Wright's Aerials

Misapprehensions about Analogue Switch-off

"I'm very sad that I won't be able to watch my films soon."

"How do you mean?"

"All my tapes, I love them. I've got all the old films. But they're switching it off. It's really not fair."

I didn't speak. I thought hard.

"I just watch them now and think, 'Well, I'll probably never see that one again'”.

I just wasn't up to speed with this. Holding my cup and leaning on the kitchen unit I decided to ask a basic question. You always fear that you're making a fool of yourself when you ask a basic question, don't you? But otherwise I was stumped.

"Do you mean your tapes?" I gestured towards the living room, where there were rows and rows of VHS tapes, all neatly labelled.

"I've got hundreds."

The penny was dropping, but thought I'd confirm my suspicions before pronouncing. "What's going to be switched off?"

She opened her eyes a bit, surprised that I hadn't heard. I could see that she was thinking how odd it was that the man who'd come to fix the communal TV system hadn't heard. Gloria knew about it. "You know, when they switch it off. The digital. No, the analgesic. The old one, whatever it is. Anyway, I don't think it's right. I've been thinking. I paid my license to record those films, and I actually bought three of them, proper tapes, you know, from a shop. Gloria took us to Blackpool, that was when she had the car (it was a hair raising trip that was by gum) but anyway, I saw 'Top Hat' in the Woolworths, it was a bit drizzly you see, and I don't like the pubs, not like Gloria and whatsername, and I thought 'Why not?' but anyway you don't want to hear this. I just don't see why they have to change it. I'm happy with my four channels, I am. I bought 'Sound of Music' and 'The King and I' from the market. You know, that little darky at the end. He has some good stuff, but his batteries are rubbish. Don't get his batteries. 'King and I' was in black and white and they were all short and squeezed up so I took it back and he just laughed and gave me another one and that was alright. He's nice really. I love Deborah Kerr don't you?"

I'd had a lot of time to think during these verbal excursions to nowhere. "Err, no I won't. Buy his batteries I mean.” My head was swimming. “Now, do you mean that when TV switches over to digital you're worried that you won't be able to play your tapes?"

"Yes, I . . well, Gloria . . ."

"OK, well the good news is that as long as you've got a video player and your tapes you'll be able to keep watching your films."

"No, they're going to switch it off . . ."

"Look, it doesn't matter what they switch off, your video machine will always play your tapes, as long as it doesn't wear out."

"You can't buy them can you? The government have stopped it. Is it because they aren't green? But I don't care because I've got three. But they are going to switch it off aren't they?

I asked her to play me 'Top Hat'. I fast forwarded it to the bit where Fred is dancing in the upstairs room and Ginger is downstairs trying to get some sleep. We both admired the hoofing. Then I disconnected the aerial with a theatrical flourish and said, "The aerial is pulled out, so your TV set and video are on their own. They could be on the moon or down a coal mine and still Fred would dance! Your video can play your films and it doesn't matter what the government switches off, nothing will stop it."

"What, nothing?"

"Do you always pay your electricity bill?"

"Of course I do. Not like her down . . ."

"OK. Well as long as you've got electricity you can watch your tapes."

"What, for ever?"

"Well, until you die."

"Yes, of course."

"Any chance of another cuppa?"

Fred and Ginger had by now got it together. We admired their terpsichorean excellence for some time and then she said, "Are you sure?"

I gave absolute assurances, crossed my heart and hoped to die, and wondered if I should advise her to go out and buy a DVD recorder and copy all her tapes. I decided against it.

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