Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Day 129: Test Card F

If my girlfriend has a flaw, and she does, it’s that she doesn’t remember the girl and clown playing noughts and crosses on the tester card on early morning TV.

You know what I mean, right? You’re not insane. You’ve been alive longer than one singular moment. You’re seen a television at least once before. You’re aware of the concept of television.

Back when the channel would go off at night the BBC would show a colour-tester card with a picture of a girl playing noughts and crosses with a clown, and it would be-

-In fact, no. I’m not explaining this. You should know this. You should know.

The thing is, I’ve got such nostalgic memories of that tester card. As a five-year-old kid there’s not much time that is your own. You’re taken places, supervised, taught, watched, talked to, trussed up.

But first thing in the morning there’s a space of time that belongs only to you, and that time yawns and stretches outwards for an eternity. You wake up naturally, fresh, excited, and you creep down the rungs of your bunk bed, careful not to wake your baby sister below, keeping your weight on the mattress until you’re past the second rung, which squeaks, and then you cross the thick carpet and reach up for the handle, turning it gently, not breathing, and then you’re out on the landing, closing the door behind you, and you avoid the creaking floorboards, ease down one step, then the other, then the next, creeping until you’re in the living room, and the door is shut, and you have the television remote, and the whole universe is in your hand.

And soon there will be Transformers, and Thundercats, and Bucky O’Hare; Ghostbusters, Alvin and the Chipmunks, BraveStarr, Duck Tales, Turtles. A million other shows about space battles and magic and lasers and adventure, and each one will be so real, and you’ll go into them all, fall into them, live out the daring, the danger, pump your fists at the theme tunes, dream of getting the toys, and for a few hours, a lifetime to your tiny inchoate self, you will own the world.

But first there are the edutainment programmes, the pre-school programmes, with the counting and the puppets and the unmistakable stench of boredom. No robots here. No glinting steel. But it’s better than nothing, and it’s part of the routine, the pre-match warm-up, the carrot sticks that you know you have to eat that will make the fish fingers and alphabetti spaghetti taste all the sweeter.

But before even that, right now, there is the tester card, immutable and unmoving, its utilitarian greys and adult grids giving way at the corners to blossoming explosions of colour, the central smiling girl and the whimsy of the clown and the game they are playing embodying to your childhood self concepts that you can’t quite name, the virtue of patience, the zen of the present, and a restful excited poise that spreads from inside you until it blankets all things, and all things hum internally with something that is you.

And then the tester card disappears, and the cartoons begin.

And that is why, ladies and gentlemen and others of the jury, my girlfriend is a moron. Thank you. Good night.

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