It is Sunday, 9 November 1976. I am about to experience an evening I’ll never forget.
The final episode of ‘Ballet Shoes,’ a TV series in six parts, is in the opening minute of its transmission. The titles are rolling and I am transfixed by the pointe shoes pirouetting on the screen.
At six years old, the story of the three adopted sisters, Posy, Pauline and Petrova, speaks to me. Each of the girls in the story reflects some aspect of my own personality, or so it seems to me. Posy is the dancer I aspire to be, Pauline the diva performer and Petrova the tomboy.
Plus, I have always had a soft spot for orphans facing adversity.
I have installed myself in front of our gas fire with my newly washed hair drying as I sit glued to our monochrome tv set.
It’s an ageing telly my parents picked up in the sixties; the only thing colour about it is its lurid orange surround.
I don’t mind about the show being in black and white though. I just love the story. I want to know if Posy will get to Russia and whether Pauline will make it as an actress. Tonight is the night!
And then there is bang and the screen goes grey.
The bloody TV has blown up.
I go to bed crying, with wet hair, destined never to know what became of Madam Fidolia. Or rather, destined to take the book out of Romford library the following week just to read the ending.
For the whole of my childhood, TV shows had to be watched at the time they went out. Miss an episode and you had to rely on friends at school for a blow by blow account or playground re-enactment.
Repeats took years to come around.
In the days before VHS and YouTube the TV schedule in the Radio Times would be consulted before social commitments were made.
(If you think I’m exaggerating, please know that when The Forsyte Saga was screened on Sunday evenings, churches changed the time of Evensong so as not to clash.)
At my boarding convent where our free time was policed such that the TV was rarely on, there were two highlights each week. We were allowed to watch ‘Top of the Pops’ and we were treated to a weekly dose of ‘Dallas’ whether we liked it or not.
I could never understand why, in a world where we were being educated not to fornicate, abuse liquor or employ violence, we were permitted to watch all of these activities, usually in the same episode.
As an adult, I realise it’s akin to prison officers overlooking the use of soft drugs to keep the peace. All hell would have broken out if teenage girls had no access to fornication of some description, right? (For violence we had the lacrosse pitch and for abuse of liquor there was Sunday mass.)
‘Dallas’ was a universal viewing experience. When JR was shot, it made the news. The shooting (we didn’t know at the time whether it actually amounted to murder) of a fictional character in an American TV series, was reported on the British 9 o’clock News.
Two Sundays ago, I watched the final episode of ‘Bodyguard’ on BBC1.
Watching this series, week by week on a Sunday, was the closest I’ve come in a long time to the viewing experiences I grew up with. You know, actually waiting for the next episode?
Waiting in 2018 is something we don’t do a lot of. We are really good now at instant gratification and it’s filtered into all areas of our lives.
In 1976 instant gratification was Angel Delight. Today it’s binge watching.
I love a good binge on Netflix or Amazon Prime as much as the next woman, but there was something positively tantric about waiting to see whether Richard Madden (the bodyguard in question) would actually take any of his clothes off before protecting the hell out of Keeley Hawes each week.
They call it ‘Event TV’ these days. I like it.
At least, I prefer it to the TV Event where your appliance combusts.