Róisín Ingle on . . . the telly-shaped hole

Sat, Jan 18, 2014, 01:00

I couldn’t tell you exactly when we put the television in the attic, aka the roofspace, aka the Bermuda Triangle, but it happened one day after Christmas and we couldn’t be happier. Well, I couldn’t be happier. I’d been under the impression that I was the trash-television addict, flicking from Come Dine With Me to Man Vs Food to Masterchef (What? It’s RESEARCH) but it turns out I was fine with televisual cold turkey. The withdrawals were messing with someone else’s head.

The soccer deprivation got so bad he went up North to watch Portadown lose to Glentoran in real life followed by gorging on Match of The Day on the two TVs in the two sitting rooms that, like the central heating, are always blasting away in Queenie’s house. And he got to watch Winning Streak with her which is their main bonding mechanism.

It took another two weeks for him to accept the TV-shaped hole in the sitting room. Two weeks for that ashen pallor to disappear. For the light to almost return to his sad eyes. He has stopped going in to the sitting room and sitting there caressing the remote with a tenderness I’ve not seen since we first got together. Now he’s waiting. We’re both waiting. To find out how we’re going to fill the hole.

One of the weekend papers had a supplement that seemed made for us and our new situation. “Do Something” it was called. The supplement spoke to us. It reminded us why we got rid of the TV. We felt like we weren’t doing anything. Laundry, cooking and work we’ve brought home because we didn’t get time to do it in actual work time doesn’t count. And parenting, while a joy obviously and not at all a chore, doesn’t count either. I’m talking about the stuff in the supplement: Join a singing group! Set up a supper club! Learn upholstery! Knit a winter scarf! (The exclamation marks are mine. It all seemed so urgent.) He got some evening class leaflets. I just enjoyed the silence.

I wouldn’t mind but we weren’t even watching the quality stuff, the things recommended by the critics. We didn’t get the whole Sherlock thing. We weren’t into Doctor Who or Downton Abbey.

We were watching rubbish and staying up too late to watch non-rubbish like #vinb and Primetime.

What I mostly did when the television went away was go to bed early. And sometimes I watched the Good Wife on my laptop. We are those people who only have wifi where the wifi box is (the kitchen) but it doesn’t work anywhere else in the house. In the absence of the TV I discovered that if I pushed the bed all the way so it was blocking the door and manoeuvred the laptop until it was hanging off the bed, the wifi just about worked and I could watch back-to-back episodes of that addictive programme. But it wasn’t exactly relaxing. So now I’ve made a start on the pile of books teetering beside the bed.

The former Television Room is a bit dead now. Like it doesn’t know what to do with itself. Like it’s waiting to be turned into David McWilliams’ granny’s Good Room but really it’s just a Nothing Room, the room that an entire family forgot.

We’ve put the meditation cushions in there hoping that it might become the Meditation Room. We’ve arranged the sofas so that they face each other, so that it might become the Conversation Room. But the conversations happen where they always did, at the kitchen table, or in the bedroom, or in the hall when we’re clearing out the sideboard drawers. (I’ve had justifiably expensive consultants round and they estimate I’ve spend 20 per cent of my life clearing out drawers. That was €2 million well spent I think you’ll agree).

We still think of the television sometimes, the way your mind wanders to an old lover, wondering what they are doing now and if they miss you at all. The telly. Mute in the roofspace/attic/triangle. Waiting. And sometimes I don’t mind admitting I wonder what’s happening in Fair City, whether snarky Yvonne is okay, if Niamh with the fabulous hair has finally dumped that eejit for good. I could catch up on the player but I’m not bothered.

I like the way not having a television makes me hear the house. The radiators filling with hot water. The fridge humming. I think of how peaceful the place is without it, marvel at the unexpected freedom. And then I look at him and his sad eyes and his evening class leaflets and I think: I give it another week.


roisin@irishtimes.com

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