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July 2006 -Feel the Width

Those of you, tireless devotees, who were concentrating on last month's epistle, will remember that I was bemoaning the severe liquidity of the month of May and looking forward to, what I hoped was going to be, a flamin' June.

So, here I sit, on what seems to be a horrible Monday morning, around a month further on, with the rain beating heavily upon my windows, wondering if this drought business will ever actually reach us down here, in the decidedly damp corner of England.

Okay, so June did manage to commence with its sunny side up for a day or two, but then failed to exhibit the necessary stamina to complete the course and remain tolerably clement for the full thirty days.

The trouble with all this continued inclemency, don't you know, is all the staying indoors which is required to take shelter.  Staying indoors which, rather often, involves reclining in front of the televisual apparatus to keep oneself amused, until Mr Sun puts his hat back on and comes out again to play.

At least some of this staying indoors, in locations other than Harvey Towers it should be clearly noted, has provided me with the seeds of a subject idea for this month's exciting edition of Comment.

Have you noticed all these three foot high, nine foot wide footballers who've been on the telly over the last few weeks?  It seems to be a problem which occurs mainly in pubs or clubs, or in other people's homes.

I definitely do not have the problem, myself.  If I were ever to lower myself to watching this football business, which I definitely have no intention of doing, then the players would be six foot high and a couple of foot wide, rather like they are in real life.

Do you remember those early days of colour television?  The days when colour was a novelty and those stinking rich persons who had managed to invest in a set needed to make sure that anyone and everyone who visited them was left in no doubt whatsoever that they'd got one.

In order to remove all doubt, they'd crank the colour control round to its absolute maximum position and then rip the knob off, to paraphrase a favourite saying of a certain Mr L of Wiltshire.

Another favourite phrase of my friend, Mr L, is to ask for ten pence for a bin bag, when asked what can be done with a useless, six month old colour television with all the bright orange faces permanently burnt into the tube.

It was impossible to clearly see what was actually going on on those totally mal-adjusted early colour sets, but at least you were left with no question in your mind as to whether they were black-and-white or colour and exactly how incredibly rich their owner was.

It's this urgent need for people, not just to show off their newly acquired technology, but to show off every single special feature of it, which was the seed of the subject idea that came to me the other evening whilst I was indoors at my local, probably sheltering from something unpleasant or other.

This uncontrollable showing off shall, therefore, provide the subject for in depth analysis, under the jolly old Acme microscope, in this particular episode of Nick Harvey's Comment.

Yes, back in those early colour days, you could probably count the number of correctly set up televisions, with the faces a natural, pale pink, on the fingers of just one hand.

Nearly everybody seemed to decide that if they'd shelled out all the shekels for colour, then extremely bright colour it had to be.  All the faces had to look totally unnatural and just as if they'd spent the whole of flamin' June out under dear old Mr Sun.

A similar phenomenon seems to be unfolding for this rather silly football tournament that the Germans have been running over the last few weeks.  All the football fans seem to have rushed round to their local electrical retailer to buy brand, spanking, new televisions to add to their enjoyment of this dubious sporting event.

And that nice Mr Salesman, the television version of which is never lacking in the commission increasing department, has sold all these poor punters nice, new, wide screen versions of the equipment requested.

In true, selfish, Mr Salesman style, he's flogged them the box full of gear, pocketed his commission, and left them to it, without so much as a suggestion of any instructions on how to set up a wide screen picture after they've struggled into their lounges and unpacked their box.

After all, five more minutes spent on the instructions for the first sale might compromise the time allowed for the next sale, and, heaven forbid, the next huge lot of commission.  Never let customer satisfaction get in the way of an enormous pay packet, to quote what appears to be the motto of many a large electrical chain.

So, picture the scene, if you will.  Here we are in Mr Punter's front lounge.  He's managed to get the thing home, got it out of the box and he's started setting it up.  The thing seems to have managed to find Channel Four of its own accord and, surprise, surprise, they're showing a repeat of Friends.

So why, he starts to ask himself, when he's just forked out such a huge sum of money for this wonderful device, are there two damn great black bands down the sides of the picture?

He's not having that.  You don't spend that much money on a wide screen and then have black bars down the side.  After much pressing of various buttons, he eventually finds the one for three foot high, nine foot wide people and presses it.

Sorted, as I understand is the cry of the common people.

He's switched it into wide mode and in wide mode it shall stay for ever and ever.  Never mind what aspect ratio the poor broadcaster intended his favourite programme to be viewed in, Mr Punter's paid for widescreen and that's what he's going to show off to all his visitors.

And, of course, it's not just Mr Punter.  Mr Landlord and Mrs Landlady are even worse offenders.  They have the added problem of not wanting to be thought of as running a cheap hostelry by having the black bars down the side of their picture.

The fact that a small handful of their clients, including people like me, will think their pub or club is a complete and utter anagram of carp because they haven't got the intelligence to have their television set up correctly is neither here nor there to them.

As I alluded in my title, up above, it really is a classic, and literal, case of never mind the quality, feel the width.

And, to return, just for a moment to this funny little football tournament going on out in Germany at the moment, in the couple of minutes of it which I tried not to see last weekend, whilst in a club local to Harvey Towers, all the players seemed to spending the whole time fouling.

Well, I'm sure you're not allowed to kick the ball around all the time like that in a game of rugby, are you?  What do you mean, madam?  Of course it was rugby I was watching.  It must have been.  To slightly adjust a quote from that expert on the subject, Mr W S Gilbert, the ball was elliptical.

Okay, time to go time again, I think.  More of something similar will appear, in whatever aspect ratio you prefer, promptly on August the 1st.

In the meantime, just keep pressing that superwide button.  I'll end up the right size eventually, as the Bishop allegedly said to the actress.  Right, I'm off, where's me vertical hold?

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