Life without TV

My Spanish teacher Javi wanted to know what life was like without TV.  It wasn’t a burning question for him. All he really wanted me to do was practice using pretérito imperfecto and pretérito indefinido, which definitely made the conversation more difficult.

All the same.  He was quite interested.  He discovered that I had first seen the television only a few hundred metres from his little flat in Sandhutton, because that is where I too used to live.  My mother was the village schoolmistress, and we, together with about a dozen other chosen ones, had been invited to watch the Queen’s coronation on the one television in the village, newly bought for the occasion by a more prosperous farmer. (Note to self: remember Elizabeth’s called Isabella in Spanish.)

A 1950s TV set. Don’t be fooled by its solid appearance. It’s really quite tiny. (Steve McVoy Wikimedia Commons)

We all crowded into his sitting room, and peered at the screen, very likely a 9” screen, as fuzzy images of the Queen in her carriage, the Queen in Westminster Abbey paraded before our eyes.

This was the kind of image we saw. Black and white and fuzzy and small, it was still thrilling to see these moving pictures, even for a five year old. (Wikimedia Commons)

And that was that for me and television in my childhood, as my parents were fiercely opposed to having one of those contraptions in the house, especially when there was so much entertainment to be had from the radio – I mean wireless : so long as you remembered to turn it on some two minutes before your programme was due to start, so it could warm up.

Our radio was something like this. It had heavy batteries that had to be taken every now and then to be charged at the shop down the road. Tuning it was quite an art too. Hilversum, anybody?

There was the Home Service (pretty much Radio 4 in dinner jackets), the Light Programme (Radio 2), and the Third Programme (Radio 3).  And that was it.  Except for me, and teenagers everywhere, Sunday evenings on Radio Luxembourg with its  diet of pop music was required listening, under cover of pretending to be in my bedroom doing my homework.

At friends’ houses when I was little, I occasionally saw shows like ‘Andy Pandy’, or the distinctly odd ‘Muffin the Mule’ in which a wooden puppet clopped about on the top of a grand piano at the behest of his mistress Annette Mills.

Muffin the Mule (Wikimedia Commons)

Later, as a teenager, I’d escape on Saturdays and watch the hugely popular satirical show ‘That Was The Week That Was’.  My parents watched it too when they got the chance.  But they still didn’t buy a television, and I could have no part in the constant school chatter about what had happened in last night’s ‘Emergency – Ward 10‘.  The advent of colour television in the early 1960s passed me by.

David Frost, presenter of ‘That Was The Week That Was’ on the cover of the Radio Times, This magazine was obligatory reading for the dedicated radio listener or television viewer in the days before the schedules were published in the paper and online. (Wikimedia Commons)

What you don’t have, you don’t miss, and television didn’t form part of my life till the 1970s.  It’s not hugely important now.

As to Javi.  I don’t know why he asked.  He hasn’t got a TV.  There’s always i-player and his laptop.

40 thoughts on “Life without TV”

  1. I enjoyed this nostalgic post. You’ve reminded me of my early favourites, Bleep & Booster, The Flower Pot Men and Andy Pandy. When it came to the ‘Andy Pandy’s going home now…’ bit at the end of the show, I’m told I was inconsolable. But it seems my interests have not changed much!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I ended up looking it up too as my recollections are vague, except I know I liked them. It was black and white drawings of a space boy and a robot-like alien, panned to give a feeling of film or animation. Wouldn’t fly these days!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved this post. I always enjoyed the years that we didn’t have tv. I felt like I did so much more! But, your post triggered something else for me. My childhood toy that I was inseperable from is a knitted horse/mule made by my sister’s friend for a Brownies badge, but then given to me when I was born some 50 odd years ago. It is named Muffin…so now I am wondering if it got its name from the show you mentioned, Muffin the Mule!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting post as always.
    I grew up in Suffolk where we were lucky enough to be able to listen to the pirate Radio Caroline. It had a huge influence on my musical taste and preference which has lasted a lifetime. Preferred that to the TV to be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh yes, a welcome trip down memory lane 🙂

    When I was very young, my parents called me Twizzle – after a gangly character on children’s tv which I now don’t remember. The show premiered the year I was born, yet I can’t imagine Mum & Dad had a tv then. That said, one of my sisters was named Karen – after an actress or character in Emergency Ward 10 so perhaps they did. I do remember Andy Pandy – and Pinky and Perky. Oh dear, that brings to mind another memory that I’d prefer to leave buried: my best friend at the age of 5 had a much older teenage sister, Barbara. My friend and I were granted the privilege of being invited into Barbara’s room to listen to her records. When asked who I thought we were listening to I answered brightly: “Pinky and Perky”” (Also, I’ve just read, premiered in 1957.)

    It was not P & P; it was The Zombies! Oh the horror on Barbara’s face. And the shame I felt! (Much later I came to enjoy Colin Blunstone’s music very much. But The Zombies are forever Pinky and Perky to me!)

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    1. And I was never a fan. Did you listen to ‘Children’s Favourites’? Or were you too young? They always seemed to feature and I really disliked them. I’ve just looked up Twizzle – rings no bells with me either. Though I think between us we have enough memories.

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  5. I never had and still don’t have TV…. Am I now ‘discounted’ forever? We did have one of the 2’ warming-up radios but it was on only for the news at 12.30 when father came home for his lunch…. Later we were allowed to listen to radio plays; oh, the joy!
    I had TV when I was in Canada for a while – we picked one up at the street and bent a wire coat hanger for an antenna…. the b&w pic was still always very grainy!
    Now we watch a DVD or (rarely) go to the cinema.
    Great fun post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My life wouldn’t really be any poorer without TV, though there are good programmes to be had, and what will we do when David Attenborough pops his clogs? DVDs seem to kick around in drawers and never get watched. I’m not organised enough ….


      1. Oh but you would be if you only ever had the DVDs you’re truly interested in! I love Attenborough’s films and buy them – and I too wonder what is going to happen to the Nation once he is no longer with us. I now watch lots of things on YT but I wonder if they have a control of my account because most films are being taken down if once I vote them up….. ?! I’m forever searching for baroque music and/or special interpretations or also certain hard-to-get films and every time i’ll find one and save it for watching later on, ‘this account has been terminated’ or something like that is being shown…. That’s not what I want!


  6. We haven’t had a TV for about 25 years now. People often ask what we do in the evening but my favourite comment was in a mobile phone shop when a member of staff looked very puzzled and asked what we had on the wall opposite the sofa!


  7. Hi Margaret – our lives replicate again. With a school teacher mother we didn’t have a TV ( or telephone) either. Probably why I love reading
    Meg in Sydney

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah! I can remember our first telephone. We lived in London by then, in Victoria. Our phone number was classier than our address. Tate Gallery 2921. And yes…. hooray for books.


      1. My it was a fancy telephone number, did you live near the Tate Gallery. When I was young, one of the delights of visiting my aunt in Melbourne was to answer her telephone with ‘ The McIntosh residence’. It seemed such an important job to a 7 year old. Thank you for prompting these memories

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Not that near…. but it was the nearest public building of note, I suppose. And I’ll never forget such a classy number. I should have rung ‘The McIntosh residence’ …. 😉


  8. I enjoyed this post a lot. We grew up without TV, but on visits to England when I stayed with my grandparents, we saw some of the children’s programmes you mention – I am sure many would be rather cloying to see now (especially Andy Pandy, though I loved it when I was only three), even though some were rather gloriously eccentric (such as Bill and Ben). I can easily do without TV (hardly watch it), but I am sorry to say that I would be really sorry not to have access to the Internet, even though I am fond of books too.


    1. Me too. Television’s great when someone like David Attenborough comes along, and some of the history programmes too, but I can get along just fine without it. The internet though. That’s a different matter. Without it, I wouldn’t have met you, and so many other interesting bloggers!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love your story-telling, Margaret, and your humour! I hear you about not missing what one doesn’t have. TV just isn’t a central part of our lives (we didn’t have one for years when the kids were growing up). But you make an interesting point: why does anyone even have TVs anymore?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I remember “That Was the Week That Was”! Tom Lehrer wrote a lot of satirical songs for it and he’s always been a huge favorite of mine! I must be a few years younger than you–I don’t remember the first time I saw TV, and we did have one, but I do remember the first time I saw color TV, at an aunt’s house. It was a football game and I wasn’t impressed because I knew the color of the grass should not be bright blue!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. TW3 that you saw must have been an American version? It wouldn’t travel well, I don’t think. And yes, colour TV at first managed to be both faded and brash – quite an achievement!


  11. When we moved to Seoul, we didn’t have a TV. When we did get one, it had local cable. I kind of liked that life. We went out for walks and explored our neighbourhood. With internet shows now configured to our TV, life isn’t the same. Binge watching has take over. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Excellent post – I grew up in the television era and I am not sure if I am better off or not. Certainly, it allows me to see things I would have missed, but I am not sure if I would miss them. I do enjoy watching the Olympics and other sport, and I only have one favorite program. Most of the media comes to me from the computer when I can watch when I want to and not on someone else’s schedule. Thanks for making me think about my choices. Have a wonderful week and Spring is ALMOST here.

    Liked by 1 person

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