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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bmag - May 21st 2013 - What to do with your analogue TV

You probably know that analogue TV services will switch off on 28 May. Unless you have a set-top box, pay TV, video recorder with digital tuner or a digital television, you won’t be able to watch television after that date. But what you might not realise is that you don’t have to throw out your analogue TV next time there’s a kerbside collection. Here are three ways to avoid your beloved old TV contributing to landfill.

First of all, just keep it. On its own, an analogue television won’t pick up TV signals after 28 May but you can still use it as long as you have one of the devices I mentioned above, such as a set-top box (STB). High-definition STBs – which will give you all free-to-air channels – now cost as little as $30. At our place, we’ve saved a perfectly fine 32-inch flat-screen analogue TV by adding a DVD player and putting it in the guestroom.

But if you’ve decided you definitely don’t want or need your old TV, you can still avoid throwing it out on the footpath. The Mission to Seafarers at the Port of Brisbane is collecting analogue TVs and shipping them to Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Centre manager Adrian Willes explains: “We have a lot of Papua New Guineans and Fijians that come into the Port of Brisbane. A lot of people have been throwing their TVs out. We have been supplying those to the Fijian and Papua New Guineans free of charge. They simply put their name down. When we can get hold of something that they are after, we give it to them. They just take it on the ship. So one community has had one TV for the entire village – now, slowly but surely, the TVs are rolling out more in those villages.”

Willes assures me there are no technical issues using Australian TVs in PNG and Fiji. “It’s a simple pick-up and install it in the islands and it will work. If you want to give a TV away, visit the centre and we can let you know if we can collect it or if we can take it then and there.” If it’s easier, you can call them (10am to 10pm, seven days) on 3895 1181.

Another bloke who’s keen to get his hands on your old TV is artist Forbes McKail. If you’ve been to the Collectorama exhibition at the Queensland Museum, you’ll know Forbes’ wall of old televisions, each filled with a back-lit photograph of one of Forbes’ friends. He is already sitting on another 50-odd TVs for future art projects and his father is looking after another 100 for him – what a dad! – but Forbes realises he must seize the moment. “There’s beauty in these things and when they’re thrown away then they’re gone. Such a waste.”

Specifically, Forbes is looking for older TVs with retro or kitsch appeal. “The small ones, the old ones from the ’50s when they were black and white. Once we got into the ’80s they had that standard black plastic look and that’s not really that attractive. Think Jetsons. Plasticy, domey, Rice Bubbly ones.” The best way to offer your old TV to Forbes is to email him at

Hopefully no-one is caught out by the analogue switch-off. Perhaps make a note to telephone elderly or less tech-savvy members of the family on 28 May to make sure their TV still works.

In response to my last column about buying my wife Nikki a little black dress that she took straight back to the shop, Julie Thornton wrote: “You think of her still as the girl you first met, so the dress was entirely appropriate for that person.”

Exactly! Nikki hasn’t aged a day in all the 20 years we’ve been together. No, really. She hasn’t! And Sean Tiernan reassured me: “Shows you are a good husband, Spencer”. Aww, thank you Sean. And thank you to Sam Eeles for sending me a photograph of another very short, very sexy little number. Only this one isn’t black. It’s blue. A little blue dress that resembles the TARDIS (police box) from Doctor Who . Needless to say, it is sensational but I’m not going there again!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bmag May 7th - Little Black Dress!

You didn’t, did you?” “Yup,” I replied. “Oh dear. You’re a young fellow. I’ve been married for nearly 40 years. Let me share this with you. Men should never, ever buy clothes for women!”

Now, if only I’d consulted this cabbie before Nikki’s birthday instead of the day after! It’s not easy finding the perfect present for your missus and, I’ll admit, most years I end up at a record store buying CDs or DVDs. Nikki really likes music so they’re usually appreciated but I’m always left with this nagging feeling that I’m being boring, sticking to a shop in which I’m comfortable, rather than getting something that’s truly special. So this year I decided to buy Nikki a dress. Having sauntered past a few shops, nonchalantly glancing in, trying not to seem too keen, my eye was suddenly taken by a window mannequin donning a sensational little black number. It was a reasonably short dress, with shoulder straps but no sleeves and very little fabric on the sides. If I had to pin it down, I’d probably call it 20-something racewear. Is there such a thing? (Can you tell that I’ve never hosted a fashion parade or written for a style magazine?!)

After 10 minutes standing outside this boutique, I gathered my courage, walked in, confidently selected Nikki’s size and presented said dress at the counter. And this is where I should have picked up the hints. “Who are you buying for?” I was asked. “My wife,” I proudly declared. “Really?” she asked. “How old is she?” Now, rather than asking myself “what does this young shop assistant know that I don’t?” or “why does she need to know Nikki’s age?” I pushed on, “39,” I said. A further disapproving look. Another clue missed. For a split second, I must have questioned whether Nikki would indeed wear this revealing LBD – see, now I’m getting into the lingo! – for I asked “would she wear a shirt under it?” Seriously? How hopeless am I? The answer: “No, sir, you wouldn’t wear anything underneath it.” And then the killer: “Look, if she wants to bring it back, that’s no problem. Just keep the receipt.”

So I paid for the dress and strode out of the shop just a little bit excited about my achievement! A quick glance over my shoulder at the mannequin, a moment to imagine Nikki looking sensational, showing off a little bit of skin, and I headed home to wrap and hide the present. Next morning at the ABC, several hours before giving Nikki her present, I sketched the dress for my colleagues and asked their opinion. Was I having niggling doubts? Everyone appeared very supportive and said it was great that I had bought clothes, not more CDs, but there was also quite a bit of eye-rolling and comments like “you men are all the same!” My radio producer Anne told me the story of another hapless husband who once bought his wife underwear for Christmas. It turned out the bra was too busty and the bottoms way too small! Still, this woman took it as a great compliment (before returning them to the shop!)

Later that day, my chest puffed out, I presented Nikki with her birthday present. She slowly pulled the dress out of its wrapping and declared: “How old do you think I am? 12? I would never wear this!” When I came to tell the story to the married-40-years taxi driver, he wasn’t at all surprised. He had one more piece of advice for me: “Whatever you do, let her take it back. On her own. Don’t go with her”! Thankfully, a caller to the ABC’s “Cereal Box” voicemail, Daphne of Tivoli, saved the day. After I told the story on radio, Daphne called to say, “your wife doesn’t need birthday presents because she’s got the greatest gift that God could ever have given – you! Believe you-me, I hear it in your voice, the love that you have for her and she has for you. No present can replace that.” When Nikki heard the call, she emailed me: “That’s beautiful. I have tears – some of laughter – but that is so sweet!” Phew. Back in the good books. For now.