Robert McNeil: Experts! Leave us alone to watch the TV in peace

·6-min read
We’re told to reduce our telly-watching to less than an hour a day
We’re told to reduce our telly-watching to less than an hour a day

IT’S time to stand up for yourself. Or so they’re telling us. In a new bid to stop us sitting doon, we’re told to reduce our telly-watching to less than an hour a day. That’s a third of the average movie these days.

Cambridge Yooni researchers say the move (literally) could prevent one in 10 cases of heart disease. You might get away with more than an hour during the day, particularly if you work from home, but it’s the post-prandial sit-doon in the evening with crisps or chocolate that will haste you to your grave and some peace and quiet at last.

The trouble is that everything predisposes us to sit doon. And when I say “everything”, I mean the telly and the internet. That’s where the whole world is now, and we can’t help tuning in to it to see what’s going on.

Also, we need the telly to escape our woes, to get out of our fear-filled, fretting heads and find succour on, say for the sake of example, the Starship Enterprise. What else are we supposed to do? Go jogging? Walk? Where all the worries go round your head with renewed vigour?

Get a hobby? What, like play a musical instrument? Mair sittin’ doon. An Airfix kit, stamps, learn a language? Nearly everything interesting entails remaining sedentary. Apart from five-a-side football, if you’re still young enough, everything that involves moving is boring.

What about the philosophical side of things? As a lukewarm sympathiser with Taoism, I believe in wu-wei: if you don’t do anything, everything will work out. Actually, giving it a moment’s thought, I don’t believe that at all. It assumes a benevolent universe, which is a laughable notion.

All the same, there’s something attractive about the advice: don’t just do something, sit there. I’ve a feeling that, to work, activity has to be natural rather than forced. You do it because you really must, not because you should.

In the old days, when nearly everyone was slim, and the few fat were jolly, most folk had to be moving all the time. Their jobs involved it, down a mineshaft, across a factory floor, up and doon a street with a brush or a board saying “The end of the world is nigh” (some hope).

I’m not sure how the executive class got on, mind. Perhaps they played a lot of golf.

But at least the majority labouring and peasant classes would be entitled to sit down at night with a glass of stout as they watched the calendar. What if you’ve a physically active job today? What if you’re a gardener, postie, labourer? Surely you can blob out at night?

The trouble with health advice today is it’s so extreme: less than an hour of telly, half a glass of wine, two litres of ruddy water (ridiculous). You get the feeling that, instead of setting a reasonable target, these are opening bargaining positions, in the hope that we give it two hours, one full glass of wine, a mouthful of water.

Repeated health advice is stressing us out, leading to potential heart problems. Perhaps if they restricted it to one message a month, our health might improve.

Horticulture wars

WE’VE had culture wars. Now prepare for horticultural wars. This column has already fired the first warning shots about the increasing racket involved in power-fuelled gardening, something that it’ll probably take you Earthlings around 10 years to notice, as usual.

Now, lawns are at risk of being “cancelled”, as a new generation sees them as “botanically incorrect”: damaging to the ecosystem, wasteful of space and water, frequently subject to chemicals and fertilisers, and even symbolic of middle class people’s bad aesthetic taste. It is, they say, about middle-aged men with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder showing off to other men. Yikes! These are revolutionary sentiments!

In California, ever on trend, folks are being paid to replace their lawns with more allegedly nature-friendly arrangements. In Britain, reports the Daily Telegraph, gardening professionals like Jack Wallington are reducing their grassed areas, believing “we’re on an unstoppable path to looking at gardens in a completely different way”.

I’m ambivalent about this. I try giving my grass a high cut to let the daisies and buttercups bloom, but it ain’t easy as they just grow higher stems. I also allowed my grass to grow for No Mow May, promoted by conservation charity Plantlife, but can’t make up my mind if the result is aesthetically pleasing or just a weed-filled mess.

Indeed, I’ve always been ambivalent about howking out beautiful “weeds” but, if you let them prosper, they crowd out everything else. Thus Mother Nature: elbows out, cruel, pitiless. And I must admit that, when I eventually relented and mowed some longer grass, I flushed out a few bees who’d clearly been appreciating it.

Difficult one. I still somehow see a well-tended lawn – like I’ve never achieved – as a thing of beauty. And I see merit in bringing order to chaotic nature, which generally needs improving.

In the end, I suspect that whatever becomes most “fashionable” will prevail among the Earthlings. In the meantime, watch this green space.

Ooh la-la to be sure

Britishers find French women and Irish men have the sexiest accents, according to an important survey for Illicit Encounters, a dating website for married people (a what, now?). Scots’ male accents came fourth and females’ ninth. English didn’t make the top 10 for either sex. Weird (though presumably most respondents were English preferring something “exotic”).

Scotch missed

English gin distilleries are increasingly churning out whisky, traditional domain of “the Scottish”, as the Daily Telegraph put it. An English Whisky Guild has now been formed, and “incredible flavour diversity” is now anticipated. We look forward to trying the rhubarb, raspberry and lime-flavoured “Scotch”.

Floozie doozie

Statues are often impudently but affectionately renamed by the common populace. Thus, we have “The Galoot in the Suit” for the Donald Dewar figure in Glasgow, and “The Doll with the Ball” for the Beacon of Hope in Belfast. Now we learn that the River of Life in Birmingham is called “The Floozie in the Jacuzzi”. Disgraceful.

Buzz fright year

Every summer, there are roughly the same number of wasps as folk stoatin’ aboot in Britland. But the mild spring means there could be 120 million of them buzzing hither and arguably yon this year. To avoid being stung, we’re advised to avoid wearing bright colours and sweet fragrances. Oh, all right.

We are it

It is as we, with our failed science O-grades, predicted: the only alien life out will probably be microbes. Professor Brian Cox, an expert on ooter space, says that, given it took four billion years for civilisation to develop here, the odds aren’t great of finding other folk as advanced as us. And we’re pretty rubbish.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting