Archive for October 2007

Switched On

October 12, 2007


Whenever you watch commercial television, it seems you’re never too far away from some not-very-funny daytime presenters telling you to take the necessary steps to gird yourself against the impending digital revolution.

As you’ll no doubt be aware, the analogue signal is going to be switched off. Just like that. To my mind, it sounds like an act akin to switching off someone’s life support machine. Whump, and they’re gone. The one scrap of comfort is that it’s not happening for a little while, except if you live in Whitehaven, Cumbria (let’s see a show of hands). In Whitehaven, it might have already happened. I would wager that a fair unprepared handful of the Whitehaven population are now wondering why nothing happens when they press their respective On buttons, the poor saps.

Why is this happening? Apparently, it’s because things are going to be digital from now on. In order for the digital signal to have sufficient welly, they have to switch the analogue one off. That’s the long and short of it. This is a weird situation, I think. It’s a bit like someone deciding that oxygen should be removed from the air in order for them to pump something else into it, and that we all need to install synthetic lungs in order to continue existing.

Truth be told, I’m an analogue type of guy struggling to keep abreast in a digital age. But, after a few timely promptings from Mrs H, I realised it was time to get organised in time for The Change.

A Freeview box was an appealing choice, so one sunny afternoon, we acquired one from Curry’s and took it home to make a start on it. Everything was plugged in, but interesting and informative digital programming was far from forthcoming. At some point in the proceedings, I ventured outside and realised that our roof lacks an aerial, and that the cable protruding from our living room wall was simply a dormant piece of Telewest hardware, albeit one which (quite by chance) provided an excellent analogue signal.

After a brief experimentation with an old-style wire loop aerial through which we got one or two channels (which remained on screen only as long as I stood in a very specific spot in the middle of the room) I decided that a second trip to Curry’s might secure us a digital aerial.

Even having acquired and installed one, the much-anticipated torrent of digital goodness remained firmly secured behind some impenetrable technological dam. I made my third pilgrimage to Curry’s in order to return all the hardware in a fit of pique. Actually, I was very polite and sheepish about it.

I have long resisted the option of asking Telewest to provide our telly, since I anticipated inordinate cost, not to mention the social stigma attached to having more than five channels. But with a heavy heart I made the call.

For reasons that were never totally made clear, our cheapest option turned out to be the most abundant. Thus we found ourselves in possession of the mythical, 120-channel ‘XL’ package. We gave it a spin last night, and were most impressed (my own excitement levels were bordering on the inappropriate). Not only can you choose between 120 different programmes currently showing, but you can, at any moment, watch anything that has at any time graced the televisual airwaves. More or less. Imagine my delight to discover that I suddenly had unfettered access to the third series of Father Ted.

So, you’ll understand if the blog is a bit quiet from here on in, although, to be fair, my frequent hiatuses rarely draw much complaint these days. And you’ll also excuse me if I take me leave for the moment: I’m off to watch the latest episode of Dog Borstal, followed by a pentuple bill of Location, Location, Location.

Life on the Royal Road

October 2, 2007

card1.jpgDo you remember that I expressed a recent determination to take up magic? My relative silence on the topic of late might have conveyed the impression that it had fallen, predictably and with an audible clang, by the wayside. Not so, my little chickadees. In fact, such has been my determination of late that the blog has been left behind, rather.

Things are definitely improving. I find myself nicely immersed in an amusing little world at the moment. TalkMagic is one of my favourite websites just now – a place (if we believe what we’re told) for magicians to chat. And chat we do. Or rather, they do, and I listen, piping up only occasionally.

The reason I have not been able to contribute much is that it isn’t always clear what’s being talked about. Magicians have a way of obscuring any reference to their techniques in order that they are impenetrable to the layman (that’s you lot). It makes the discourse look a bit unsalubrious, all this talk about c****** p*** not to mention frequent references to ‘bottom dealing’. But still we persist.

The other day, I was preparing for my viva. That has been and gone, by the way, and I have just received a conveniently itemised list of all the changes I need to make in order that it might one day pass muster. But to return to day of preparation, there was just time (in between frenzied searching for academic references) to perfect the ‘Oil and Water’ routine, a classic of close-up magic re-interpreted by Mr Derren Brown.

When Mrs H came home, I was eager to perform it, and duly arranged the set-up, and performed the first phase. To spare you the detail, the cards were made to rearrange themselves under her hands. Now, we all know Mrs H as a woman of the world, but would she have the emotional resilience to withstand my foolhardy disregard for the physical laws that comprise the very fabric of our reality? I imagined she would probably need a glass of water and a sit down before the performance continued.

I have been chastised in the past for describing Mrs H in terms that incorporate bovine comparisons. Let me be clear: there is nothing derogatory in my use of the term ‘cow-like’ to describe Mrs H’s calm, somewhat bemused demeanour in response to my magical efforts. There would be no need for the smelling salts after all. She had the look of one who thinks they ought to be surprised, but cannot quite fathom why.

‘But you’ve not done anything’, said she.

I explained what I’d done.

‘But I saw you do it’.

She is a sweet thing, really. She’d caught me in a certain sleight of hand, and had presumed that I had deliberately made it detectable as part of the trick. This little foible of Mrs H is, of course, rather endearing, but it makes her a rather unsuitable audient for whom to practise the dark arts.

My struggles continue elsewhere. I’ve been practising a nice card relocation to a couple of my colleagues, and they appeared moderately baffled (although both admitted to seeing the c****** p*** as I did it). A further demonstration involved memorising an entire pack of cards, the response to which was ‘yes, my maths teacher could do that, only quicker’. Curses. Still, I followed it up with a Double Thought Projection (great use of the D/L) with a nifty Do As I Do (which depends on a mere b***** g*****) bringing up the rear.

I won’t bore you with anything more, largely because that’s the lot, to date. I’m delighted to be ambling happily down the Royal Road to thaumaturgy, and will keep you updated as best I can.

The Final Act

October 1, 2007

Greetings, you splendid things. You join me as I steer The Hutchison Monolgues into the choppy waters of the home straight. Thank you for bearing with me over the past nine months. Doubtless you have enjoyed this queasy voyage a lot less than me.

As always, I was intending to accompany this ‘volume transition’ with an assurance of more regular commentaries. I think, having got to this stage, we can all afford to be realistic about that. I imagine that I’ll post now and again, but perhaps it’s time to let The ‘Logues peter out in a manner befitting their age.

Keep your respective peckers up. We’re almost there.