Today, I am privileged to feature a guest post, written by BOF, (his initials) an old student of Achimota School. His article, Television; Musings on Childhood was forwarded to me by a friend, Mrs. Aku Hayfron, a Clinical Psychologist, also an old student. The article is interesting and full of humour and I have no doubt that you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Television; Musings on Childhood by BOF
I have a thing about televisions. Not necessarily the programmes showing on it, just the appliance itself and the fact of owning them; which is strange, because I don’t watch much television, but I must own one; to switch on, change channels and switch off as I please. I am emotionally attached to every TV I ever owned. With the exception of one which I gave away, I have kept all of them, even the ones beyond repair.
I know people with stranger obsessions. You might collect stamps or coins. Charles, the Prince of Wales collects, according to some British tabloids – collects WCs, yes WCs. He has a fine collection of them. The Heir Apparent, according to the British tabloids, having gone through public schools and the tribulations of finding clean WCs, took to collecting fancy WCs. It is rumoured that he travels with his own toilet seat carved out of well-grained mahogany and embossed with the royal seal. Hmmm…
I know why I’m obsessed with televisions. Growing up in Koftown, (Koforidua) our first TV arrived when I was about 13 after my older brother sent us one from ‘abroad’; a 20-inch Black and White Grundig Television Set. It wasn’t so much that we couldn’t afford one. Looking back, I’m sure we could. It just didn’t feature in the old man’s Presbyterian scale of priorities. Ask for books – any number of books – and he would rush to the end of the earth to get it for you, starting of course at the Presbyterian Book Depot. With my dozens of siblings, the total cost of story books per year must have been more than the cost of a TV, for we read a lot (he made us), but hint at a TV and you might as well be asking for a Corvette.
When our TV arrived, its use was rationed and tied to performance in school and on errands and chores. People who got Ds in maths were sentenced to the radio, textbooks and newspapers. They were unworthy of viewing ‘Stadium’ and ‘Osofo Dadzie’ on Sundays. It was that simple. And you couldn’t touch the TV. You watched when the old man switched it on and you stopped when he switched it off. After several dissertations, appeals from various delegations and elegantly crafted petitions, the old man was dissuaded from returning the TV to its original packing box after every night’s viewing. One night, the TV got tired of the whole thing and blew a fuse – or whatever TVs blow when they’re fed up.
But we did get to watch TV through the windows of neighbours. It was no casual event and demanded a level of planning reserved for complex military operations. First, there was the decision on which programme to watch, then researching the “Daily Graphic’ for the programme schedule. Next came the identification and profiling of all neighbours who had televisions.
Mr. Addo had a TV but, being a bachelor, he often had female guests and an annoying tendency to draw his curtains shut…. Auntie Dora was accommodating but was known to exchange viewing privileges for errands, of which she had an endless supply. She also had a long memory and could accurately recount every child’s errand performance record from age four (I think four years was the official ‘errand-able’ age). Auntie Grace was a relative by marriage and would even give us a seat on the linoleum-covered floor of her living room. Her TV was however afflicted by a strange disease. In the middle of ‘Osofo Dadzie’, the picture would suddenly go bizarre. Usually, a decent slap firmly administered to the top –and slightly right of centre – of the TV would fix the problem. There was a certain deftness of touch required in the administration of the picture-reviving slap; slap too softly and problem remained; slap too hard and TV screen went rebelliously blank and unresponsive to further slap treatments. Mr. Yeboah was a wicked man who simply refused to share his 14-inch Akasanoma TV, but he liked us because we spoke fine Achimota English. Unfortunately he continued to speak English right through Osofo Dadzie and Hawai-Five-Oh, ruining it for us. These profiles produced a complex matrix of options upon which the final selection of viewing locations was made.
Then there was the problem of what story to tell to the old man to get out of the house. The excuse had to be carefully crafted, for any indication that we were going to loaf around in someone’s house would most definitely be met with a refusal. We could only leave home for noble causes; library, church, group study with friends etc. On Sunday evenings, most of the regular causes were unworkable. The library was closed and we had already been to church in the morning. All Night prayer meetings had not been invented yet. The fall back cause was to visit our sick friends in hospital or at home, depending on the expected time of departure. I am thankful that all our Koftown friends on whom we afflicted various ailments are still in good health today. Kingsley Asiam alone had malaria and jaundice at least twice a month, every month for about three years. But Asiam was a great sport and never let us down whenever he responded to my father’s queries about his health. As for Ken, he didn’t know it, but his headache was rather chronic.
Like most things, the anticipation often exceeded the event. It beats me now to think that weekend after weekend; we subjected ourselves to watching ‘Osofo Dadzie’ or soccer games through a window pressed by a teeming crowd of people, providing fodder for the mosquitoes and enduring the exotic odours from the wide variety of dinners, unfettered flatulence and unadulterated bad breath.
So when I came home from work one evening, having acquired with hundreds of dollars, a 21-inch Sony Black Trinitron Colour Television Set (I do know my televisions) for the viewing pleasure of my two small children, and find the TV switched off because, according to them, the wind had shifted the antenna and reception wasn’t good, you can understand why I was beside myself with consternation. The TV is in your house, it’s in colour, you’re allowed to touch it and watch at any time, but you refuse to do so because of a little ‘snow’?
I switched on the TV and ordered them to watch; snowy picture, Adult Education in Nzema and all ……