In the UK, until Independent Television (ITV) arrived in 1955, there was only one television channel. Just the one.
When they had gaps between their programmes — which they regularly did — or when there was an interval in a play — Imagine that! An interval in a play! — or when things went hideously wrong technically and they had to go off-air — which, as many programmes were being broadcast live, regularly happened — the BBC didn’t just show a blank screen.
No, they had Interludes.
The Interludes were short films — black and white, of course — that could be wheeled out at will. They were largely tranquil scenes, such as a moonlit seascape of Chesil Beach, or a windmill gently turning, or a small improvisation upon the harp. And who could resist a kitten playing with a ball of wool? The films had a soundtrack of soothing music or natural sounds, like waves, or birds calling. Ideal for some relaxed contemplation.
One of the interludes most fondly remembered is the Potter’s Wheel, first broadcast in 1953.
Over and again, we could watch a potter wrestling with various vase-type structures on his wheel, but never actually finishing any of them. The potter was, in fact, George Aubertin, of the Compton Potter’s Art Guild.
We have more than one TV channel now. At one point, according to Bruce Springsteen, we had 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).
We have no longer have a need for Interludes. Yet it seems to me that in this fast-paced, always-on world, an Interlude or two might be good for our peace of mind. We could tune in to watch George Aubertin wrestle endlessly with his never-to-be completed creations and remind ourselves that some mountains must remain unclimbed, some streams unforded, some vases unglazed. If some Facebook posts are unliked, some ‘grammed lunches unloved, then we might find we have the time and energy to follow every rainbow after all.
You can’t bring back the past. But sometimes you can try.