So, this will probably sound a bit lame, but imagine our surprise and delight on arriving in Spain to discover that we had a Sky box that picked up all the UK TV channels. Yeah, I know, it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to live in a culture as old and rich as Spain’s and spend your evenings watching the television stations of your native land, a land you haven’t even lived in for seven years. But man, it was great. It was great to watch in our own language and watch all the shows and in the pattern that we’d been used to from childhood. So this is why we took it badly when all this recently came to an abrupt halt.
The launch of a new satellite means that Sky’s signals no longer beam down to Southern Spain as they have done for the last good many years. Just our luck. After all these years, we arrive, and six months later the sun sets on the golden age of television for the Brits of the Costa. There are options of course. There are ways to watch television in our native tongue, but they all involve the internet, and they all involve intent and planning. And that’s what makes me sad.
I know the way we, all of us the world over, watch TV is changing. I know we do a lot more binge-watching, and on the whole I completely approve. I think the TV revolution is a good thing – watching a series an episode (or generally several) a night for a week or two intensifies the experience, with the tension building episode on episode almost like an awesome twelve hour film. But I will mourn for broadcast TV now it has become a thing of the past in my life, and I will also mourn for it when it becomes a thing of the past in the world at large. And it’s the random discoveries that I’ll miss the most.
Here’s what I mean. The kids’ dad and I take it in turns to get up on weekend mornings, and when it’s my turn, here’s how (up until recently) it used to go. The kids would get fobbed off with the iPad for a while (they would play games and we would doze) but once they got too hungry I would make them their breakfast. After that was when we would generally turn the TV on for a bit. I would flick channels aimlessly, still half asleep, and when they saw something black and white they would tell me to stop, usually with the words: “Stop, stop, old movie, Mum, old movie!” And apparently this is because, at some point not so long ago, I stopped on some such film, announcing a preference for old movies, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the results. Just a few weekends ago, we enjoyed Enchanted April (1932). The weekend before that it was Sodom and Gomorrah (1962) – which was probably not the most appropriate viewing for a four and five year old but they loved it and it certainly provoked some interesting discussion.
But now that it’s all about choosing something to watch on the computer of course I don’t put old 1930s movies on for them. I put on Monster High or a Disney film, which is OK, but just think of all that classic James Cagney that we might have come across on that rainy morning instead.
One of my fondest childhood memories is watching the original Terminator film in bed with my mum and a box of chocolates late on a Friday night. And I’m pretty sure this isn’t just the memory of one occasion but of a whole series of times when they showed that film on a Friday night, so that it kind of became a tradition of ours to spot it in the TV listings in the paper on the way home and stock up on chocolate and get ready to hide behind the duvet for the bit where the skeletal remains of the Terminator just keeps on coming. I already know I’m going to miss those moments, memories and maybe even traditions that are created by being served up with something surprising.
Look I know it’s not cool to like TV, but I do. In fact, I love it and I always have. And it’s not popular to like showing it to kids but I do, and I defend my right and privilege to do so. The moving image has been around for more than a hundred years, and by now it is probably just as much a part of who we are as the written word, and I want my kids to know it and even love it like I do. And while I approve of this brave new world in which we have any number of the TV shows we love at our fingertips, I will miss discovering new and unexpected things while channel hopping.
So we’re experimenting with Spanish TV these days. So far the results have been a little mixed – a nature show that got heckled off screen, an episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares dubbed into Spanish and a weird cartoon about animals who seem to have lost all their fur – but it’s OK, we’ll keep trying, because you never know what could come on next.