Saturday, December 06, 2008

Having posted a vintage bulletin on aerial placement, I have my own reception quandary. When I moved into my current house, it had 2 satellite dishes. One on the front, aimed at Astra 19.2E - home of the old Sky analogue transmissions and numerous continental stations, and one at the back, for receiving Sky Digital. I've kept the front dish aimed at 19.2E, because stations like BR-Alpha and 3Sat show more live jazz in a week than the BBC deigns to shove out in a year. Those who are thinking 'Yeah right, I bet that's not the sort of jazz he's interested in' will be disappointed to hear that the free-to-air porn is very tame and mostly obscured by ads for on-screen phone lines, and does not justify the presence of a large, ugly piece of metalwork on the facade of my abode. The prospect of an hour of archive John Coltrane every now and again, however, does.

As for the digital minidish on the back of the house, I've kept it for ready access to the BBC and ITV regional opt-outs. There's very little difference between them these days, but it was always nice to be able to dial into Puffin's Pla(i)ce if the mood took me. Also when a programme started later in Northern Ireland, it acted as a +1 option. However, the installation came into its own on New Year's Eve, allowing the Swiss Family Cheeseford to tap into BBC1 Scotland for the Still Game Hogmanay special and a rather jolly celebration of the New Year with Caledonian current affairs' top Marti Caine lookalike, Jackie Bird. The other satellite box also gets a bit of a pasting on NYE, what with Dinner for One and all that.

However, in recent months, the signal quality on the 28.2E installation has dropped, making reception very intermittent. Reading around on the Internet, I worked out that the old LNB (the bit on the front of the dish) had started to fail. I had a spare LNB, bought in Lidl many moons ago, and today I finally summoned up the enthusiasm to replace the old device. The problem is that the dish is on a part of the roof that can't be accessed readily without duckboards and considerable risk to life. As dishes require very fine adjustment to give of their best, staying at a safe distance and prodding it round with a broom handle doesn't really work. I spent most of this morning up a ladder, cutting cables to length and titting around with the brackets, but to no avail. The new LNB's on there, it's picking up something, but it's off-kilter. I had to give up as the light was failing, and I'm going to have another prod with the broom tomorrow, but I can't help but think that with minidishes going for £20-odd on eBay, I should just buy a new one and put it somewhere that I can get at it. Fair enough, but then comes the question 'Can I justify £20 plus P&P, then an afternoon up a ladder making everyone anxious, simply for one night's television a year and the occasional glimpse at Gordon Burns on North West Tonight?'. These are straitened times, and with perfectly adequate Freeview, plus whatever I can swipe from the Germans, and numerous other repair jobs ahead of this in the financial queue, I'm inclining towards 'No'.

STOP PRESS: No joy with day 2 of Operation Broomprod. I think I can, however, run to an auxiliary bracket costing less than a tenner that allows me to receive 19.2E and 28.2E on the same dish. Sorted.
Some moving pictures for day 6 of advent, in the form of expert advice from the gentlemen and lady (whodathunkit?) of Crawley Court on how to get the most from your aerial installation.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Oh dear. Oh dearie me. Graham Norton's taking over from Wogan as the Eurovision commentator. Now, I'm sure I've read an interview with Norton where he admits to not being wildly enthusiastic about the whole contest, despite being in the caricature fan demographic. I had allowed myself to become convinced that Paddy O'Connell was being lined up for the job when Sir Tel decided to cry 'basta', and, on the basis of Paddy's performance in last year's semis, I'd have had no problem with that at all. In a way it's liberating. I've always wanted to watch the German coverage, but haven't been able to drag myself away from Sir Tel and the Bailey's, but it'll be ARD all the way for 2009.
Day 5, and we whisk you back to 1977 for a recording of It's Patently Obvious, a panel game best described as a cross between Going for a Song and Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. In it, experts like Professor Eric Laithwaite and laymen like William Woollard competed to identify weird and wonderful objects that had, at some stage in history, been patented by their inventors. All of this was achieved under the avuncular bespectacled eyes of Ian Macnaught-Davis, paying the rent in the days before he invented computers. In the late 1980s, with daytime schedulers requiring the odd diversion to stop Anne Diamond and Nick Owen (to say nothing of Ross King) dying from overwork, BBC1 dug out and repeated all of the surviving editions of IPO. Cheeseford believes that it's time for another run, if only to get Lorne Spicer off the bloody screen for a bit.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Day 4 of the CVTNAC and we veer away from captions and continuity to bring you Brian Walden sparking up a snout for Neil Kinnock, during an early 1980s LWT studio session for Weekend World.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Day 3 of advent, and a curio for the continuity enthusiasts. I know when this hybrid was used, but does anyone else recognise it? This message comes to you half-dead from the 24-hour McDonald's at Liverpool Street where I await the first train back to Lowestoft. I did a smash and grab raid on that London to undertake some research viewing at the BFI, attend the AQA 63336 Christmas party and do the radio stuff with Big George. The last of these went splendidly well, as you might expect. At points, it was hard to tell who was interviewing whom.

For anyone wondering what my connection to AQA is, I'm one of the researchers. I might even have told you what time your last bus leaves in the past. I also wrote most of the chapter introductions in the current Brilliant Answers book, so, in a sense, I have two books out there this Christmas. Give generously to an author who's not quite starving, but who seems to be landed with unexpected expenditure at every turn.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A word of warning that I'll be guesting on Big George's overnight show on BBC London 94.9 tonight. It kicks off at 2am, and can be heard online at

Monday, December 01, 2008

Time to open the second door on what they're all calling the CVTNAC. Oooh, bit of a left-fielder for 2 December. The nightly news programme of the German channel BR-Alpha wishes its viewers a happy new year with a picture of a transmitting mast.
I wonder if rising electricity costs will deter anyone from switching on their external Christmas lights this year? If so, some good will have come from the economic downturn. I can see the appeal of a modest row of fairy lights hung along the guttering, but I deplore the mini-Blackpools that seem to have proliferated in recent years. Maybe I'm just a joyless old sod. At least I'm not alone, as this exquisite Christopher Howse piece, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph around this time last year, proves. Merry advent to you, let's open the first door on the Cheeseford Virtual TV Nostalgia Advent Calendar.

Lovely. Another broadcasting icon tomorrow.