No phone sockets have been touched at all in the past few weeks, so the problem seems spontaneous. I started to realise problems may be happening when the old bakelite kitchen phone, which normally goes ping every time it receives a burst of data such as Caller ID info, started to ping randomly over a period of a few hours. When I picked up the bookroom phone, I heard a really loud and disturbing noise interfering with the dialtone, much like a low-powered buzz-saw. I experienced the same problem with my phone, but not with the kitchen phone. I unplugged the kitchen phone.
Now, nothing except plugging the kitchen phone back in would cause the line to hang up. In the UK, when a phone handset isn't replaced after the end of a call, a few minutes of silence are followed by an ear-piercing wailing alarm, which does Not Go Away until somebody notices and replaces the handset. For all I know, this could have been happening for hours, as none of the handsets were emitting this alarm until, after a while, I almost had a heart attack when I picked up the bookroom phone again.
When I finally managed to obtain a recognisable dialtone on my own phone I called BT's automated fault reporting service. I was asked to hang up while the tests were performed; I have no idea whether the line actually hung up once I put the phone back on the hook, but once I managed to get a dialtone again I was informed that a fault had indeed been detected between the exchange and my property.
I was invited to input an alternative number (my mobile number) in case engineers needed to contact me. I was given the option to receive updates of the situation by text message, which I decided to accept. Then I was again asked for an alternative number (my mobile number), which in this case would have incoming calls forwarded to it free of charge while the matter was resolved.
Best of all, I was informed that if the problem was not corrected by 5pm tomorrow, BT would refund the next month's £8.50 line rental, and credit me £1 per day towards additional mobile call costs incurred as a result of my loss of service. I'm almost hoping the problem isn't fixed before then, since I don't really lose much.
The only reason I could write this entry is that my ADSL connection, which relies on the same phone line, remains uninterrupted. I tried turning off the modem temporarily, as that had been part of the problem back when I discovered my DSL microfilters were useless, but that did nothing to resolve the buzz-saw problem. When I turned the modem back on, it re-synchronised with the exchange within seconds. I'm surfing as if nothing had happened.
How incredibly odd.
Update 16:55: Just had a phone call on my mobile from a nice BT lady who just confirmed various details with me, and told me that while engineers hope to have the problem resolved ASAP I've been given an estimated time of repair of Monday. Yay?