Let’s see how it goes

Tuesday June 20, 2006

One of Graham’s purchases yesterday was a TV antenna kit, complete with fixings. A very cheap affair, from Wilkinson’s, which we’d planned for the new caravan, to give us a more reliable Freeview digital TV signal.

“I’ll finish up early in the bars this morning,” Graham said. “Then I can borrow a stepladder and fix the new aerial.”

“Right you are,” I said. “I’ll time my shopping trip so’s I’m out of the way while you’re doing it.”

“Why’s that, then? You won’t be in the way.”

“Not of the work, no, but you’ll need the space to curse into.”

“What makes you think I’ll be doing any cursing?”

“It’s a TV antenna. You always go for a healthy session of the Billingsgates when you’re fixing an antenna.”

“Oh, this one will be easy.”

“I’ve heard that before.”

So, when he arrived bearing a stepladder and commandeered the living room in which to assemble all the bits, I waved a cheerful farewell and set off for Williton. I didn’t hurry myself and when I got back the antenna was fixed to the side of the caravan, and all the fixing curses were done.

“Good,” he said. “You’re just in time to help me get it aligned correctly.”

I sighed inwardly and smiled on the outside. “Sure thing. Give me a minute to unpack this stuff and I’ll be with you.”

If there’s one activity I hate it’s shouting alignment instructions through the window while watching a TV screen and judging if the last movement up at the antenna has improved or degraded the signal. It’s better with a digital setup because you’re watching signal strength and noise readings on the tuning screen but even so…

The job got done but with only marginal improvement over the indoor aerial we’ve been using up to now. Tucked down on the cliffs at West Quantoxhead we have to take our signal from the transmitter over the water in Cardiff and, digital or not, it’s influenced by a host of hostile factors ranging from reflections from the water and atmospherics due to the distance. Being fair, the BBC lists our location as not being inside a digital reception area but that doesn’t help. There are times of day when reception is perfect, and at other times the signal fades and disappears almost completely. The new aerial gives us superb analogue reception, though, so it was worth the investment.

Even so, Graham was not happy. “Freeview is a con,” he said. “We should have gone for a satellite setup.”

“Easy to be wise after the event. And we couldn’t have installed a satellite dish on the old caravan.”

“True. Irritating, though.”

“Perhaps the Birthday Fairy will visit you with a satellite setup.”

“That’d be nice. Doubt I’ll be able to wait until December, though, especially when you and Dolly are in the house and I’m here on my own of an evening.”

“Let’s see how it goes. Lunch?”

“Yes, please.”

Freeview — a free-to-air terrestrial digital TV service, broadcast alongside the normal analogue TV service in the UK. It’ll be fine when the analogue transmissions are turned off in a few years but just now, sharing the bandwidth, it’s only viable in really good reception areas. UK TV viewers beware!

Billingsgate — is the traditional London fish market, in which the air is thick with the smell of fish and the uninhibited cursing of the porters.


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