On the benefits of a broken telly

Our television is broken, or, rather, it’s not completely kapputt, it’s just a bit knackered (the volume stops working when we change channel, so we have to switch it off and on again; the aerial’s a bit wobbly as well, so if it’s raining, we can only pick up ITV and some rubbish Freeview channel).

I should buy a new one, in fact people beg us to, and one friend, who cannot live without his 40 inches of flat screen action (heh heh)!, night after night, keeps offering us the 36 inches he has just replaced with the 40 inch monster goggle box, for free.

While I’m at work, dog could sit in and bulk watch Homes under the Hammer and Jeremy Kyle all day instead of distributing the contents of the bathroom bin all over the stairs, destroying the butter dish and snagging the defrosting bread off the counter to scarf.

On nights when I’m home alone, I could while away the lonely boredom with a documentary on BBC 4. With a working telly, we could stream box-sets from Amazon, enabling me to keep up with water cooler conversation about the latest season of zombies/ gangsters/ bikers/ fake-medieval fantasy. So far, however, I’m resisting, and the reason is this; I don’t like losing time.

Time is a strange beast, it moves with the agonising slowness of a snail at some points, and yet at others it can rival a roadrunner for miles eaten up. My working days are sloths but my evenings and weekends are cheetahs on kawasakis, particularly when there’s a TV involved. What is it about the television that enables us to pause thought, feeling, consciousness (until the ad break or the end credits, at least, and even then we’re not quite free and can be pulled right back in by the next thing on, even if it’s rubbish)!

On days when I’ve watched the news, then left the telly on in the background for an hour because X-Files (or, whatever) is on at nine so there’s no point switching it off, I go to bed feeling wired and when I arrive at work the next day i feel as if I’ve only just left, I haven’t done anything in between, I have been like a toy, switched off at the power button until I am next needed, held in stasis.

Conversely, when it’s raining (or windy, or the snow is of the wrong type), and my TV aerial is sulking, I do strange things, like pick up a book, maybe my journal, even. I poke around at ‘that’ story I wrote last year but which has never worked but fixing it always looked like too much like hard work. I play a CD I’d forgotten about and am transported back to when I last heard it and it sparks something in my brain. Or even, I just lie on the sofa, feeling spare, and boredom is, I think, the key to writing.

So, the telly is staying broken. I am forever destined to shout ‘don’t spoil me!’ When work conversation moves from office gossip to last night’s episode of whatever I’m three seasons behind on. It’s better than the alternative.

(Originally published August 2016)

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