Sue Arnold: The labour ward's no place for camcorders

'I did slightly warm to the Taliban when I learned how much they hated television and videos'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Most villains have redeeming features. The Kray twins loved their mother, Hitler liked small dogs - though I'm not sure that counts – and despite their undeniably wicked ways I did slightly warm to the Taliban when I learned how much they hated television and videos. Apparently, one of the first things they did after seizing power was to order all televisions and videos to be smashed.

Most villains have redeeming features. The Kray twins loved their mother, Hitler liked small dogs - though I'm not sure that counts – and despite their undeniably wicked ways I did slightly warm to the Taliban when I learned how much they hated television and videos. Apparently, one of the first things they did after seizing power was to order all televisions and videos to be smashed.

How very sensible. I wish a passing Taliban would do a quick blitz of the videos strewn all over our house, most of them unlabelled recordings of football matches featuring, Celtic, Liverpool or Chelsea. While they're about it they might also remove the plethora of Celtic, Liverpool and Chelsea scarves, hats, sports bags, towels, bathmats and lunch boxes littered round the place, leaving only the small green-and-white-striped alarm clock which for some inexplicable reason brings a lump to my throat at 7 o'clock every morning when the doors spring open to reveal the floodlit Park Head pitch and a crackly Irish tenor starts singing: "Oh Ay The Fields Of Athenrye.''

I'll hang on to that but the videos, all the videos must go.

As for the ongoing debate about the authenticity or otherwise of that by-now famous Osama bin Laden video I'm inclined to agree with the brigadier from Pakistan who reckons it's a fake. Everyone, he said, knows that bin Laden has a double. This was exactly the sort of job he'd be trotted out to do. Besides bin Laden, he thought, was far too clever to allow such an incriminating video to be made. I'll buy that. I belong to that tiny minority who can live perfectly happily without cameras or camcorders.

One of the strangest Christmas parties I ever went to was thrown by a man with artificial metal legs who, when everyone was dancing, clunked stiffly round the dance floor with a camcorder and then made us all stop and watch ourselves dancing on television instead. What on earth was the point of that? The actual experience surely is more rewarding than a copy of it.

I'm not averse to the odd holiday snap of small children playing on beaches to remind me of that summer in Scotland when it rained every day. But unless you're very organised and stick them in albums straight away with names and dates you end up with a bunch of photographs of unidentified kids who may not even be yours.

Talking to people about the comparative merits of camcorders is almost as boring as discussing their mobile phone deals. "Brilliant isn't it,'' said the man beside me at dinner producing what looked like a miniature water pistol. It was a camcorder of course, with which, he assured me, he makes home movies every bit as sharp and well edited as Spielberg.

It started with the video he made of the birth of his first child – he now has three – and there are now more than 500 videos documenting every historic detail of their development from school nativity plays to their university graduation ceremonies.

The other minority I belong to, I should perhaps mention here, is that small sorority who neither need nor want their husbands around when they're giving birth, least of all husbands with camcorders. There are moments in life when a woman needs privacy. Reading Sonnets From The Portuguese is one, shaving your legs is another, so is giving birth. My first husband was a camcorder in the labour ward type whereas my second, the Celtic supporter, is not. My earth mother friend Sarah's husband once told me sadly that having sat in on the twins' birth, he'd never been able to face summer pudding again.

But when do you have time to watch all those films? I gasped. My neighbour at dinner said they usually showed them to friends after supper.

That sounds like fun. I'm not much of a believer but I felt the presence of God the other night when I invited a friend over. "I've come straight from the office,'' she said "but what a shame – I've left the photos of Bill and me trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas, at home".

Comments