Seeing by Wireless

First it was the pneumatic boots. I had a bladder squeezed beneath each sock.  I waddled like a stilted duck through Soho Square, and of course, they mocked. They always did, they always do.  It didn’t help that the right boot started to leak and made a high pitched farting noise, and me beginning to limp at the same time.

I flirted with jam for far too long, I admit. I thought everyone loved jam enough for there to be room for another brand.  I have to accept that the public’s taste is something I find unfathomable.  And there was ‘Logie Baird Toiletries’.  I thought I’d found a means of manufacturing a high quality soap in great quantities and believed within a few weeks I would be selling it to every hotel in west London.  But when I presented my product to the hotel buyer, they all reacted in the same way, slightly disgusted. So I had to try something else.

What got me going on the project that was to eventually make my fortune was reading about Thomas Edison’s ‘Ectopscope’. It appalled, and at the same time, intrigued me.  How could anyone take the man seriously?  Edison believed, and as far as I can tell, still believes, that his device enables one to talk to the dead. There is no explanation, no science behind it, it’s just something he’s conjured up, and because he doesn’t understand what’s happening, he attributes to it some sort of spiritual significance. But the idea that one could create a machine that transmits images intrigues me.  Edison doesn’t think there’s money in it. He has a higher purpose.  He thumps the table with his fist when he’s explaining the daft science behind his ectoscope. Like a preacher.

However, for the last three months I’ve scrambled up three flights of stairs to the attic rooms in Frith Street with the sole purpose of proving Edison wrong.  I’m not sure if the system is stable, but I think I have something.  Stooky Bill sits in the chair in the room immediately below, and now and again, when the disc spins smoothly, and nothing overheats, his face appears on the screen. There. Right there. Look! You are seeing by wireless. Incredible, isn’t it?

But then the merest disturbance and the face fragments, a spectral grey, a ghost face.

Eventually, after a lot of trials and demonstrations, Harrods calls. “Baird!” the buyer shrieks, “We’ll take everything you’ve got!” So, we have to improve production and find a name for our miraculous ‘seeing by wireless machine’.  Eventually we go for ‘The Televisor’.

And since then Captain Hutchinson and I eat out every day, usually at the Ivy.  The first few times we went we took Stooky Bill. He raised an eyebrow or two – all on his own! Our staple is rich pea soup and curried chicken, then Bombe Glace, followed by copious draughts of Chateau D’Yquem, coffee and petit fours. Washed down with Bisque D’Bouche brandy.  Makes a change from bread, milk, scones and butter.


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