“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn, have pity and leave behind a blessing. (Joel 2 vs 12-14)
A few years back I gave up television for the entire period of Lent. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. How pitiful is that! But the reprehensible fact was I was a Soap-addict and going cold turkey was the only way to break a lifetime’s viewing habit.
I have always loved my tv, even as a child I would sit glued to Bill and Ben, The Magic Roundabout, and Bag Puss. As I got older, and my viewing habits became more sophisticated, it was The Saint, The Avengers, The Persuaders, and my favourite, Randall and Hopkirk. So imagine my excitement when I finally got accepted onto a media production degree course which stipulated that a student watch at least six hours of television a night. That’s a quarter of a day just watching telly!
Current affairs programming and a class called Critical Analysis reqired me to watch all four terrestrial news output (no Channel 5 then) and all the Soaps. Starting with Emerdale, flicking to Coronation Steet, back to Eastenders and then to my favourite, Brookside. If that was all I had to do, then fine, but the downside was having to keep a ‘viewing diary’ analysing what I had watched and then presenting findings at weekley seminars. It had potential for being a couch potatoe’s dream, and undeniably the bluprint for Channel Four’s Gogglebox many years later. All this on top of classes, a part time job and being a paid up member of the student fraternity (which normally started after News Night). All fairly do able for a feckless scholar, much harder emulate as a responsible employee with, one might hope, other things to fill her time.
Not so it would appear, as twenty years later my life was continuing along a similar pattern. That was until I found myself sitting among friends eating pancakes four years ago. It was Shrove Tuesday and suddenly I was centre of attention as my piggy companions all waited for me to divulge what I was going to give up for the impending Lent period.
Any type of food would have been easy, I don’t eat much and I don’t like chocolate. Alcohol might be a tad tricky, but still do able. But television, everyone agreed, would be a sacrifice befitting a Lent abstention. Smugly I acepted the challenge – if all else failed, I still had my DVDs.
Long story short, by the grace of God I survived, although falling on my sword was a very real possibility by the end of the second week. At the start of the third week I took delivery of an eight week old Border Terrier puppy and going cold turkey from tv addiction suddenly seemed like a walk in the park. Instead of pacing around the house looking for something to do from 6 to midnight, I was pacing about looking for poo, or pee and chewed up a mobile phone and specs.
An old habit had been replaced by a new and wonderful one. I was cured!