In 1954, when I was 10, the first twelve-inch, black-and-white television to arrive in St Monans was wheeled into the upstairs living-room of our neighbours across the street, where it caused an immediate sensation. Not even the Coronation the previous year, with all its bonfires and fireworks and beflagged fishing vessels fluttering on the firth, made quite the same impression. The Coronation had been a nine-day build-up and a one-day wonder, disappearing as fast as the bar of chocolate I was given, bearing the new queen’s image. But that television altered the very fabric of life.
In fact life died in that first house to usher in the new dispensation. Its owner had a passion for collecting dung, which on a daily basis he dug and raked lovingly into his vegetable patch. He was forever scouring the streets in the wake of the horses that brought round our morning milk in churns, and his was a familiar figure to be seen with sack and shovel, bent over the steaming heaps of newly laid manure. Now the horse dung grew cold on the roads and the green weeds strangled his leeks. The lights went out in his living-room, never to be seen again in my village lifetime.
They were replaced by a cold blue flickering against which the black humps of heads and shoulders gloomed like phantoms. The whole family sat in a stone circle, gorgonized by technology. Soon the circle widened, became a double circle, three tiers, a congregation – the neighbours were pouring in, to a house previously unvisited, arriving on all sorts of pretexts (‘Grandad had a good catch this morning – thought you could use these extra haddock’) – and staying till the Epilogue and what was now ‘God Save Our Queen’. Folk even huddled in knots on the street outside BBC House, as we called it, straining to catch a glimpse of the future, though the upstairs location made it, of course, quite impossible to see a single inch out of the twelve. Football and boxing matches were in full flow,
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