Monday, 25 February 2008

Beaten Round The Head With A Stick

No - don't worry. It was only a metaphorical beating. Before I tell you about the assault, just bear with me for a minute while I explain something about TV, communications technology and life as an expat.

Just an example - not my secret late-night viewingAsk any Brit living abroad what they miss most abroad and they're likely to tell you: "not a lot". Look disapprovingly at them for having dismissed absent family and friends so lightly and they'll correct themselves: "...except TV, of course". And it's true. The one thing you miss, whether you're in China or Canada, New Zealand or Nepal, is good old British television. When I moved to Barcelona last September, my timing couldn't have been better. Channel 4 had already launched its TV-on-demand service 4OD and the BBC was about to launch its own service, BBC iPlayer.

This meant that I'd be able to scan through the week's programmes, download my favourites and watch them at my leisure. Or so I thought.

The more techno-savvy amongst you will have already spotted the problem. TV downloads involve intellectual property rights and, although the BBC and Channel 4 don't really have an issue with expats watching most home-made programmes for free overseas, the demand was not anticipated so nobody has negotiated the rights. The temporary solution, pending launch of international download services shortly, is to check your IP address and block non-UK viewers. Pah!

Being pretty handy with technology and owning a desktop in London and a laptop in Barcelona both equipped with Windows XP Professional, I could see a possible solution. I could log onto my PC using Remote Desktop, run the download application from my London machine and view the programmes over the link. Nope. Too complex, unreliable and difficult to co-ordinate. The next solution was to have the programmes decoded by dad, uploaded onto shared private server space and downloaded by me at leisure. Yep. That worked OK. But my broadband in Barcelona was not nearly good enough to permit video streaming, so I had to download a whole programme before viewing and that took ages to do.

We even save money by recycling the same jiffy bagFinally, after much experimentation and a deal of agonising, we found the perfect solution. It's officially called Royal Mail in London, Correos here in Barcelona and snail mail to most people my age. "Double or triple the normal expected time, if it arrives at all" say the cynics. Nonsense. I choose programmes, dad records them and transfers to an 8GB memory stick, shoves it in the post and, hey presto, it arrives a few days later. I unload the data, send the stick back and the cycle restarts. The wonders of simple technology.

But nothing could have prepared me for the shock that awaited me when I opened this week's jiffy bag and launched into Saturday Kitchen. I should explain at this point that I'm no particular fan of James Martin, but the show is very eclectic and often contains interesting snippets. So on it went.

Oh no - it's the boss!At risk of being obvious, I should explain at this point that the idea of viewing such a recording is relaxation and enjoyment. No stress, no hassle... a million miles from the pressure of the professional kitchen. So imagine my reaction when the two guest chefs made an appearance.

Cyrus Todiwala of Café Spice Namasté and Stuart Gillies of Boxwood Café - both Head Chefs for whom I slaved while engaged on work experience. "Come on Brooks, get on with it. Where's my Goan king prawn curry? Where are my two plates of John Dory?" Oh how the memories came flooding back.

I'm just kidding, of course. I have great memories of both experiences and they played a significant part in developing me into the emerging chef I am today. But there's something really weird about relaxing with Cyrus and Stuart. It's like renting an adult video and discovering that it features your mum. Urgh!


Helen said...

Ha ha! I think I know what you mean at the end there Trig! I also agree with you about Saturday Kitchen - what is it that lures me in every week, because it sure as hell ain't James Martin! You're right, it is the snippets that keep it going - and I'm quite partial to the omelette challenge. The constant re-runs of masterchef are totally unnecessary though.........

Nilmandra said...

I ran up against the same 'wall' a few weeks ago. We were on holiday out of the country and thought 'ooh we could watch some British telly with the BBC iPlayer'. And then got told that it's only limited to IP addresses within the UK. D'oh...

Anonymous said...

Have you heard of Slingbox? You could use that to control the tv remotely :) Here's a link I love gadgets and almost wish I had a reason to try one. A friend has one and it works great apparently

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