The man at the door is heavy set, greying and in his forties. He has the look of a man whose job it is to collect property from houses. “Just came around for the box” he says. And there it was, the final nail in the cable coffin. As part of ‘Operation If It Ain’t Broke, Fix It Anyway’, we decided to cancel our 200 channel digital TV subscription with a vague aim of using the time for other, more improving things.
Of course we didn’t really use the 200 channels. The normal procedure was to flick through them every three seconds before eventually settling back on the channel we started with, usually the one with Grand Designs. We’d return just in time for the best bit, when it’s all going wrong. Kevin McLoud is saying “….but nearly four months after the Stewarts were due to move into their dream eco-home, the site is waterlogged and they are still living in a wheelie-bin…”
Now that we just have RTE1, RTE2, TV3 and TG4 to flick through, a distinct pattern starts to emerge. Turn on TG4 and there’s a good chance you will see Mike ‘Dan Paddy’ O’Flaherty doing sean-nós dancing at a fair in Ballinasloe in 1982 or an Apache Indian cradling his dying brother and swearing revenge against the white man.
TV3 has an Exclusive! interview with a ‘celebrity’ about NOTHING or Vincent Browne spitting at his guests while struggling to read the viewers’ texts.
RTE2 is a tiger stalking an antelope or the red-haired cop from CSI-Wherever tossing out a wisecrack that makes you want to Punch Him In The Face. (A mash-up where a tiger chases David Caruso around a CSI lab would be far more entertaining).
RTE1 – the recession.
We had all sorts of noble intentions in getting rid of the Digital TV. We’ll do other things we said: Going for walks, talking, reading self-improving books. It would give me the impetus and the time to write more. I’ll finally get round to penning the Great Irish Novel about the desolation visited on a household when it suddenly loses all its TV channels. At the very least, some of my stand-up comedy material needed to be replaced with newer jokes. “Seriously, phones you can carry in your pocket, what’s THAT all about?”
So here we are in the sitting-room watching RTE2. It’s a documentary about snow leopards. Two newly-weds, the long dark evenings ahead of us. How are we going to pass the time? We look at each other meaningfully, giddily. No words are exchanged. There’s excited fumbling with zips and buttons. Within seconds, we’ve put on our coats and are heading out the door to XtraVision.
All giddiness disappears when we tentatively push open the door of the video shop. You can’t appear foolish in front of the staff. At least one person behind the counter will have a large beard which he smirks into whenever someone brings a Jennifer Aniston film to the counter. It’s best not to trouble him with any questions.
The first decision to be made is – Film or Box Set?
Couples should approach box sets with caution. A box set is a long term commitment that must not be entered into lightly. When two people who care for each other embark on a box set together it can be a beautiful thing. On our honeymoon, we completed Series Five of The Wire together. As the montage of cocaine dealing and drive-by shootings in Baltimore (Maryland, not West Cork) faded from the screen, we had never felt so close to one another.
The converse is also true. The divide can be deep where one person is watching a box set on their own. The other person in the relationship can feel isolated. Recently my wife started the Dexter box set. I missed the start of the series. By Disc 2 we had drifted apart, living our lives in separate rooms. Mainly because I was asked to leave for continually asking “And will he kill that psychiatrist fella next?”
Thankfully that difficult time has passed. She says she’s finished with Dexter, so for the time being so we’re back together reminscing about magic moments we’ve shared together. Like Brother Mouzone shooting ‘Cheese’ Wagstaff in Series Two of the Wire.
Tonight in XtraVision we’re going to pick a movie. Movies don’t require too much commitment, however if you pick a film that neither of you enjoy, or worse, only one of you enjoy, it can leave a bad taste in the mouth. After much debate, we make our choice. The guy behind the counter, looks at our choice dubiously. “Is it any good?” I ask, breaking my promise not to engage in conversation. He makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like a harrumph.“If that’s what you’re into” he replies through his beard. We slink away, defeated, already hating the film.
Two hours later as Hit-Girl is slicing off, with a sword, the head of the last baddie, our opinions on the film are divided. We flick temporarily back to RTE1. George Hook is on, talking frankly and openly about his passion for his Digital TV provider. “I have fallen in love, with a piece of technology” he says, almost on the verge of tears. We jot down the number. For when the book’s published, I say.