Sunday, June 16, 2013

Injury Time

I really don't envy the modern child. Often, their lives are micro-managed, they are sleep-deprived and exist on a diet of highly over-processed food-like substances as they are chauffeured from activity to activity, lest they might have to entertain themselves for more than five minutes. But in one area I do feel they have it easy, and that field is television. Heavens, my home never even had a television until I was in Standard One - Year 3 in today's terminology. It was quite a day when our 19 inch rental arrived from Tisco. Our cat, Posy, fled from the room in terror, and we gaped in awe at the wonder of it all.

One channel, black and white, and ours at last. Of course. on week days transmission didn't begin until five o'clock. One had to switch on a good five minutes earlier to allow the valves to warm up and the horizontal hold to finally settle before Felix the Cat started. I never actually liked Felix the Cat, but that theme tune remains embedded in my head to this day.

Last night, while surfing through my many channels I accidentally happened upon Prime just as the All Blacks were starting the national anthem. I sang along, noted the chilly, dark Christchurch sky and marvelled that anyone would either want to watch or play in such conditions. At home, how blessed we are in this day and age to be able to quickly move to another channel before play actually starts, and so my happy home remains a rugby-free zone. Today's lucky tots were already snuggled in their beds or switching their personal sets to the Disney channel. They have it easy.

They have never seen a test pattern, but these were a regular feature of pre-test television viewing in our home. At the weekends broadcasting started at two o'clock and rugby tests were always played on Saturday afternoons. My father saw it as a personal challenge to get the best possible test pattern established well before kick-off. This involved bringing in the mirror from my parents bedroom dressing table and propping it up against the sofa, so that he could view the reflection as he twiddled with the dials on the back of the set. Getting that circle perfectly round, those lines straight and the grey gradients at their best took a great deal of time, but perfection was always frustratingly out of reach. The sound was then turned off and the radiogram employed for the commentary. Finally we could settle down as a family to watch the test.

How I loathed those matches, but it was winter and the Conray heater and the television shared the same room. so keeping warm came at a cost. My father was usually a man who liked nothing better than to answer his children's questions, to the extent it was wise to consider the wisdom of any question carefully because the answer would often be long and involved. This was not the case on match days. The slightest sound generated a terse 'tcht! as the fate of the nation played out before us. Occasionally I managed to slip in a "How much longer?' and if lucky got a "Ten minutes, tcht!" in reply. But this was never so, because all those times when my father was screaming "Hollywood!" at the screen as the St John's boys dashed onto the pitch with their blood buckets, the clock was not stopped. No, just when time should be mercifully up, they would calculate 'injury time'. This could extend a game for a seemingly interminable amount of time. And so it was last night I happily returned to The Living Channel, and gave thanks for progress.


  1. Being somewhat older than you I still recall as one of my happiest times getting up in the early hours and listening to the Rugby broadcasts on the radio with my dad and brothers.
    In hindsight it had to be better, after all what movie is ever better than the book?

  2. Yes, I used to enjoy those rugby games with Second, except the first test in SA in 1970. Lost 17 - 6. I am ashamed to admit that I get grumpy during rugby games - Bob (dad) never did.

  3. Oh those B&W TV days,,, Broadcast used to start in the evenings and weekends only and the funny picture when there was no broadcast was a bummer - but as kids we used to wait n watch this very screen till the broadcast started.