Chewing gum for the eyes…

The slang for TV in Spanish is “Caja Tonta” or the idiot box. I confess, I watch too much of it. But what can you do?  The Belle Dame, Sony Bravia, with her high definition, Sky Plus, two hundred or so channels and DVDs for afters. has me in thrall.

Wednesday evening was a good example. It began innocently enough with a couple of thirty minute aperitifs, BBC4 re-running its “Great Drives” series featured Richard Wilson in a Sixties Ford Consul driving a big loop around Snowdonia, pausing briefly to awkwardly interview an ex-slate miner and then flirt with three ex-Butlins Pwhelli hostesses of a similar vintage to the Ford Consul. The second thirty minutes , Tales from The Wild Wood, was not a Paul Weller album but a series on one man’s attempt to revive a working woodland in West Wales. It featured two Tamworth pigs (surely not The Tamworth Two?), chainsaws, lots of trees, open skies and a seven foot tall depressive hermit who could understudy for Gandalf.

At nine , the evening’s main event was Brazil with Michael Palin, a new series of travel programmes from the most travelled Python. Although interesting in itself for the images and insight into some less well known parts of Northern Brazil, it lacked any real bite and you felt that Palin was more of a bemused onlooker rather than a traveller engaging with his surroundings.

I watched most of this later than the actual slot thanks to Sky plus and took in a good deal of Ajax – Manchester City Champions league group game, which, with a 3-1 scoreline in favour of Ajax, proved more immediately entertaining than a 1020p trip to Recife and Salvador. With a lot of  academy players, the tight technical passing game and intelligent football of these Dutch youngsters triumphed over Mammon’s global mercenaries. In the end, De Boer and Bergkamp proved tactically too savvy for Mancini and Kidd. Dutch football fans are good value too and display an intelligent wit of their own: protest banners ( in English!) about rich football owners, a taunting Manchester United flag dressed one corner and at the end of the game, a section of the crowd in red danced the “Poznan” in cruel mockery of their visitors.

So in the course of three hours, I had driven around Snowdonia, visited a slate mine, reminisced about the way Fifties Britain holidayed in camps, spent time in a healing wood in Wales, saw cities and seas in Brazil that I had never heard of, and enjoyed a grandstand view of one of Europe’s historic football teams (Ajax) proving that you cannot guarantee success with oil money.

What made the experience more vivid were my own past experiences and connections with these events and places. I have spent time in the tropics in some out of the way places and could almost smell the heat, sweat, garlic and tobacco of that Brazilian dance hall, I know the road Wilson took around North Wales and once sneaked into Butlin’s Pwhelli for a drink on a Sunday in that dry Weslsh county, the noise and passion of a European football night in a north European city in Autumn are very familiar to me and I could feel the silence surrounding a man working alone in the woods all day at a craft that is millennia old.

An acquaintance of mine, who I admire, finds time to run a busy legal practice , play golf and cricket regurlarly, run marathons and work an allotment . On top of which he has a young family with all the demands that brings. I asked him once how he found the time, his reply was simple: “I don’t watch TV”

To watch or not, it’s a modern day dilemma and here are some relevant quotes that you may find amusing:

I think it’s brought the world a lot closer together, and will continue to do that. There are downsides to everything; there are unintended consequences to everything. The most corrosive piece of technology that I’ve ever seen is called television – but then, again, television, at its best, is magnificent. Steve Jobs

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. Groucho Marx

I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can’t stop eating peanuts.
Orson Welles


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