Judging by the television channels in international hotels, Europeans must think Anglo-Saxons are the most boring people in the world. While Italian, French or German stations show a mixture of soap operas, game shows and other cheerful nonsense, English-language channels are confined to news bulletins and the kind of rolling financial programming once parodied by The Day Today.
This means I am often reduced to watching foreign television simply to relieve the monotony. A rare high point was when I beat both contestants on Des Chiffres et Des Lettres, the French precursor to Countdown, with an eight-letter word, though admittedly the word was ‘minigolf’. The strangest moment came when I was watching a mainstream German station and, in what seemed to be a Teutonic version of Wainwright, three sturdy middle-aged couples in walking boots hiked around the Bavarian Alps, enjoying the beauties of the landscape. This continued for about 15 minutes, at which point they removed their clothes and… well, let’s just say it all got very guttural. (Since this is the kind of stuff Middle Eastern homes are picking up on satellite every night, it’s unsurprising they think Westerners are decadent: the influence of porn on national perceptions has been underestimated.)
Anyhow, the answer to my problem is to download British television to my laptop before I go abroad using BBC iPlayer. Don’t tell my employer, but this is one reason why, when my old laptop needed replacing recently, I asked for something with a much larger screen and big speakers. The trouble is, unless I wait months, this will mean getting an Apple MacBook. What’s the problem? Rationally, none at all, except that I have considered myself a PC person for the past ten years, and will suffer a strange loss of identity if I switch.