Testing testing scary clown

The Easter holidays has kind of ridden rough shod over all attempts to retain some kind of rhythm to family life. This is good in some ways, because it does not do to get into a rut, and it is nice to be unleashed upon the world in various surprising ways, but I find myself with a spiralling to do list which can only really be stared in the eye once the children go back to school. Blogging is one of the things on that list.

Basically this post is a Test Card for the blogging generation.

For those of you who were either not around in the Seventies, or merely lived in a different country where, presumably your television executives had not had a lunch of acid with quaalude chasers before this particular meeting at Broadcasting House, the Test Card was something the BBC used to put on in the afternoons when they couldn’t quite be bothered to make any television programmes.

I know, right? How can you own one of only two broadcasting corporations in the entire country and have a virtual monopoly on the nation’s viewing habits and not be arsed to make enough television programmes to last the whole day? Especially when you were being funded by the viewers’ licence fees, so it was all paid for.

Lazy. That’s what I say. Plain lazy.

So, programmes would start in the morning at some point. I am not sure when, as we were not allowed to watch TV in the mornings at home, except on Saturdays, obv. I mean, who could resist the lure of Noel Edmonds in bri-nylon, wing collar shirts to start your Saturday?

The earliest I saw TV on a week day was the schools programme series, which we sometimes watched for ‘educational purposes’ during lessons. We would dutifully traipse to the hall, whereupon a television the size of a small bus, balanced on what looked like a zimmer frame for giants, would be wheeled out, and we would all stare mesmerised at the screen for twenty minutes before going back to class. It was, bar none, the most exciting part of my primary school education. The illicit thrill of watching telly instead of learning about long division. Joy.

At lunch time there would be mostly a strange soap opera, which I believe was called The Cedar Tree, and which I remember nothing about except the credits, for I was only allowed to watch it when I was at home ill. Sometimes there would be a programme on how to paint hosted by a woman who used to paint using a palette knife. I remember being in awe of the fact that she was allowed to paint with kitchen utensils. I wasn’t.

After that, about 1.00 p.m. probably, the Test Card would come on, which was a fixed image accompained by a great deal of lift music, which hogged the screen until children’s television started about three hours later.

I remember actually choosing to watch the Test Card some days, which was about as dull as it sounds, but such was the fascination of telly. I think I was hoping that in the middle a sneaky cartoon might come on to reward the patience of those who stuck with the Test Card all afternoon. It never happened, sadly, and I never remember turning to ITV. Maybe they didn’t broadcast telly either, or have a Test Card. Perhaps it was just static telly snow.

And the Test Card picture?

Imagine a wide eyed, lank haired girl with a fixed grin, sitting next to a terrifying clown rag doll with a chalk board behind them, and lots of strange, geometric shapes frisking about my borders. All this while The Girl from Ipanema plays tinnily in the background.

I wonder about that Test Card a lot, even decades after the event. What the hell made them pick that image? I mean, really? You could have picked nothing, and I mean nothing, more sinister than that picture.

It surprised me not one iota when John Simm was haunted by that girl in Life on Mars. She has haunted my dreams for years, and I’m not even thinking about the clown:

‘sticks fingers in ears, blinds self with acid, la la la, I can’t hear/see/imagine you creepy clown guy.’

6 responses to “Testing testing scary clown

  1. I wasn’t around in the 70s but I remember the test card. I think it came on at night in the 90s? Later I remember BBC2 had Ceefax pages after the day’s programmes ended.

  2. Ours was still in force in the 1990s, if I remember correctly. All-day TV is a relatively new phenomenon in Finland.
    (Here’s what it looked like: http://yle.fi/tekniikka/?ID=209&group=103)

  3. I used to hate that test card – just to remind you –

  4. Yikes.

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