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.