So how was 2013 for you? Hopefully you can reflect on a year of achievements, no matter how small or big, and feel good about the past twelve months. However, I’m afraid I can’t be quite so upbeat. No, I can only report that – for much of the year just gone by – my life was on pause. Indeed, I regularly felt that I was caught in a time warp. I’m not using euphemistic language or speaking in metaphors here; my life really was on pause. I blame modern technology.
Most people laud the advent of television hard drive boxes. Regardless of which company you pay a monthly subscription to, the ability to pause, rewind, or record television is undoubtedly a massive leap forward in the evolution of the medium. Not for me though.
The ability to ‘press pause’ has become the bane of my life. Let me give you a good example. It’s five minutes to eight and you’re sat in the living room, enduring another cartoon or sassy Disney kiddie sitcom, willing the credits to roll so you can watch the match or have an actual uninterrupted conversation with your wife. ‘Righto, time for bed,’ you announce optimistically, glancing at your watch. You’re puzzled as to why the programme doesn’t seem to be near an end. Then the realisation hits you: while you’ve been coming and going – busy cleaning up or preparing lunches or loading the dishwasher – the kids have been pausing like nobody’s business, scurrying about the house taking toilet breaks and toast breaks and toy hunts and fridge excursions. There is at least eight minutes left on the current episode of Phineas & Ferb or Spongebob Squarepants, and the children will be damned if you’re going to enforce the normal bedtime hours on them now.
‘No, no, no, it’s not over yet Daddy,’ they whine. The situation quickly takes on the atmosphere of a courtroom drama. They’re pleading clemency on the grounds of their show being on pause; you’re making the case that if they didn’t press pause so much they’d have been able to watch the cartoon in the pre-bedtime allotted hour. They counter and object on the grounds that so-and-so had to go to the loo, and what’s-his-name needed to go and change his socks. Objection, you shout, this is misleading the jury with conjecture: did the boy really need to change his socks?
And on and on this debate continues, all the while Manchester United take the lead (according to Twitter) with a stunning bicycle kick by Wayne Rooney, or your wife tries to elaborate on the ‘I’m late!’ text from earlier that day (you’re secretly hoping she meant she was stuck in traffic on the bypass rather than the other, more ominous, meaning.)
This is the curse of ‘live pause’. You’d think it was a technological innovation designed to improve our lives, but the inventors forgot one thing: our kids. It’s pointless developing something new and brilliant if the consequences of it falling into the hands of children are overlooked. They are the ones that truly test and exploit its potential. Your smartphone, the TV planner, the laptop: they become more technologically literate in a few weeks than you could hope to be in your entire lifetime. Why, though, can’t they apply the same savvy to the dishwasher or the washing machine?
Trying to watch anything becomes an exercise in patience and self-restraint. One particularly maddening episode regularly occurs when one of them tries to rewind back to the spot they were watching before he had to urgently go and get a cracker. He goes back too far, the other lad yells at him, he goes forward again but skips past the moment, the other lad yells again, so he goes back again but rewinds too far, and the other lad yells at him. This pantomime can go on for several hours on a Saturday afternoon.
One evening last week the younger boy had a meltdown because I couldn’t ‘rewind’ a movie that we’d flicked upon. I tried unsuccessfully to explain that we were watching it in real time, and that it wasn’t recorded and we couldn’t go backwards because we’d just turned it on. Real time, live pause, rewind, space-time continuum: it all got quite confusing. Ironically the film was Back to the Future.
No thank you, TV scientists, I do not want to be part of the revolution. For the next twelve months I’m stowing the recording box in the attic and relying on real time. That will be my New Year’s resolution and I’m sticking with it. It could even be a metaphor for my outlook for 2014 – your outlook as well, if you wish – move forward, don’t linger in the past. Maybe then, and only then, will I get the kids to bed on time: eight o’clock and no rewinding.