New television channels seem to appear each time the list is scrolled. Talking Pictures, inevitably it would be old, but at least it might offer a change from the dross of game shows and reality TV.
A 1964 police series called Gideon’s Way was an artefact of a bygone age. The villain was played by George Cole, a troubled incendiarist who was leaving a trail of destruction around a grey post-war London.
It was followed by The Playboys, a 1992 film set in a border county of Ireland in 1957. The cast included Milo O’Shea, Albert Finney, Niamh Cusack and a young Adrian Dunbar.
The film captured the oppressive air of the times. There came a moment of lightness when a theatrical troupe visiting the village joined the local people for haymaking and the gathering sat among the hay cocks and sang The Croppie Boy.
The moment was evocative of a scene in John McGahern’s Amongst Women, where the bitter, angry and confrontational character Moran is for a moment a pacified nand genial neighbour.
In a way it was a relief to him that the pins had finally broken. He had no confidence that he could row the hay on the uneven ground. Now at least his dread was at an end.
Rose watched carefully. ‘If Daddy can’t get it to work nobody can.’
He looked at her angrily, as if the statement itself was deeply compromising; yet it was one he could not reject. ‘We’ll just have to go back to the old rake and fork. Thank God there’s no appearance of rain. If we hang round this tractor much longer curiosity will bring Ryan across that bloody wall.’
They were coming close to the end of the rows when old Mr Rodden and his sheepdog appeared in the field. He entered unobtrusively under the barbed wire between the trees in the outer corner. He wore a straw hat and flannels and wide red braces over the neat white shirt. The collar was closed. He wore a tie and tiepin in spite of all the heat. Both Rose and Moran went towards him at once with smiles and outstretched hands. Moran considered it an honour to have him in the meadow. Rodden was a Protestant. His farm adjoined Moran’s but it was at least six or seven times larger and he had lately handed it over to his son. Though Moran had been a guerrilla fighter from the time he was little more than a boy he had always insisted that the quarrel had never been with Protestants. Now he identified much more with this beleaguered class than his Catholic neighbours. No matter how favourably the tides turned for him he would always contrive to be in permanent opposition.
‘I came’, Rodden said, ‘to congratulate the newly married couple. I heard they were home. And because the machine was idle.’ He wished Sheila and Sean many years of happiness and brought a message from his wife inviting them to tea at four before they went. He praised the work and weather and then asked, ‘Why aren’t you using the tedder? It’d save hours.’
‘I just broke the pins. I never seem to be able to work it on that high ground.’
‘Have you no spare pins?’
He made Moran replace the broken tines while he made several small adjustments. Then he instructed Moran to spinthe tines slowly and after watching them a bit made further adjustments before he was finally satisfied that they were level.
‘I think it will work on any ground now’, Rodden said. Moran then deliberately started to row the roughest ground while Rodden leaned on his stick watching. To Moran’s disbelief the tedder worked the rough ground as if it were a table. After watching for a while Rodden waved his stick to signal that he was about to leave. Moran stopped the tractor and walked Rodden in the manner of local courtesy to the point where he wanted to leave the meadow. The girls and Rose and Sean waved while Michael caught the beautiful black and white collie for a parting pet.
‘It never tedded that ground so well. How did you manage to do it?’ Moran inquired as he left him at the fence.
‘It was nothing. It was just that bit tight.’ Rodden had been taught as a child that any boasting was a symptom of inferiority. ‘I only made a few small adjustments.’
It was a scene as far removed from present realities as the stilted dialogue of a 1960s police series.