MR. WILSON was there, but I was even therer. Once upon a time a ceremony like the opening of Liverpool Cathedral would have been attended only by a necessarily select few: now as many of us as want to can participate fully. That is what television is about.
Our participation is, of course, still different from that of those physically present. It is less. Even in these advanced times our own body and its actual situation at a particular point of the globe's surface means something to us. So let us admit we would have been greatly gainers had we managed to get these bodies of ours into that marble-floored part of Liverpool last Sunday afternoon.
On the other hand, we were in many ways more present than Mr. Wilson. He saw only what fell under his gaze: we seemed to be within a couple of yards of Bishop Harris as he filled the incised crosses on the altar with incense.
And in one sin,;i, experience we were able to be in quick succession right in front of Cardinal Heenan as he preached, almost riding the shoulders of the timpanist as he bashed, floating high above the whole congregation noticing the meaningful pattern they made, and gazing long and long up into the magnificent funnel of the glass-sided crown —a piece of gawping which would have been lese-majeste even in a Prime Minister.
But the way in which we participated in the ceremony was also sharply affected by our circumstances. The viewer
is inevitably more detached from the event taking place than is the spectator. For the latter communal emotion takes command: with us, individual reactions are bound to play the major part.
Some of us will have watched every minute in a state of exultant fervour; others will have been, in spite of good intentions, a little bored.
What we had for lunch, alas, plays its part. I watched the live transmission on BBC-2 in a state of somnolent well-being because it happened that I had been splendidly fed by friends. Had I contrived to eat equally well and then to get to the church in time, the first whiff of organ-music, heard in cornpany, would have replaced euphoria with reverence in 20 seconds.
But then, remember, the physical discomfort of attending any long public ceremony, especially a hard-seated religious one, would have entered my scheme of things too. The viewer escapes this, and should count his blessings.
The detached viewer is at the mercy of the trivia of such an occasion. Its nobility affects him, but does not engulf him. So that, although an event of this sort should not be merely a contest between two television systems, we cannot help noticing the differences of approach.
Irrelevant facts cling like burrs. We become aware that Fr. Agnellus Andrew from long association with B.B.C. establishmentarianism has caught a baddish dose of that all-embracing respectful voice. Canon William O'Leary, we find, sounds much more a recognisable human being, in spite of being credited with every distinction (CD., Ph.D., B.C.L.) his I.T.V. sponsors could lay hands on.
And surely Fr. Andrew was somewhat over-sentimental. It was an occasion for strong feeling, yes, but it seemed to me that he was altogether too fond of sticking a cloying "little" in front of too many objects. We even had the clergy in "their little copes." Canon O'Leary, on the other hand, gave us plenty of those nutty facts—like the chrism being compounded of olive oil and balsam—which are part and parcel of a complex affair of this sort.
To even things up, one credits the B.B.C. with more revealing touches than the other lot. The shots of Cardinal Heenan coming through the streets to the new building with the crowds yelling and even whistling told you a good deal about Liverpool, and about His Eminence. The frieze of ducking photographers accompanying him up the grand approach was an irritation, and yet a sharp reminder of twentiethcentury complications.
And the Corporation cameramen managed a far more splendid shot up into the interior of the great glass crown than their rivals did. But it was 1.T.V. who had the courage during the final prayer of the consecration to give us simply one long single shot of the white block of the altar and the arrows of white on the floor converging towards it. It said a lot, and they let it speak. Hurrah.
Could Be Good
Tonight, ITV: "Half Hour Story." First of a series in the smart new format on this channel, an Alun Owen playlet with the always watehable Wendy Craig.
Sunday, BBC-1: "Great Expectations." Not the Dickens one, but a repeat of the edgeof-chair documentary on the 1966 Leeds International Piano Competition.
Sunday, BBC-1: "The Count of Luxembourg." Have a good wallow in waltzy, schmaltzy old Lehar with some excellent voices.
Wednesday, BBC-1: "Dnims Along the Avon." By Charles Wood, much praised stage playwright, this is not so much a story as a comic jigsaw on a colour bar theme.