Friday, 25 August 2017


I don't think we ever owned a television, we certainly never went to Currys and bought one new, let alone traded up for a 45" flat-screen so we could watch the Big Match bigger than the family next door. In the 1980s, The Beloved joined a video co-operative [no end to that woman's talent] which met in the homes of members in rotation to see the rushes and discuss how to edit the latest footage. TB needed to take her hostie turn and so we became among the last people in England to rent a TV.  Which we did for 15 or 18 months at £3/mo until the video co-op fell asunder. For an additional token amount you could sign up to TV-rental's VHS video library: for a monthly payment you could take out a new video whenever you rocked up to the shop: it meant that, in theory, the whole family could watch a film-a-night for less than the price of a Mars bar.  It didn't work out like that because, after a very few weeks, we had seen all the available films which we had the slightest interest in viewing. And there is only so many times you can watch Zulu without fervently hoping that an assegai from off-screen-left would put you out of your misery.

Not having a telly left us a bit short changed w.r.t. popular culture. Once we went to the cinema with our pal Roy and found ourselves laughing uproariously at a clever advertisement for Carling Black Label. Nobody else was laughing and Roy leaned over quietly and indulgently to say "It's easy to tell who doesn't have television". The Boy solved the lack of common TV ground for school-break chatter by inventing episodes of Star Trek that no-one had seen, just so he wouldn't be the only one who was missing out. As experience becomes quotidian it loses its savour and even the best gets ever so slightly yawny. When Dau.II was going on boxed-set binges before she left home, she'd get into a trace-like state over House or Desperate Housewives: taking it all in but not really caring one way or the other.  So, for us, daytime television can be exciting, engaging and immediate because we don't get much of it.

Through 2012, when we were time-rich but cash-poor, Dau.II and I would go to visit her grandparents most weeks on The Pension Run. Part of that would involve watching the television after lunch on a Thursday with Souad. One of the programmes that was okay in small doses was a general knowledge quiz called Pointless. It was/is a game the whole family can play. The deal was that, prior to recording, they would give 100 ordinary people 100 seconds to name things in a specified category: Plays by Shakespeare or US Presidents, for example. The contestants were then given the same question but got fewer points if they could name the relatively obscure Timon of Athens or James Polk [R] rather than Romeo & Juliet or J.F. Kennedy which everbode kno. Having a plunge and getting it wrong with Doctor Faustus or Henry Kissinger was worse than picking the obvious. Thus, if you were part of popular culture at all at all, you could get some points but there was scope for a weasly mind as well: to know and reject answers that everyone was likely to know. The goal was a pointless correct answer that none of the 100 ordinary folk had named. But the title Pointless also acknowledged that the whole thing was not to be taken seriously . . . and the money prizes were modest. With a touch of irony, not too competitive and my pub-quiz mind, it could be good fun. There were worse ways to spend half an hour if the alternative was mowing the lawn.

Like the distinctly finite experience of rented VHS videos 30 years ago, I am coming up empty all too often with Youtube.  But I came across a couple of Pointless clips that were peculiar enough to give me a rush of nostalgia for those days before work and The Blob ate so voraciously into my time.

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