Monday, 16 November 2009

The Sky’s the Limit

Humans are fundamentally stupid.  I do not include myself in this classification, however, as what might be perceived by others as stupidity on my part is usually the result of someone else’s stupid actions of which I become an innocent victim.

My latest venture into the realms of other people’s stupidity began a few weeks ago when all the channels on my television set mysteriously disappeared and then reappeared, just as mysteriously, approximately one hour later.

I am connected to Sky television by a communal dish because it is illegal to install your own personal dish on the estate where I live as it makes the place look untidy.  God help anyone who does so, because the evil management company will come round and take it down.  As it happens, this does not appear to carry much weight with any of the several hundred residents who live here, and I found out the other day that I’m now the only one on the entire estate who still uses a communal Sky dish.  Needless to say that when I have a television problem I have to contact a local installation company (who have approximately three engineers) instead of Sky (who have approximately three million).

I phoned the installation company the other day as, yet again, my television was telling me that there was no Sky signal.  Curiously, it happened around the same time of the day, again for about an hour, and this had now been going on for several weeks.  The woman on the end of the phone mumbled that she could send someone out to me if I really wanted her too, but I might be better off leaving it a few days to see if “the problem fixes itself”.

After lots of toing and froing about the mechanics of why solutions to problems usually require some kind of human intervention, I booked an engineer for the following Friday.  I then noticed that the door to the cable cupboard on the landing was open and it struck me that someone may have been doing some work on the system as this is where my Sky signal is connected.  With not a soul in sight, I rang the management company to explain the situation and asked if they had any engineers on site.  The woman I spoke to was rather vague.  Apparently, the person I needed to speak to had just gone into a meeting, but she, too, suggested that the problem might fix itself if I left it for a few days and had I “tried switching it off and on again?”.

Clearly, I was going to have to launch my own investigation so stepped out onto the landing and had a look inside the cupboard to see if I could spot anything unusual.  I’m not particularly technically-minded and, to me, the contents of the cupboard just looked like a load of spaghetti so I returned to the flat.

About five minutes later I heard the familiar sound of the communal vacuum cleaner.  A little voice told me that there must be some connection between this and the failure of my television channels.  Lo and behold, I discovered a power cord now plugged into a well-hidden socket in the cable cupboard which ran out onto the stairs and up one floor.  I followed it and discovered a foreign gentleman vacuuming the landing above.

I asked him if he’d removed a plug from the socket in the cable cupboard and he nodded blankly.  I explained to him that he’d disconnected the entire Sky satellite system serving the block and he started saying that he was very sorry and didn’t “knowings” because he was “news”.  He then suggested that I stick a “notings” on the cable cupboard door informing people not to use the socket.  The fact that it is a fire door with a whacking great sign on it saying “Fire Door: Keep Shut” seemed to have eluded him.  As had the principle that if one spots a socket in a cupboard containing lots of electrical equipment with something already plugged into it, it is usually advisable for one not to unplug whatever the something is.

Of course I completely forgot to cancel the television engineer, and when he turned up the following Friday I told him I’d fixed the problem by “switching it off and on again”.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Electric Confusion

books080 A plague has invaded my television set. This comes as a natural side effect of enduring commercial daytime programming on “digital” channels. It is also something that is beginning to overflow into “peak time” on the “normal” channels.

I am, of course, referring to those God-awful sponsorship spots that appear three minutes into a television show at the first commercial break, then again three minutes later when the programme returns, and every three minutes thereafter until a final, double-length, in-your-face version at the end of the show just to remind you about the service if you happen to have forgotten (or ignored) the others. Like the recent trend in 90-second news updates, these spots are, to coin a phrase, televisual acne.

The latest channel to break out in such acne is Alibi, which shows police and crime television from days gone by. Daytime programming on this channel now appears to be sponsored by which has something to do with car insurance, so I’m not sure why this should be relevant to me when I’m watching repeats of The Bill and Shoestring (aside from the fact that I do not have, and never have had, a car).

It is the most irritating promotion I have ever witnessed on television and involves groups of supposedly “normal” people sitting in odd positions in their living rooms with even odder expressions on their faces. They try - and generally fail - to speak in unison, telling me they I should look for some car insurance at

They then do something which, if I hear it one more time, is likely to cause me (or anyone else for that matter) to shove a very large foot into the screen. It goes like this:
“Daytime on Alibi sponsored by Confused dot com. The choice is clear. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!”
What is clear to me is that I actually have no choice but to witness these morons laughing hysterically at their own self delusion that they have now reached celebrity status, before being left to carry on enjoying the adverts in peace.

What is even more irritating about these spots is that the people in them aren’t particularly good looking. I am a firm believer that, when it comes to television, there should be a formalised industry equation which dictates the inverse ratio between annoyance and aesthetics. In other words, the least I expect from my television is for it to give me something pleasant to look at. I hear on the grapevine that someone’s intending to bring back Miss World to our screens. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!