We were watching a wonderful documentary about Alan Bennett, observations from a 1980s hotel, eee, ooo, all doilies and cake stands, perfect Sunday night TV and not the suicide kind, when the image on the TV screen suddenly contracted in size, as if the life within the thing were moving away from us and was exiting out the back of the telly … then the image folded in on itself into a grey line that disappeared, and the screen went black, and a very light haze of smoke came out the rear, smelling of burnt electrics and dust.
And that was it. This big bulbous cathode tube job dating from the middle of the John Major years had finally bought the farm. Or had it? Who could we call to come diagnose its ailment, and maybe restore it to full health? Time was when we would have a repair man round, there was a guy who lived in the next street from us in London, a radio fanatic called Gerald who looked like the professor off the Muppet Show and whose entire house was a radio museum, and who begrudgingly fixed TVs. He was regularly round, about once a month it seemed, in between power cuts, usually when the TV picture refused to stabilise and it just zipped diagonally along, and he’d come take the back off the TV, fiddle with this and that, and after a few minutes all was well and he’d get a large blue fiver for his trouble. Why we never cashed in on an ex-rental TV from OTV I don’t know, but we were doomed to miss that ship.
No such loving care for our 20″ Phillips jobby. No-one to call, not even to administer last rites. Its last phut would be its last anything, we decided, debating whether only to keep it inside or put it outside before dumping it the next day. Inside risked it spontaneously catching fire, outside meant certain death as it’d be rained on. But dead it was … dead it would be. Outside it went. Rained on it was. So good it did not look.
No more Channel Four news. No more Question Time. No more bleach-coloured ads with ukulele music, or Sue Perkins presenting The Great Gutter Unblock Off with plinky-plunk string music. No more Eastenders giving each other stress-induced cancer by virtue of being just epically miserable bastards. No more people crying because someone said they liked their cake. No more Goggle Box. Of course most of this I could yet subject myself to by way of iplayer etc, but I’d have to actively search these things out, not just allow myself to be barraged with total crap because that was all that was on when I turned on the telly. We were enjoying Alan Bennett, so that was sad to miss the end of that, but I suspect the death of the TV is something of which he’d approve.