I’ve just read A Doctor’s Life: The Diaries of Hugh Selbourne MD 1960-63. Published in 1989, these diaries record the life of a consultant doing the rounds in hospitals in the Lowryland of Hyde, Ashton and Glossop (my hometown, which is why I was drawn to it). Along with stories about his patients and his own life, Selbourne includes terse and occasionally tetchy notes of his TV watching. They are a reminder of how much of television’s past is now forgotten, of the surreal juxtapositions that television creates, and of the often erratic reactions of its viewers.
August 4 1961: ‘Watched “Tonight”: hairstyles amongst the native Indians of Ecuador, and a discussion on “New Town Blues.”
August 17 1961: ‘”Tonight”: the Brigitte Bardot cult, and interview with fat man, aged 59, 32st. 101/2 lbs.’
January 24 1962: ‘This evening watched Harold Macmillan on TV. He made an empty speech, full of platitudes and drivel.’
February 18 1962: ‘Watched “Face to Face”, John Freeman interviewing Cecil Beaton, who looked to me like a homosexual psychopath, but whose intelligence was a modicum above the average.’
August 20 1962: ‘”Tonight” programme has restarted at 6.50pm: Alan Whicker in Alaska, man with tame owl, new book on Mao Tse-Tung by Hungarian, and Miss Sarah Miles (girl from Roedean) has achieved film fame.’
December 10 1962: ‘Malcolm Muggeridge interviewing Maurice Cornforth, a Marxist, who made a complete fool of himself.’