Life is like my Mother’s videos

Written by

Andrew Millar


August 10, 2009

There is a very unique and unusual set of video tapes in my parent’s holiday house down south. My mother recorded them in the early 90s to watch while on holidays because the reception was terrible down there and she harbored a justifiable fear that rental tapes carried some kind of jammy disease and didn’t want the player infected.

Their uniqueness lies in her quirky way of making the tapes. You see, my mother was not very good at starting or stopping the recorder at home. Well, more to the point, starting the recorder at the beginning of the program to be recorded and stopping it at the end. So this huge collection of homemade videos chronicles the middle parts of a large number of 80s British comedy series. Subsequently I know, word perfect, the centres of ‘The Good Life’, ‘To the Manor Born’ and ‘Yes, Minister’.

And, as most of these were recorded from commercial television, I know a lot of the ads from circa 1990.

And while I sat there watching Penelope Keith flow effortlessly from one sitcom to another; without credits or intro title to spoil her progress; fondly blowing a kiss to Paul Eddington on the way; I find the ads more interesting than programs.

They are curiously ‘of the time’. For a start all the mobile phone ads sold the idea of how you use a mobile phone. They are not the incomprehensible moblie phone plan ads we see today. Subsequently they didn’t sap your intelligence or assault your ears. Crazy John was just a twitch in his father’s eye at this time.

My second observation was that they were so many local brands running well made ads. Credible commercials for AVJennings Homes, Plaza Holden and a couple of local building societies. If you believed the ads, times were good. We had not descended into the recession ‘we had to have’. This was still a twitch in Paul Keating’s eye.

I have worked through 2 or 3 recessions so far, and touch wood, have not felt the sting others have. In the 80’s for example, advertising agencies shed around 40% of their staff. Some companies trimmed. Others just disappeared. I seemed to be able to muddle on through. Clients mostly seem to want to wait for the end of the recession before returning to the market. Others just trimmed and traded their way through. The latter seeming to fair better than the former. (But this is probably because the company that was able to trade on was well run. Companies that are weak and fragile will fall at the first hurdle.)

But as I think about my observations about recessions and boom times and what it’s like to work though them I know its all based on hindsight. Life is a lot like my mother’s video tapes. Recessions don’t have opening titles and closing credits. We just seamlessly move from economic situation to the next. We can’t watch the Global Financial Slowdown finish and then go and make a cup of tea before the next boom starts. There is no pause to reflect and reset.

Life just rolls on from one program to the next. There are no opening and closing credits.