Many years ago when I was a married man, I lived on a fairly rough estate and I worked at a job that didn’t pay great wages. Televisions were nowhere near as reliable as they are today and ours was on its last legs; the picture was so lacking in brightness it put the dark in Poldark.
One Guy Fawkes night I was out with the kids from the estate helping them collect wood for their bonfire. We were getting some planks from a garden when the next-door neighbour approached and said she had something for the bonfire, although she wasn’t too sure if it would be safe to put it on. Intrigued I went into her garden and what she was offering was a huge, wooden cased television called a Finlux Peacock. She told me that it had been working fine, but suddenly it had started making a fizzing sound and there was a smell of burning.
I loaded the telly onto our cart and, seeing as we were passing my house, I took it into the living room to try it out. I connected the aerial, plugged in and switched on and, after the warming up period that was required by televisions of that era, a picture appeared. It was Captain Caveman doing his stuff with his club or whatever.
It looked great, especially as my eyes weren’t used to such a vividly bright picture. Soon after this, though, smoke started to rise from the back of the set so I switched it off. On the Saturday I got a TV engineer to look at it and he immediately located the problem. He took a part out of the set and showed it to me. It was a small yellow plastic drum shaped object that he said was a filter capacitor. The casing was scorched and warped through burning. “Replace that,” he said, “and you’ll have the set working fine.”
I took the part to work on the Monday and, during my lunch break, I rang a shop in Newcastle (Aitken Bros) who dealt in this sort of thing. I read out the number of the part (it was an ITT part) and the guy said that they did have them in stock and that it would cost me 75p to buy one. I said I’d be there at the weekend. Seventy-five pence for a huge colour television set. Wow!
I got home that night, excited at the prospect of ditching the dark one and installing this bright new thing. As it happened my mother called in on her way home from work that evening. I told her the story of the television and went to show her the set, which was on the floor in the corner of the room next to the staircase. “Look,” I said, hauling the set out so she could see it in all its glory. Unfortunately, I hadn’t screwed the cover back on and as I pulled the set out, the end of the tube caught the corner of the newel post. With a sickening hiss the tube imploded and the whole dream went up like the puff of smoke that had appeared behind Captain Caveman. I was devastated. Not only were we stuck with the dark one; we also had this huge useless set to get rid of.