Anton Rippon: Happy 30th, breakfast TV...even though I've never watched you
THERE are many things that I've never got round to doing. Watching breakfast television is one. This week, I was surprised to learn I've now been managing to avoid breakfast telly for exactly 30 years. It was at 6.30am on January 17, 1983, that the BBC's new Breakfast Time programme first aired.
Writing in The Spectator, Richard Ingrams said: "There is no earthly reason why anyone of intelligence should want to watch it." Two weeks later, the rival TV-am went on air and was saved from financial ruin only when Greg Dyke hired a puppet – Roland Rat – to read the news. So Ingrams might have had a point.
However, it wasn't a misguided belief that I was intelligent that prevented me from tuning in. I already had enough distractions while getting ready for work. I didn't need any more.
Television demands your complete attention. You can never stray from it. Looking at the telly while negotiating the bones in my kipper has always been a step too far. I've never understood why people try to do both when the wireless in the background does nicely. That's the thing about the wireless. You can do other things while you're listening to it – move around, leave the room even, if it's turned up loud enough.
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In those days, we lived in Overdale Road and I'd started freelancing out of an office in Friar Gate. Most days I walked. Occasionally, I caught the corporation bus that came past our house.
Tommy Powell was always on the top deck. For some years, my favourite Rams footballer of all time had been working in the accounts department of the Derby Telegraph. He was a lovely man was Tommy, although if you'd incorrectly added up your weekly expenses claim, then he was capable of a sarcastic edge. We got on well, though, and he once told me that he'd never bothered with breakfast television either.
We liked living in Overdale Road, where life had apparently continued unchanged and unchallenged for decades. A bit of 1930s suburban England still flourishing into the 1980s. A shop on almost every corner and a decent pub – the Mafeking Hotel complete with bowling green – just around the corner. If you hadn't made your escape by last orders, you could be trapped in the "Maf" until the small hours.
The neighbours were a universally grand lot. Most had lived there for ever and we knew everyone by name. Alec and Babs McWilliams lived next door. Alec, a director of Rolls-Royce, was a great host. It was impossible to nip round for five minutes. Once you stepped on to their welcome mat, the telly was switched off, the wine came out and you were there for the evening.
It was the same across the road at Haydn and Carrie Atterbury's. Haydn was one of Britain's leading harpists who'd played with the Halle Orchestra. A glass of port, a large cigar and a private recital was the order of the evening there.
In 1987, after 11 very happy years there, we left Overdale Road. Alec and Babs, and Haydn and Carrie, have all passed on. Almost certainly, I should imagine, without ever having watched one minute of breakfast television between them.