On giving up television

A couple of weeks ago, inspired by Mandarine, I decided that it was time to break my television habit. For the first year or so that I lived here we didn’t have a television and I didn’t even notice, beyond what a relief it was not to have a large, unattractive lump of plastic and glass lurking as the focus of attention in one of our rooms. The idyll was not to last, of course, and one day a television arrived as a gift. A Trojan horse that brought in its ugly, hulking wake an ugly, hulking, and cheap piece of Ikea furniture. The whole arrangement squats awkwardly in one corner of a room, intruding unevenly across the elegant lines of the fireplace. It is the visual equivalent of nails on a blackboard.

For a couple of weeks I took refuge in childlike sulking and refused to enter its lair. Gradually, when baseball season began, I was lured in, since it was almost my only chance to catch a glimpse of my husband. (Denis Norden once said that for a keen cricket fan October is a funny month. He looks up and realises that his wife left him in May. I know how the wife feels.) But thus I was sucked into the magic of the pretty flickering lights and judgment went out of the window. I started watching when I was too tired to read or do anything constructive; this became when I was too lazy to read; and then, a habit. A guilty habit too, because there never seemed to be an option to watch anything that wasn’t really, really bad, littered with ad breaks of incredible length. Yet I would mindlessly fritter away an entire evening, only to be left feeling mentally flabby and bloated and sick, as though I had digested too many cream cakes.

We have had a week of guests so there has been no time for television, and this has made breaking the habit easier. In fact, this evening I was surprised to remember that there is such a thing, and pleased that I felt little impulse to view it. So: no more unrealistic police procedurals for me; no more fashion transformations; no more repeats of aged sitcoms where the characters are forever trapped in their twenties. I will watch the films of my choice, uninterrupted by endless adverts for luxury cars. If I am too tired to read, I will sleep, or take the time to write letters in Royal Blue washable ink on good-quality writing paper. Perhaps I will even do that bedtime yoga I keep promising myself.

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3 thoughts on “On giving up television

  1. mandarine

    Maybe one could suggest a new arrangement to encourage reading instead of TV-watching: you hide the remote somewhere in your bookshelvs. Each time you want to watch TV, you have to sift through all of your books. Chances are you’ll find a good book before you find the remote. And once a book is in your hands, half the job is done, all it takes is a few steps backwards and into the sofa.

  2. Emily Barton

    Funny (but not really when you consider how great minds think alike), I’ve got a post about television-watching going around in my head these days, too. It will probably make it out onto my blog soon. Meanwhile, I love Mandarine’s idea of hiding the remote in the bookshelves.

  3. Becky

    Mandarine, the idea of hiding the remote is an excellent one. I have a good memory for these things so I think my husband and I would have to hide it from each other.
    Last night I was somewhat tempted to kill half an hour or so in front of the TV. But instead, I picked up the book of short stories I am working on – much more enjoyable!

    Emily, I shall look forward to your post!

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