Why we have resisted the charms of television
PUBLISHED: 07:52 29 January 2018 | UPDATED: 07:52 29 January 2018
We have not got it and we have never had it. After all this time I don’t think that we ever will. Believe me, I admit this with no feeling of pride. We have put ourselves, by our neglect, not only beyond the pale, but into an entrenched position from which it is impossible to retreat. The whole situation has slyly crawled up on us and turned itself into a matter of principle. We have become all too like the politicians who state publicly and categorically eighteen times that they are dead against something and then find it expedient to be for it. On second thoughts, this would not trouble many politicians at all.
The most frenzied Anti in the family is my priceless wife. For one reason and another she hates television with venom and determination. In the days when she could be persuaded to give it a glance, the screens would dissolve into Kaleidoscopic mutations of circles and lines - like the last shuddering patterns before an anaesthetic brings unconsciousness.
Now, when the view is getting so much clearer, the prejudice remains, though it is not only the quality of the picture that makes her quiver. Our children have emerged into adulthood unscathed by its effects. So powerful is the parental influence that they too have built-in prejudices. Certainly they have no Freudian longing to sneak off and drown themselves in the clandestine pleasures of the small blue screen.
As for myself, I realise with dreadful clarity that one of the nation’s major addicts has been lost in me. I am well aware that I would have been fully capable of glaring at it unceasingly, night in, night out, complaining bitterly, but carefully ignoring the remedy that the adjacent switch would always hold out to me.
At one point my wife (sensing danger) declared firmly that the moment a set had been installed, she would go home, with vigour, to her mother. It was only when, a year later, we had bridged the gap of 6000 miles that parted them and discovered three sets in the old homestead - two black-and-white and one colour - that she realised that her threat was an empty one.
The absence of a box is a burden that needs tact, character and courage to sustain. People who have it resent, in some unexplained way, this idiosyncrasy - or at least react to it very strangely. However tactfully and humbly the confession is made, the ardent viewers regard it as insult. We are instantly accused of being either snobs or inverted snobs.
Other less ardent tend to launch into pitiful, intimate and embarrassing apologies. “The children needed it,” they say, or “we never have the thing on ourselves,” or “Of course, we only turn it on for concerts and the news.” We begin to feel like Red Guards, faced by a group of revisionist swine.
Curiously enough, the same people, if fortunate enough to own a well-stocked deep-freeze, would never allow themselves to notice our failure to possess one of these. The kindly men who sell electrical appliances are difficult, too. Each managed to sell us a four hundred volt, quadruple-tubed, super heterodyne receiver with a six square-foot screen and they all regard us with ill-concealed disappointment.
But the most striking demonstration of disapproval we have had to bear was put on by a way-out 15-year-old niece who came for a week-end. She reached our house at 11 o’clock in the morning on the day when “Juke Box Jury” was being shown. On finding out our disastrous deficiency, she quietly caught the 2.30 back to Winchester.
The absence of television cuts us off, without any doubt, from the mainstream of a number of topics of conversation. The identity of a whole race of famous men and women is concealed from us. When we hear how superb old so-and-so had been last night, we have learned to look tactfully agreeable, despite the fact that the name of old so-and-so means no more to any of us than one picked with a pin from a telephone directory.
Moreover, apart from the people, there are whole situations of which we have no knowledge, countless creations of which we know nothing. I was once one of the judges of a display of decorated floats and helped to award the first prize to some strangely and ingeniously dressed people who called themselves “The Glogs” or “The Plops,” or something of the sort. It was weeks before I accidently learned that they were characters in a TV serial.
We, the television-less, have our compensations. We know all there is to know about sound radio, from Jack de Manio, through The Dales, to the Sunday evening programmes featuring the voices of Messrs Wilson and Heath. Furthermore, we have recently acquired a radiogram which does everything but trot around the room, and which picks up the BBC at Norwich, Ingram Johnson and all, Force 10 without effort. Moreover, it needs a small aerial, and I keep hoping that the piece of H-shaped machinery that is now attached to our chimney will put a few minds at rest.
And in moments of emergency we have neighbours who are good looking, kind, generous and the possessors of an enormous set with a screen several feet long. It is to them that we creep when the World Cup is on or the 2.45 at Lingfield looks extra promising. But even now, when my wife can be persuaded to come along, a sly look in her direction will detect her sitting there bravely, eyes glazed and angled firmly ten degrees to the right of the crystal clear picture, thinking quiet thoughts about the days when they didn’t have it in America either.