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The Field Number 4 - I think I watched 3 TV programmes in my first seven years.

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 9 February 2017

As a father, I know how useful the goggle box can be as an assistant parent and thus after my mother's death my father understandably relented and bought us an old black and white TV. Who can blame a newly single parent from seeking assistance in this way. But for the first eight years of my life we lived without a TV and I think that I watched just three, or maybe four, programmes in that time.

This meant that when the boys and girls and Byfield Primary rabbited on about the latest rubbish on the box I had no idea what they were on about. On the other hand it meant that my sisters and I read lots of books and would while away evenings in front of the fire drawing maps or writing stories. That perhaps was the foundation for all three of us eventually getting into Oxbridge.

But mum did relent on three occasions. There was the wedding of Princess Anne. I do not think that either of my parents were ardent royalists. In fact I am pretty sure that my own Republicanism may have its roots in discussions we had as a family. But Anne's wedding was the biggest national event since the Coronation and so I watched that with my mum somewhere in the village.

The other times we were allowed to watch TV were programmes my mother and father actually wanted to see, Uncle Chris Booker on the telly. In the early 70s his big thing was not the EU. Do not tell anyone, but my great Eurosceptic uncle actually voted to stay in in 1975 unlike my, now Guardian reading Euro loon, father who loyally campaigned for the No side for which his Bennite father, Sir john winnifrith, was a spokesman. Back in the early 70s, 99% of scientists were warning us that global cooling was a fact and that a new ice age was on the way, so Chris had no need to debunk global warming myths. Instead his big thing was campaigning against the destruction of lovely old houses in London to make way for tower blocks and this twice made him the campaigning journalsit of the year.

And so dressed in my pyjamas and my sisters in their nighties we would walk up the little path that ran by the non Daventry side of Butterwell farm up to the nearest of two cottages behind our house. There lived Jack and Doris Boddington, the sort of folks whose families had lived in Byfield for centuries. Is it a coincidence that the surname was the same of the neighbouring village of Lower Boddington? In their garden which bordered onto Mr Peter Thompson's field behind our chicken barn, Jack kept a white rabbit called, I think, Snowy who will feature in the tales of the field at a later date. And that is all that I remember about Jack and Doris other than they were very old and a kindly couple.

They would welcome us all into their cottage. we would drink cocoa and watch Uncle Chris. I cannot remember that, aged five or six, I found his documentaries very interesting but it was exciting none the less, not because my uncle was on the telly but because, when you watch only one programme every two years, any programme was amazing.
I wonder how many seven or eight year old's today can say they have watched only three programmes on the telly?.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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