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The Joys of a Low Maintenance Visitor

By - July 3, 2007 (Updated: November 28, 2014)


Monday, an old friend arrived at our house. Andrew and I haven’t seen much of this friend in the past two years. We’ve bumped into each other in hotels and had brief visits when we were back in Canada, but our friend hasn’t ever been in our Belgian home. Now our friend is here to stay.

This friend is pretty low maintenance – there won’t be any tours of Belgium to organize, fancy meals to cook or shopping trips to go on. Our friend has a lot to say, but doesn’t require much in the way of conversation. We’re trying not to make our friend the centre of attention, but people are naturally drawn to this glowing personality.

After two years on our own, Andrew and I are, once again, living with a television.

The last time we had a television in our house was in Amsterdam. We were in a ‘furnished’ apartment for three months. Aside from a lumpy bed, a lumpy sofa and a wobbly table, the television was about the only thing that came with our rental. For those first long, lonely, winter months, it was also my best friend.

Arriving in Europe to live, rather than just on holiday, was a rude shock. I had no friends, no job and not a lot of ways to pass the time. Ah, but I had the television and it was hardly ever off. I knew what time it was by what program was on the BBC. I watched five-year-old reruns of soap operas I had watched in my university days (They weren’t any better the second time around). I watched Oprah and Dr. Phil and just about anything else that was in English. In my weakest moments I even watched the weather channel – in Dutch.

When we moved to Belgium, we had no furniture. While items like a bed, a table and something to sit on were priorities, a television was not. As time went on, I made friends, I developed some hobbies that I hadn’t had time for in the past and I started to work again. I never missed the TV.

Besides, it wasn’t like we were in media darkness. Andrew and I rented movies and even some of our favourite television shows and watched them on my computer. The great thing about watching shows this way was the control. We were consciously choosing what we were watching, not just sitting in front of whatever happened to be on.

So we didn’t miss TV, and we didn’t even really want it. But, it seems the TV wanted us…

A few weeks ago, Andrew had to sign up for another internet service for his work. In order to get what he required, it was more cost effective to get a package that included television. Oh sure, we didn’t have to take it, but if we’re paying for it anyway, we convinced each other, we might as well get it.

As the install date drew closer, we realised we had one slight problem – we didn’t own a TV. Luckily, Andrew happened to have a co-worker who had moved to the UK and left his European TV in the office. He said Andrew could borrow it indefinitely unless he moved back.

Of course the ‘free’ television required furniture to put it on and since we had to shift things around in the living room, we might as well pick up some other things at IKEA… well, you know how it goes.

So Monday night, everything was installed and in place. The television system was more high-tech than I’ve ever had before. I can pause shows, fast-forward commercials and record programs while I’m out. Of course, many of the channels are French or Dutch (although there are still a lot of English programs on them) but I’ve found the only three I will ever need anyway: The BBC, Travel and Life, and the Travel Channel. Andrew is already resigned to never seeing the remote control again. (If we had the Food Network as well, I think he’d just move out).

Luckily, and totally coincidentally, as our television was being installed in the living room, I was busy moving my office downstairs – far away from the new TV. While I may have the travel channel giving me ideas for new adventures every evening, at least during the day I can hide in my new office and resist temptation.

It remains to be seen how much our new housemate will impact our lives. I haven’t been tempted to zone out and escape reality during the day yet. But now that I’ve learned some Dutch, at least I’ll have an excuse to watch the weather channel.

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