Archive | September, 2013

Before the Telly Came to Dominate the Room

15 Sep

Alexander McCall Smith, on his recent birthday, wrote a little piece talking about reminiscences.  It made me stop and reminisce a little too.

In spite of the threat of global annihilation, of which during my childhood I became increasingly aware (culminating with my reading of Neville Shute’s On the Beach when I was about 12), I grew up in a good time.

It was a time in which, unsupervised, we roamed freely up the lanes and across the fields; rode our bikes up and down the streets; foraged along the shore for discarded fizzy drinks bottles – glass in those days – to make a bob or two from the deposit; and got the messages for “auld Nellie Jones”, who would reward us with a tanner for sweeties.  And when it rained, which in the West of Scotland it did (and does) frequently, we passed the time playing games we had invented for ourselves; fiercely contested board games (L’Attaque was my favourite); creating things out of Lego (which, Merete, our Danish au pair, had brought us long before it ever commercially reached British shores); making drawings; or, in my case, by burying my nose deep into yet another book.

In those days, much to the horror of the youth of today, television didn’t start until about 5pm and finished with the National Anthem well before midnight.  The sets were black and white, 405 horizontal lines, on a 10 inch screen with mono sound.  There were but two stations, BBC and ITV.  Most action took place in a small number of indoor locations and relied more on dialogue than on action.  It was a family activity so Saturday nights would find us all glued to Dr Who, Jukebox Jury and Dixon of Dock Green.  As the telly was in the sitting room we never ate in front of it – meals were always family events eaten at the kitchen or dining table – even though my American mother had experienced the delights of TV dinners and snack suppers on trays in front of “the box” in the States before she came to live in Scotland.

Back then, despite Tomorrow’s World, we had no idea of the advances, all of which have taken place in my lifetime, that have led to flat screen, Dolby® surround sound TVs (some as massive as 60 inches!).  Such TVs, once again a status symbol, dominate the modern sitting room as did the large fireplaces in my childhood home.  How different it is now from back then when the old television set, which sat in the corner, was in a cabinet that had doors which could be closed when it was not in use.

The telly shown below is very similar to ours but with a much bigger screen, hence our cabinet was narrower and taller.