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This report is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

Third Best Neil Powell

I've never much cared for television. This is partly a matter of temperament - it's least good at what I most enjoy: music, books, and the quiet contemplation of small things - and partly of circumstance. My early childhood was mercifully free of it (no mains electricity, for a start); my boarding-school wouldn't countenance it, except eventually and grudgingly, and then in a deliberately unpleasant room usually stuffed with sports fans; and my student evenings were spent in TV-less digs and flats or (mostly) in pubs. Years later, when at last I owned a television that actually worked, I lived on the East coast where, at the merest hint of an anticyclone, the signal turns up overprinted in Dutch. These days, the forlorn thing shares a socket with the hi-fi and - apart from Test Matches and Wimbledon, addictions quite lately acquired - it gets plugged in once or twice a week if it's lucky. Watching it is a habit I've just never caught.

Radio, though, is another matter: a love affair that began with Saturday tea-time serials - Journey into Space , Return to the Lost Planet - and has never really ended. At school, the after-lights-out fading and phasing of Radio Luxembourg was superseded in the mid-1960s by those wonderfully absurd pirate stations, Caroline and London, bobbing about in North Sea gales with their irrepressibly quixotic disc-jockeys, barmily idealistic pop music and memorably terrible advertisements for Consulate cigarettes or Vitalis hairspray. Like little magazines, ...


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