Life I had planned to write about Michael Moore’s new film Capitalism: A Love Story this evening (short review – he’s right), but instead I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a bit baroque, there are eddys and gaps and there isn’t a middle, ending or beginning, and isn't really about anything, there's no moral, but it was it is and here it is.

Since the beginning of the last decade, my main television, that is the one which I’ve done most of my television film watching, has been a 26” wide-screen CRT Beko. It worked doggedly, tirelessly, far longer than you would expect a modern television to, outliving its own remote control and analogue broadcasts in the Granada region.

Recently it was beginning to show its age, the sound lacking the old punch, the edges of the images shimmering slightly, with some exciting ghosting depending on what time of day it was turned on. But since I’m generally of the opinion that if something isn’t quite broken it’s not worth replacing, I let it splutter on for a few more months.

I was attached to it, sentimental even. Silly.

Even more recently I began looking about on-line for a new flatscreen television. I couldn’t really afford it and it went against all my principles but in this consumerist society even the least consumerist of us can get an itch. That’s what led me to buy a notebook with my Christmas money.

Eventually, my itch localised itself on this Toshiba 32” HD LCD television at Richer Sound. I had the page saved in my favourites and I’d look at it now and then, the tiny cartoon angel and devil that Tex Avery et al suppose sit on our shoulders in these moments of indecision, fighting each other for supremacy.

“Buy” said the devil. “You don’t need one” said the angel. For weeks more they argued, and all the while I’d look at that page, working out the logistics of how I was going to pay for it, where I would find the £329 price tag. Eventually the finances clicked into place and on Sunday, the devil skewered the angel with his fork and I took the decision to buy.

On Monday, early, my Dad and I turned up at the shop to collect the television (having phoned ahead to check that they have them in stock). After some further prevaricating over the fact that there was no cooling off period, no refunds (it’s important you remember this) and whether an LG television which was in stock and the same price would be a better purchase – I decided to stick with my first choice, paid the money and brought it home.

Monday was spent plumbing the thing in, trying out the usually dvds (Lord of the Rings, Firefly) and watching Woody Allen’s Zelig (a review of that coming soon too). The sound wasn’t great, but the picture quality from an up-scaled dvd seemed miraculous, not really worse than CRT just different, apparently clearer the further you sat away from it.

As is the way of these things, the poor Beko was out of the door within minutes, the tube technology which had served me (and us) so well over the years, consigned to history. And so it was that I began to view my flatscreen future, knowing that it wouldn’t be too long before the itch began again and I’d be the owner of a blu-ray player to go underneath.

On Tuesday, yesterday, I went to Manchester. With that certain story in the media, I decided to get out of the house since I knew that I’d otherwise spend the whole day in front of the computer watching the drama unfold (in case you’re not a regular reader of my twitter feed, I tend to become rather, um, passionate about these kinds of things).

I bought some Mother’s Day presents. Also, Joanna Newsom’s first two albums. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist on dvd. Watched the aforementioned documentary about the end of civilisation as we know it – or what felt like it. Watched an emotionally over extended man nearly being arrested at the station for bawling at a ticket inspector.

At home, I set about cooking some sausages for tea. Meanwhile I checked my email. One in particular caught my attention. It began …
Hi stuart

I have been passed your details as the winner re-below …
One of my addictions is online competitions. It’s something constructive to do whilst listening to podcasts as well as listening and sometimes, just sometimes, I might win a dvd. It transpired I’d won £500’s worth of clothing at 80s Retro Classics. Lots of tracksuits, trainers. There was a nice bag, shoes. Lovely.

The emailer had been sent my details by a publicity company. The only problem (if you can call this kind of nice surprise a problem) was I didn’t really remember entering a competition for clothes. I checked through the rest of the correspondence, which was appended to the bottom of the email and I realised quite quickly that it was this competition, run by Shortlist magazine.

It was run in association with the dvd release of The Firm, the recent remake Alan Clarke’s film about football hooliganism, this time starring Doctor Who’s Camille Coduri amongst others. It’s set in the 80s, hence the tracksuits in primary colours. Very quickly I realised why I’d entered the competition.

As well as the clothes, also on offer was a 42” television and dvd player. Favouring a complex strategy, I’d also entered a couple of competitions, more as a joke than anything. These contests are passed around discussion boards online quite a lot so there are thousands of entrants.

The big shiny gold forefinger was never likely to point in my direction but I what was the harm? Except, the big shiny gold forefinger had pointed in my direction and the clothes were in the post. But it wasn’t clear whether I had won the television. It seemed like three different prizes to me. I think can already see where this is going.

This morning there was a card in our postbox. From a dispatch company. “We tried to deliver two parcels but no one was in. Here’s a dispatch number. We’ll try again tomorrow.” I had nothing else on order. It could have been a different competition. I’d had no notification …

When you look at 42” televisions in department stores, they don’t look that big. Perhaps its because you’re standing quite a long way away from them, or you’re diverting your eyes from whichever horrendous film is being used to showcase its charms, usually directed by Michael Bay.

When you look at a 42” television in your own room, it’s massive. It’s a behemoth. Monolithic. Even if your room is designed, like mine, so that no single element takes precedence, even during its repose, your eyes are drawn to its anonymous black surfaces because you can’t quite believe that someone designed a piece of plastic that big to show moving pictures.

So, having on Monday gone out and treated myself to the 32” flat-screen television I coveted but didn’t really need, just two days later, I now also have another one. Oh, indeed, the irony. My inability to make a decision had led me to toss a coin on Sunday. The coin told me to wait. That's what probably I gave in.

I'm terribly excited about this new new possession, but it's tempered with the fact that if I hadn't given in the itch, I might have been even more thrilled or surprised. As I said, there isn't really a moral to this story, if it's even a story, other than platitudes like whatever happens, happens. Life is strange.

Unable to get a refund, I’ve given the 32” to my parents on extended loan. They had a 26” before which is now in their bedroom through necessity. And this 42” LG refugee from a Kubrick film sits in my room almost as big as some of the screens in the old 051 cinema.

And the dvd player turned out to be a blu-ray player. I have one those now too.

Its been a busy three days.


Afront said...

Brilliant story, congratulations on your win and what a great gift for your parents too!

last year's girl said...

I laughed so much at this, in the best possible way.

No refunds, indeed!

Simon Underwood said...

Enjoy the 42" (we just moved from that to a 47" in the front room) and your blu-ray future. I recommended the BFI Flipside series - the first wave of The Bed-Sitting Room, London in the Raw and Primitive London can currently be picked up for under £10 each.

Annette said...

Wow, that's amazing. But I wouldn't feel guilty about buying the 32". Nothing wrong with an upgrade after 10 years.