Do you remember Mike Teavee, the television-obssessed boy revealed as the fourth Golden Ticket winner in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? I was that child back in 1970s Gateshead. Some of my earliest memories are of lying and sitting cross-legged in front of our TV. I watched all the kid’s programmes from Bagpuss and Bod to Playaway and Vision On via Ludwig, Noah and Nellie and Pigeon Street. I also watched the news, Spike Milligan’s Q series and discovered art history and the plays of Alfred Jarry by watching Open University programmes. I also loved the test card. And the adverts, especially the Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut advert starring Frank Muir.
Throughout my teens and early twenties in the 1980s and 1990s I watched soaps (Corrie, Brookside, Albion Market, Eastenders, El Dorado), Channel 4’s classic dramas and films, and music programmes including The Tube, Whistle Test, ORS, Riverside and Rock School. I watched French New Wave cinema on BBC2 and Melvyn Bragg’s South Bank Show on Sunday evenings.
At some point in my mid 20s I found myself living on my own in Streatham. I didn’t bother renewing the TV contract with Radio Rentals when it expired. Blimey, had you forgotten about that? That’s what we did in the 1990s. We rented TVs from Radio Rentals! I didn’t miss television and contented myself with radio. I was an early adopter of the internet and listened to BBC6 Music, the Asian Network and BBC7 (now Radio 4 Extra) via my PC. I still have the Roberts DAB radio I was given in 2002.
For the past two decades I’ve lived with and without a TV. I guess I used to watch it for an average of an hour and a half a day during this time. I usually watched news bulletins or something on BBC4. Then I started watching more and more including Match of the Day, Antiques Roadshow, Who Do You Think You Are and Death in Paradise. By last autumn I was watching almost three hours of television a day.
My last TV died of built-in obsolescence in October 2018. I struggled with going cold turkey. I missed the news. I particularly missed Katia Adler keeping me updated on Europe’s view of Brexit.
Soon the angst about missing out on breaking news lifted. I realised I could get all the information I needed from radio, the internet and newspapers. Being TV-free seemed to give me the permission to spend less time online and on my mobile phone.
My living room feels lighter without a TV. I read more and I sleep better. I spend more time talking to my partner and we’ve booked trips away instead of sitting in front of the Goggle Box.
Over the years I’ve tried living without meat, sugar, alcohol and cheese. The first few weeks of Life Without TV were almost as bad as living without cheese because I believe a life without cheese is a life half-lived.
I thought I couldn’t live without a TV but I can. Life without a TV is not a life half-lived. I know that in future when I stay at hotels, I’ll enjoy flicking channels in bed for half an evening. I also know I’ll be happy to return home to my lovely living room and the DABs positioned around my home.