Television! I can’t even see the wretched thing at the moment because I’m in another room, but I can hear it – a squeaky voice – somebody pretending to be Mickey Mouse or Snow White or something diddums ickle. And here am I – a frustrated genius – or frustrated letter-writer, anyway – trying to compose an award-winning letter to you but I can’t because of this mechanized cuteness carried on the airwaves into my ear, and into my brain – or what’s left of it after hours, days, weeks etc of forced or almost forced TV watching. I’m a recovered addict. At 14 I was hooked, even to the ads. I paid the price when I got bad marks at school – rushing through my homework to watch a soppy soap or, even worse, trying to do my homework with the set flickering in the corner.
By 25 I was beginning to develop an interest in conversation. Not that I’ve got any, after years of watching bad TV, but I thought I’d like to learn and was delighted when a friend invited me to his flat for lunch. Food delicious. Wine delicious. But oh! the televevion. We had the wretched thing on throughout the meal – some sort of cartoon, I think, with little wiggly figures singing pop songs.
I don’t condemn television outright. Andrew Marr, now. I think he attracts strong dislike or enthusiasm, and I’m an enthusiast. With his quick wits he makes the slipperiest politician give him or herself away, or at least look uncomfortable and start to bluster. I don’t claim to have met Andrew Marr personally, but I enjoy his Sunday morning appearances, and will always switch the set on for David Attenborough.
But when my friends come round the set is off and stays off. I’ve invited them into my sitting room because I want to see how they are and hear their news, and I will not divide my attention between them and a flickering TV set in the corner. It would be rude.