Re: You still have landlines in England???
"But, yeah, "I ain't Spartacus" we had the same when I was a kid, about 50 years ago. I seem to remember having to press a button on the top of the phone for some reason to make a call...Often picked up to hear the other party talking."
If memory serves me correctly, what you had there was specifically an "R-party" line - two subscribers per line, each of whom obtained dial tone by pressing the button, which placed an earth on one leg of the line to obtain dial tone. The call was then held by the loop in the normal manner.
By ensuring each party drew dial tone by earthing a different leg of the line it was possible for the exchange equipment to determine which of the two subscribers had initiated the call, ie., each party on the line had their own line circuit relays in the exchange - this allowed automatic metering for the call to take place.
I think (conventional) ringing was applied one leg to earth, so you only heard ringing for calls directed to you.
The other party line type was the "M-party" line - 5 or 10 subscribers per line, dial tone pulled by a loop on the line, a single line circuit so no identification of who the call was initiated by, coded rings (morse coded letters) and every subscriber received every ring.
It's been a while (40 years last December) and those days seem a long time ago - but yesterday a 40 year service award fronted up on my desk, so I guess I'm luckier than most of the people I started with back in '72.