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Drowning not waving
9:00am Friday 14th October 2011 in Sue Pycroft Column
I’m not normally one to start a petition or protest in public, but I can see an exception coming on.
My husband and I are sitting in front of the telly, waiting for the BBC news. We’ve just finished watching a documentary on the story of electricity on BBC4, during which there were odd moments when I almost felt I could understand what electricity actually is.
For the past 55 years – ie throughout my entire existence on this planet – I have tried and utterly failed to grasp currents and volts (and very wisely, too, in my opinion, for apparently if you do grasp them your hand clenches closed so you can’t let go, and you can shoot across the room and get badly singed, at the very least. It’s even worse if you’ve got wet hands and are standing on stone tiles. So always wear rubber-soled shoes and rubber gloves when in a room with power sockets or when out in thunderstorms, is my advice).
Anyway, where Mr Davies, physics master to Form VB, utterly failed to convey to me any notion whatsoever of how electricity is stored or flows or can stop your heart or start it up again, Auntie has triumphed.
If only I could watch that programme once or twice more, I am reasonably sure I would more or less get it.
Even my husband, who over the years has thanklessly taken me through various illustrations of electricity that include wide rivers flowing slowly and narrow rivers flowing fast, seems to think the penny may finally be dropping.
Then on comes the news. Huw Edwards, his upper lip skewed in its trademark cynical curl, starts to read to us.
And well he may look cynical, too, I soon realise. I think I’d be pretty cheesed off in his situation. It turns out he and his mates may not have a job before long, or may have to move to Salford. The BBC is going to cut 2,000 jobs and radically change programming over the next five years. My husband and I look at each other, aghast.
We are not wimps. We have lived through at least three recessions.
Up until we were 25 we had never had central heating. We spent several of our early married years sleeping on a mattress on the floor, because we couldn’t afford a bed. We’ve been invaded by mice, rats, wasps and bed bugs. My husband was once in a car that was shot off the road in Lebanon. I’ve bounced down the side of a tree in a hot air balloon incident and stood on the wings of a biplane while it was flying – and I’m scared of heights.
But nothing has prepared us for this. I don’t really care if I’ve got pounds or euros in my pocket. I don’t mind about the brand of my tea. But don’t, please don’t, ever mess about with my BBC.
I don’t know if the bulletin is muddled and hazy, or whether I just can’t take it all in. But I seem to hear phrases like local radio will go across more regions – which sounds like doublethink to me – fewer panel shows and a reduction in entertainment programmes.
This is the result, it seems, of nine months’ consultation. Well, director general Mark Thompson, I don’t remember your checking if this was OK with me and him indoors. We’ve faithfully bought our TV licence every year. And we settle down to University Challenge and Only Connect on a Monday night with a feeling that while we can still do that, all’s right with the world.
Maybe those shows don’t get the highest ratings for you, but they’re a part of our little world, and we love them. We need them. If we’d defaulted on the licence, you’d have a point. But we haven’t. We’re loyal. So loyal, we even buy the Radio Times at Christmas.
Do you think things like UC and OC will go? I whisper to my husband. He bites his lip and shrugs. We sit motionless like two rabbits.
And then that treacherous little viper called optimism, ever ready to quell my rational dread, stirs in my breast. Do you think this means they will repeat the programme about electricity? I say.