There was a time when watching television was easy. In the early days, there were only two channels and it was a simple choice. Then there were four, and we got confused, although the advent of video recorders meant that we could spend more time watching the things we really wanted to watch. When the fifth channel came along, it didn't make a lot of difference.
Then there was a knock at the door, and suddenly we had cable. It was mindboggling. During the first couple of months our "surfing" fingers were starting to develop calluses, but pretty soon we were watching only half a dozen or so favourites out of the forty we had to choose from. This, of course, meant that we were becoming more picky. It did, however, mean that the ones we chose to watch had become very important to us, and the video recorder worked overtime. OK, so now we could watch one channel and video another, but what about the rest?
We developed a technique for watching two at a time, by flicking to and fro at the slow points in one program, and hoping we hadn't missed the vital details in the other. Yes, we did try it with three at a time, but somehow it wasn't satisfying. On top of that, if the phone rang, we couldn't remember which channels we were watching anyway.
Our usual come-day, go-day attitude towards watching TV would have to change. The conversations went something like,
"OK, what's on?",
"What time is it?",
"It's 8 o'clock",
"Oh, then it must be Wild Things on Discovery - it's shark week, and there must be a film starting on Screen 2, and - is it Monday?",
"Then Third Rock from the Sun's just started, and . . . oh, let's look it up - what date is it?",
"Damn, I wanted to watch the History channel at 6 - I forgot".
Yes, something had to change. We had to get organised, or spend most of our evenings in research and regret.
We tried bits of paper stuck to the front of the television - they just dropped off. We tried marking the Cable Guide with red pen round the programmes we were interested in, but that only worked when we picked up the magazine to "look it up". We needed something that stared us in the face when we pointed ourselves at the television, and something permanent. It also had to be big enough to hold all the information we needed - day, date, time, channel and programme title. And, it had to be easy to put on and take off information as things changed.
Eureka!, I shouted, but not aloud - it always sounds so pretentious. I hurled myself at the Useful Drawer and pulled out a spring-clip clothes peg. Pete looked at me a bit strange, as he does at these times, but he knew better than to ask.
In the conservatory I trawled the cardboard boxes specially designed to be trawled, and pulled out a cork tile.
Now out in the shed, I found blackboard paint and a can of blue enamel spray paint. Half an hour and two coats of blackboard paint later I had something to write on. With a small amount of emulsion I gave it a border and two "knobs" to make it look like a television. A couple of jets of enamel coloured the peg blue, and a good blob of PVA secured it to the tile. Another visit to the useful drawer provided a piece of chalk which was held securely by the peg, and there we were. Once the whole thing was up on the wall by the television, we had a permanent place for all the precious programs we couldn't afford to miss.
Necessity does seem to be the mother of invention.The solution was cheap, easy, and very useful. So useful, in fact, that I made some for other people - as shopping reminders in the kitchen with a decoupage of fruit and vegetable pictures, telephone messages by the phone with a border of - what else? - telephones, and "I've gone to . . . back at . . ." notes by the door decorated with clocks at each corner. Possibilities are endless, as the TV craft shows keep telling me!