ROYAL Mail have delivered the latest and last edition of ‘The Phone Book’ this week - I shall, as its cover recommends ‘hold on to it forever’, writes columnist Alison Eden.

So few people consent for their land lines to be listed that the residential phone numbers for the whole of South East Devon cover not even 60 pages from somebody curiously called just ‘AA’ in Brookfield Drive, Teignmouth to ‘M Zygmunt’ in Torquay. I’m in it and I’m glad to make the final edition. 

From ‘Abbatoirs’ to ‘Zoological Gardens’ the printed classified index, now that I know it has thumped its last on my doorstep, seems magical and fascinating. S

peaking of magic, I look to see if Devon has any exorcists and find only estate agents.  Why, why is it only when something is about to be lost forever that it seems so precious. 

Speaking of youth, I look for cosmetic surgery and find just ‘control panel manufacturers.’ Fleetingly I wonder if they make ‘hold me in knickers.’ 

Next time I need the international phone code for say Germany, I can just google it and get the answer straight away or I can ‘ask Siri’ and have a robot give me the answer. 

This is, in business terms, called a ‘lean’ process. No wasteful meandering about for the information. No lost seconds flicking through paper pages to get to the answer and getting side-tracked via Ecuador and Fiji en route. 

But oh! the romance that simply looking down a list of countries on a page can bring. The wistful holiday thoughts of Cuba, the lure of the Cote d’Ivoire, the embarrassment of having no clue where Diego Garcia might be (and realising I’d always thought it was a footballer and not a place). 

The internet may bring more information to our fingertips than we could ever have dreamt of last century but going straight to an answer cuts out all the accidental knowledge and exposure to inspiration that taking time thumbing through a directory to find an answer can bring. 

Once upon a time ripping up directories was a test of strength. 

According to the Guinness book of records the most telephone directories torn by a woman in a minute is 5 and was achieved by Linsey Lindberg (USA) in Texas, USA, on 16 November 2014. 

Edward Charon (also USA) ripped from top to bottom 56 telephone directories, each with 1,006 numbered pages in three minutes in, Missouri, USA, on 14 September 2006. 

The motivation to be a record breaker has certainly led to some bizarre activities. If you have time to waste, go to the Guinness World Record web site  and search ‘ping pong balls.’ There are 398 results… 

So, in closing, the end of an era, here is a poem by Wendy Cope written in 1986 when phone books were huge and drunk-calling crushes involved the turning of pages in hope they weren’t ‘x’ directory. 

‘Going too far’ 

Cuddling the new telephone directory 

After I found your name in it  

Was going too far.

It’s a safe bet you’re not hugging a phone book,

Wherever you are.