Copyright © 2005 Martin Newell
Pepys 0.1 Blogware © Steve Dix
The Television Will Not Be Revolutionised.
Spring of 1968 was, for me at least, the last spring of the 1960s. By early November of that year I'd more or less stopped going into school, preferring instead to hang around with Hedley in his dad's shop in Earlsfield, South London. By early December I'd officially left school. By January 6th 1969, still aged only 15, I was a working lad in London, getting the tube train to work and buying my own lunches. I'd started work for GPO Telegrams in Farrringdon Road, London. The 1960s really was over by then. Not even 16 yet and I'd missed it.
I knew that somewhere out there, people were making music, painting, writing, leading some kind of magic charmed lives. It was somewhere out there. I swear that I could even hear the pan pipes wafting on the wind sometimes. My life was lived through the pop records which I listened to, the books which I read and occasionally, the ideas which I received from other people's fantasies on TV – programmes such as The Prisoner for instance. In days before videos, when there were only two TV channels – though, soon to be three. If you didn't see a film at the cinema, it usually took something like 4 or 5 years to filter down to the small screen. Good films, therefore, were precious.
Making people – making myself – remember or understand that fact in our own media pampered age, is very hard. There was no View Again feature, for instance. There were no videos. You missed a film, then you'd really missed it. You couldn't watch a scene again, let alone in slo-mo. You all had to gather round a TV and stay with it for the duration. Unless it was being shown on ITV, which had regular 3-minute commercial breaks, then you took all the usual tea and wee breaks while the adverts were on.
Sometimes it would seem desperately important to me that I saw a certain film or programme on our one and only, 14-inch black and white screen. What I as a 15 year old was allowed to watch, or not, would often be a cause of huge family rows. It was sport and news versus music and comedy – Monty Python for instance. The one thing which I'd dread was the dominant male coming into the room, marching over to the TV and saying, “What's this load of old rubbish you're watching?” before changing the channel or turning the TV off altogether. It would make me either angry, or sometimes, despairing.
There was an exciting world out there -- somewhere. But there weren't many signs of it in the dull suburban street immediately outside. No one at my new place of work seemed aware of it either. The 1960s decade is so often nowadays caricatured by the media as an Austin Powers sort of world, with everyone in paisley day-glo, all frantically go-go dancing in groovy clubs. I never saw that bit and I was there. In most cases, there was an almost slavish adherence to normality, with everyone wearing the same clothes, buying the same furniture and taking pleasure in the same mundanities. At work they'd parrot. “We have a laugh...” . But they'd always qualify it with the sober caveat “...But we do get the work done.” This was what work was like for the 1960s school leaver. Quite like school, in fact but with slightly more money and a little less violence.