A Brit under the skin

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For some reason this year, we seem to be changing everything in this house. This time it’s our satellite television.

Yesterday there was another change in this house – we have gone back to British television.

For some years when we first bought our house in France, we didn’t have television at all. We had a television SET, of course, but we only played videos on it (videos, remember them?…). It wasn’t until I found one of our cats dead in the garden that I suddenly felt a need for access to television – simply for something to distract me mindlessly for the evening.

We opted then for a French satellite package, attempting to integrate into our new surroundings. Most of the channels, of course, were French, but there was also CNN and a couple of BBC channels, and you could watch films in ‘version originale’, which was fine if they were English (not so fine if, for instance, they were Korean…).

The problem was, to tell the truth, we didn’t really watch the French channels. Although I love this country and the way of life, the majority of French television is utterly dire. There were some art and history programmes on channels like Premiere, but the truth was that, over the years, apart from the news, we watched the English-language channels almost exclusively.

Now, however, our provider has moved the goalposts. The film channel we enjoyed the most has disappeared. There hasn’t been an English-language film we’ve wanted to see in months. And in October, it’s all due to change again and we’ll lose BBC Prime for good – no more British comedies or costume dramas.  

It was time to draw a line in the sand, and given the ability to now access Freeview and Freesat, and not pay a thing, it was also too good an opportunity to save money. Tilting the satellite dish to pick up the Astra2 and buying a second-hand digibox on Ebay has cost us a grand total of 62 quid. Our French satellite package cost 40 euros a MONTH. You do the math – it should pay for itself in eight weeks. 

Of course, this house being what it is, it wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been (nothing ever is). A friend came over with a long ladder and a satellite finder, and we had to move the dish to the other end of the house and recable, owing to a massive tree that stood in the way of the signal. Then he put the bracket on the wrong way up (our fault – we didn’t tell him). One way and another it took three blokes the greater part of the day to get the thing working. Meanwhile we girls were inside having a bit of a clothing bourse and lots of tea and biscuits like the helpless females we are.

But now that the thing is up and running, I am well pleased with the results. Last night we had the great pleasure of watching a Poirot, which I haven’t seen in years, and on Friday, Helen Mirren will be on in The Queen. We still have CNN, and for the first time since moving to France, we finally have Radio 4, indispensible for the chattering classes. At last, considered debate on topical items, Women’s Hour, but more importantly, Mornington Crescent and I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue. Ex-pat behaviour it may be, but I feel like I’m back in the land of the living…

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