Daily Ireland

The good old days

by Danny Morrison

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If you are under 18 - in fact, if you are under 28 or 38 - I would prefer if you discontinued reading now. This sympathy notice has got nothing to do with you and is strictly for elderly people of my generation who remember the good old days.
In the good old days there were no iPods, video phones, alcopops, Playstations, pierced noses or bellybuttons. One’s hair was licked and stuck down, not gelled and stood up. Men’s hands were calloused. Any woman worth her melt had varicose veins. Only the insurance man and priest owned a car. Everybody went to confession, Mass and Communion at least once a week, and only in England did people win the pools, get divorced or strangled. (Only one lie has been told about the good, old days and that is that we all loved the Twelfth.)
Yes, and there was no such thing as a couch potato. In the days before remote controls one had to physically rise from the chair or settee, cross the linoleum, approach the radiogramme and switch on a knob. You had time to clear out the ashes, light the fire, eat a fry and smoke two Park Drives before the set warmed up. Then you could manually tune in your favourite radio station from a choice of four, or in the case of your TV switch a knob for your choice of BBC or UTV which you could watch until closedown at 10.30.
Life was so simple. Fair enough, after every gusty night you had to send one of the male offspring that you sired up into the cobwebbed and sooty glory-hole to take verbal instructions via granny in her favourite chair, Ma in the hall and you on the landing, on which direction the aerial should be turned for optimum reception.
Those were the days when you could tell honest Protestant homes not just by their flagpoles but by their firm, proud and secure aerials on the outside and their licences in the sideboard ready to be produced for inspection. But you knew which areas wanted a united Ireland because sentinels kept guard for the detection van and in their sleeked homes the cunning natives always kept the TV volume at low. Not one outside aerial was to be seen, but each telltale home had a son who resembled a chimney sweep.
Folks, I am feeling nostalgic because last week we parted with an old but working TV and bought a TV which needs a 40-button remote that could have landed the Huygens probe on Titan, were I able to use it. There was nothing wrong with the old television, but when, for my birthday, my brother bought me a CD/DVD player (whose remote has 39 buttons) I discovered that we needed a new TV with two SCART sockets if we were to be able to continue watching the video. The new TV is great but we can no longer record programmes and, ironically, might have to buy a new video – if they are still making them.
Our coffee table now looks like NASA control. There are remotes for the radio, the TV, the cable box, the CD/DVD, the video, as well as a remote handset for the house telephone and a mobile phone connected to a charger. With help from Age Concern we got them all tuned in.
It’s very simple, really. You need one remote, let’s call it A, to switch on the TV; another, B, to surf channels; go back to A to work the teletext, but use B to view the cable guide. For some reason we can no longer switch through the channels by using the video remote, C, but have to use A to activate C. We were told that C would be overridden if we pressed D, the remote for the CD/DVD, and vice versa, but they have been tuned to different ‘EXT’ channels and so to access D you have to go back to A and press a button which deactivates B.
The CD/DVD came with a book slightly smaller than ‘War and Peace’. I have been reading it for a month now in bed each night and thought I had the plot worked out. The player has a facility called ‘Locking the disc tray (Child Lock)’ and explains that this is ‘to prevent children from opening it’ whereas, in practice, it penalises adults. ‘Analyse This’ has been locked in it since we got it. The booklet does explain that to remove the disk you can unlock the tray when it is in ‘standby mode’. So I went to the index to find out what ‘standby mode’ was and there between ‘Speakers’ and ‘Subtitles’ it was not.
The new television is the only thing that works though the screen which has a habit of shrinking and enlarging depending on its mood. We don’t use our DVD player, nor, since we got the TV, the video which can now only play with blue waves undulating across the scene, making one seasick.
We spoke to the salesman in the television shop. “Ah! You have heterodyne interference,” he explained with aplomb. Is there anything we can do, we asked in desperation.
He smiled. “No problem! What you need is a new remote which will cure everything..."

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