Belfast Telegraph

How my life seems to be just a replay ...

By Nuala McKeever

Remember when VHS machines came out and there was the joke about the Irishman who used his to record programmes he didn’t like and then play them back when he was out?

I’ve turned into that joke.

Since I got a hard drive recorder, I’ve become so trigger happy with the remote control, clicking on programmes left, right and centre, that I’ve built up a backlog of “stuff to watch” for those occasions when, God forbid, I should find myself on the couch with the scariest of all modern bogeymen, “absolutely nothing worth watching on TV the night!!”

Problem is, with life so busy, busy, busy, I’ve no time, so my next favourite pastime is flicking through the list and deleting things I haven’t even seen.

Sometimes I waver, thumb hovering over the delete button, like Caesar before the gladiators, drunk on my own power over life and death — a kind of God complex for the not very ambitious.

I also get to sneer at my own choices — The History of Linen Weaving on BBC 3? What were you thinking of? Get a life!” (One of the more worrying aspects of living with yourself is that you develop a dysfunctional relationship with the Voice in Your Head, just so you have some conversation at night.)

But last week I realised I’d gone too far with the cull, when I found myself late one night anxiously scanning the depleted Recorded Programmes list, looking for something tasty, in much the same way you would rummage around in the Quality Street tin after Christmas, hoping there might be something other than coffee creams left at the bottom.

Unfortunately, it was coffee cream city — all that was left was three episodes of Tribal Wives.

“Ah well,” I thought, “I’ll give one a go. And sure, if I don’t like it, I can always spit it out.”

Well, how wrong could I have been? It was great! A woman from London spent a month with an island tribe in Papua New Guinea to experience a different culture and maybe find inner peace.

Now, you might say she could have hopped over to Northern Ireland for the last couple of weeks and experienced more different culture than she could shake a stick (or throw a halfer) at, but hey, that’s a different programme.

These people grow yams, they harvest yams, they eat yams. In fact, as the narrator told us in a very serious voice: “Yams are at the centre of village life.”

At the time this line made me laugh out loud. It seemed blindingly obvious and a little quaint. But since then, it’s been running through my head all week, only now it seems less quaint and more challenging. What would we say is at the centre of our lives?

We’re mostly so disconnected from everything — the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the gadgets we use. We can talk to people on the other side of the world but do you know how a telephone works and could you make one if you had to? I couldn’t.

I’m not suggesting a yam-centred life as the way forward necessarily, but maybe a little more direct connection to our own world would satisfy us more than all the stuff we chase to make us feel like we’re in control. Remote control is really not much control at all.

Belfast Telegraph

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