Date: 17th August 2012 at 5:17pm
Written by:

Hong Kong Bee`s Random Reminisce #9 – ‘Pages from Ceefax’

As the new season splutters into life like the engine of an irrelevant simile machine, it will soon be time for exiled supporters to ‘Bee Up’ on Saturdays wherever they are around the world.

Myriad options are available to us that we now take for granted; live commentary on Bees Player, the Stelling App on your iPhone, or instant messaging updates from people at the game.

It was not always thus.

As the analogue TV signal is switched off across the country, with it goes Ceefax. Pixels are going out all over Britain. We shall never see them lit again in our lifetime. London lost Ceefax in April when the Crystal Palace analogue signal stopped. Come October the service closes altogether for the remaining backwaters like the North. That’s progress, but some of us may feel a nostalgic sadness for the passing of Ceefax.

I wonder if future generations watching live 3D video streams of Brentford games through their virtual reality Bee Goggles will ever know what it used to be like? Beep! ‘OI!! I’M WATCHING THAT!!!’ For many years this was the standard soundtrack across the country whenever teletext was invoked to show football scores during Eastenders. Domestic squabbles and hiding of remote controls were a common occurrence across the nation’s living rooms.

I remember a time where the very definition of compromise and consideration was putting Ceefax on ‘mix’ mode so the TV picture and teletext appeared at the same time.

Before the internet, smartphones, and bookmarked URLs, all you needed to know was the number 302. This was the menu page for BBC Football on Ceefax. ITV`s internet service flitted from 140 to 470, but they never got it quite as good as the BBC (much like anything to do with their football coverage). Page 312 provided a good News in Brief round up, and I still recall the day when the harrowing news of Martin Grainger`s sale to Birmingham City appeared unexpectedly in black and cyan.

The core of the Ceefax experience however was always the latest scores. Gary Lineker says he was misquoted, but it passed into folklore that he said watching Wimbledon was better on Ceefax. Yet with no other options available, there was something esoteric about watching the Latest Scores pages.

A real game was taking place somewhere. You could imagine it, but your view of it was a proxy of silent text that cycled through pages 1/3 , 2 /3 , 3 / 3 . Not for us Bees the forewarned Radio 5 Livey-ness of “Now we`re going over to Griffin Park , where just a few moments ago this happened…” on Ceefax the goals just appeared. It was binary and brutal.

One of the peculiarities of a Ceefax match was that you didn’t know when the game was finished. Until ‘FT’ appeared next to the score (and this could take a while) there was always hope. Even at 9.30 on a Tuesday night, there was still a chance that ‘Owusu 89’ could still flash up.

A good TV reception was vital.

If you didn’t have one, there was always a risk of words being scrambled and hieroglyphed to the extent that you practically needed Bletchley Park to decipher the score at Griffin Park. The anticipation on my way home from Comet, that my new portable Teletext TV would deliver the utopia of “watching” Brentford games in my own bedroom was shortlived…

BR@@TF@RD $ & ??CUNTH@RP# Ev&@s @4 S::t@ 11 #%#%&^^^ @@@@@@ Ow@::::;;;; ?????????7 @1k0;lfa 0R ,,,@@@@@


That said, a poor reception did sometimes bring unintended joys. I will never forget the time my delighted Wigan Athletic supporting housemate took a photograph of the TV because the headline BECK WAITS ON PRESTON had become corrupted to BECK WANC$ ON PREST0N. Or something similar.

And if we are confessing sad Ceefax stories, then I must admit that yes, on the few times Brentford were top of the table, I did put the league table page on “hold”, so I could walk back into the room later and be pleased by it.

Of course, in a world where iPhone video of a Sam Saunders freekick can reach you within a few minutes of the ball hitting the back of the net, it`s really quite daft to lament the passing of Ceefax. It was of its time.

Still, I wonder if anything today`s technology has to offer can match that simple pleasure of seeing BRENTFORD changed colour on a Ceefax league table to signify secured promotion? Let`s hope that this season we find out.

Andy Cooper.

Follow me on twitter at @hongkongbee