather hard to explain, but as mother to my husband, my mother-in-law is used to the slightly irrational desires of those of us who have a deep interest in telly stuff. So, anyway, I can now cross ‘visit Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre’ off  – well, I don’t particularly want to call it a ‘bucket list’ as I have a superstitious dread of being struck dead the second I tick off the last item (NB I’m not really superstitious. I am a perfectly rational human being who just happens to not walk under ladders because I am extremely clumsy and would probably knock over the ladder and get a paint pot on my head like in a sitcom) – but anyway, leisure centre – tick. Sorry, that sentence got away from me a bit, as the Tenth Doctor once said.

Anyway, after that we went off to see the police box. It was rather good (if dimensionally somewhat wider than the prop we’re used to), and we were given a warm welcome by an extremely lovely police officer who gave each twin an ‘I Visited Boscombe Police Box’ sticker, offered to move aside so they could have their photo taken in front of the box, and even let them have a look inside (there was a little desk and a heater and a defibrillator). It’s a brilliant idea: not only making the police presence more visible, but also making the police much more approachable for children by associating them with the Doctor. Fab stuff! Also, just think of all the children whose hearts will skip a beat as they round a corner and spot a police box standing there…

I distinctly remember being on a coach on the way to a school trip – although the nature of the trip itself escapes me – with my horse-mad friend pointing out the interesting equines we drove past, while I grumbled that it was all right for her, but you never saw a field full of TARDISes. (Unless you count those blue portaloos, which can just about pass at a great distance with your eyes half shut.) I suppose it wouldn’t actually have been impossible for me to spot a police box ‘in the wild’ on an early 1980s school trip, but the eighties and nineties were really police box wildernesses, with the actual, real, functional things having been almost entirely phased out and the entrance to the Longleat Doctor Who exhibition being pretty much the only Doctor Who related one you ever came across. When husband and I visited Longleat back in 2004, shortly after the exhibition had been closed and replaced with ‘Old Joe’s Mine’, we found that by a strange and bizarre coincidence the mine entrance looked exactly like a police box painted white. Pretty spooky. Although not as spooky as the – shall we say ‘disproportioned’? – paintings of Tegan and Turlough (from memory, they strongly resembled the ‘saved’ Miss Evangelista) on a Doctor Who ride that came to our local carnival and was probably the only other TARDIS-related thing that I encountered in real life back in the Eighties. If I’d rounded a corner and came across those paintings unexpectedly, I think I’d still be having nightmares to this day…

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