Sunday 22nd January
One of the boring aspects of visiting friends is this modern habit of leaving the TV on when your guests arrive, or even worse – ignoring them and watching the wretched thing. I am not sure if any etiquette book exists which deals with the TV/guest thing, but if it hasn’t been written yet, then here is a tip for the compilers. One should always switch off the television the moment your guests arrive.
I called in on my friend Joan, we were actually going out for dinner later, but she asked me to come round early for a catch-up.. I arrived even earlier than I had planned just before six and the television was on. Worse still Joan was watching it avidly; she almost had no time for me. No welcoming cup of tea, no friendly chat – in fact no chat at all; every time I spoke she barely heard me, she was so absorbed in the programme. And honestly, I wouldn’t have minded if it had been something of worth, some serious documentary, or even a compelling wild-life film. The news might be understandable had there been a tsunami, or a siege or some other absorbing subject. But no, she was watching Total Wipeout of all things. I know that early Saturday evening television is not renowned for its intellectual challenge, but one would have to search high and low to find anything more mindless, and on the BBC too! I had never watched it, (I wonder why not?) but after a few seconds, almost certainly not a minute, I could see how awful it was. A series of “contestants” try to complete a watery obstacle course, where the highlights are the slow-motion replays of people falling off large moving mechanical objects and into the water. No skill required at all, just the ability to make a fool of one’s-self for the cameras. I am not sure what was worse; the relentless enthusiasm of the young people who time and time again got knocked into the water, or the idiotic commentary, as if any of it had any consequence at all. They must be very well paid or extremely hard up to have allowed themselves to be persuaded to take part in this nonsense.
But no, the most irritating and unbelievable spectacle was Joan herself, who was laughing hysterically at every repeated and completely obvious pratfall, laughing just as loudly as the twelth contestant fell off a large red ball as she did when the first one fell. And I had always assumed she was a reasonably intelligent woman, but she was highly amused and assured me that she never missed watching this inanity beyond belief.