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No more TV any more

We have cut down our TV watching to a few hours a week.

While the DH was away recently, I decided to pretty much stop watching television - that is, only turn it on for programmes we really want to watch. I found by doing so that I seemed to have a lot more hours in the day and I enjoyed the quietude of not having chatter in my ear all the time.

The thing that flipped me was switching to Radio 4 one morning to avoid the sport on BBC1 and hearing the words: "Since the collapse of the Dutch Government yesterday". This was an event that had not been mentioned on the television news and I suddenly thought Balls to it. They're not even telling me the bloody truth. I don't even live in Britain any more, why do I give a stuff about Jeremy Cunt and what he's up to? I know they're all thieves and liars; I wouldn't vote Tory if you stuck pins in my hands, so why am I aggravating myself listening to their doings? If I want news, I'll get it from the Internet, not have it pushed at me in my living room. I also hate the breakfast show's new setup, with the presenters squeezed together, and no Sian. So, the hell with it. 

It's not as if we ever watched real rubbish - game shows, reality TV, talent competitions or any of that crap. We were pretty discerning watchers, but we did have a habit of leaving it on in the background, muted, between the programmes that we really wanted to watch.

So, when the DH got back, I suggested to him, courtesy of an idea in the book Organized Simplicity (review to follow) that we each pick three hours a week of TV we really want to watch and other than that, we switch it off. We can watch DVDs if we wish (currently on Series 4 of The Wire, which is brilliant), but we will be more circumspect about general television.

We both chose The Good Wife. We're also watching my old friend Mary Beard's new series, Meet the Romans, and have recorded Bettany Hughes' series on goddesses. And to be honest, that's about it. We struggled to get to our three hours. I no longer watch Mastermind or Only Connect, Bang Goes the Theory or Horizon - they don't quite pass that badge of quality. They're OK but they're not unmissable. So, period dramas and history documentaries it will be, plus Alicia and Will once a week. 

That leaves a lot more lovely time for reading, hobbies and listening to music. Our morning seem much quieter and more restful, with the sound of birdsong from the garden and Bach or Beethoven on the stereo, and our evenings now seem incredibly long, even though we go to bed at 10.00. 

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A Brit under the skin

For some reason this year, we seem to be changing everything in this house. This time it's our satellite television.

Yesterday there was another change in this house - we have gone back to British television.

For some years when we first bought our house in France, we didn't have television at all. We had a television SET, of course, but we only played videos on it (videos, remember them?...). It wasn't until I found one of our cats dead in the garden that I suddenly felt a need for access to television - simply for something to distract me mindlessly for the evening.

We opted then for a French satellite package, attempting to integrate into our new surroundings. Most of the channels, of course, were French, but there was also CNN and a couple of BBC channels, and you could watch films in 'version originale', which was fine if they were English (not so fine if, for instance, they were Korean...).

The problem was, to tell the truth, we didn't really watch the French channels. Although I love this country and the way of life, the majority of French television is utterly dire. There were some art and history programmes on channels like Premiere, but the truth was that, over the years, apart from the news, we watched the English-language channels almost exclusively.

Now, however, our provider has moved the goalposts. The film channel we enjoyed the most has disappeared. There hasn't been an English-language film we've wanted to see in months. And in October, it's all due to change again and we'll lose BBC Prime for good - no more British comedies or costume dramas.  

It was time to draw a line in the sand, and given the ability to now access Freeview and Freesat, and not pay a thing, it was also too good an opportunity to save money. Tilting the satellite dish to pick up the Astra2 and buying a second-hand digibox on Ebay has cost us a grand total of 62 quid. Our French satellite package cost 40 euros a MONTH. You do the math - it should pay for itself in eight weeks. 

Of course, this house being what it is, it wasn't as straightforward as it should have been (nothing ever is). A friend came over with a long ladder and a satellite finder, and we had to move the dish to the other end of the house and recable, owing to a massive tree that stood in the way of the signal. Then he put the bracket on the wrong way up (our fault - we didn't tell him). One way and another it took three blokes the greater part of the day to get the thing working. Meanwhile we girls were inside having a bit of a clothing bourse and lots of tea and biscuits like the helpless females we are.

But now that the thing is up and running, I am well pleased with the results. Last night we had the great pleasure of watching a Poirot, which I haven't seen in years, and on Friday, Helen Mirren will be on in The Queen. We still have CNN, and for the first time since moving to France, we finally have Radio 4, indispensible for the chattering classes. At last, considered debate on topical items, Women's Hour, but more importantly, Mornington Crescent and I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue. Ex-pat behaviour it may be, but I feel like I'm back in the land of the living...

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