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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.