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Channel hopping is suddenly a whole new ball game

Alas, I have seen the future and it doesn't work. At least one time in two it doesn't work. When it doesn't, I phone Etisalat and get through to eLife or is it eVision?

At the beginning of Amelie, a French film that was a hit about 10 years ago, a man is settling down in his apartment to watch the Fifa World Cup final. The reception is fine, he has a bottle of his favourite beverage beside him and he rubs his hands together in anticipation. Then disaster strikes. The reception goes fuzzy. He gets up and bashes the television. The picture returns, goes fuzzy again, then blank. He explodes in fury, unaware that it is not the television at fault, but Amelie in the attic fiddling with the aerial.

You don't need Amelie in the UAE: here we have Etisalat. Last Sunday I settled down to watch what would be the final game of England's Grand Slam challenge. Could they travel to Dublin, see off the Irish and pick up the laurels? I was eager to find out.

It is not that watching rugby this season has been trouble-free. I subscribed to Etisalat's eVision - or is it eLife? - when I moved house in September. There would be no problems for me with irritating French people fiddling with my aerial. My television pictures would come via the internet. How marvellously 21st century.

Alas, I have seen the future and it doesn't work. At least one time in two it doesn't work. When it doesn't, I phone Etisalat and get through to eLife - or is it eVision? - and they come up with the startling advice that I should switch everything off, wait for 10 minutes, and start again. This is all very well, but not ideal when you know the game has just started. A rope-veined demi-god is charging down the wing, ball in hand, and you can't see it.

I managed to watch one of England's earlier encounters, when we defeated Wales. As somebody who first started watching the game in the 1970s, when the Welsh dragon was rampant, it is always heartening to see the men in red turned over. The next game was England versus France. Again, a similar good result for the men in white, and equally pleasing to see the blues beaten. The television was behaving and so was the English team.

Things started to go wrong when I decided to watch Wales versus Ireland. The television told me that I was not subscribed to the Al Jazeera channel on which the game was supposed to be broadcast, but it also told me that I was not subscribed to Sky News, which didn't make sense as you don't need to subscribe to it. I turned everything off and waited 10 minutes. Still didn't work.

Next day was England against Scotland. By some miracle, all the sports channels were working, but the channel the rugby was supposed to be on, Al Jazeera 10, was still not available. I phoned my friends at eLife - or is it eVision? - and after the customary five minutes of hitting buttons, learnt that I wasn't actually subscribed to Al Jazeera 10. If I paid an extra Dh25 a month, I could watch it. I paid up and settled back to watch Scotland get stuffed. They weren't exactly, but it was at least a win.

Which brings us back to last Sunday. All day the excitement was mounting. Could we pull off the first Grand Slam since 2003? Everyone remembers that after that we went off to Australia and won the World Cup. I was as happy and excited as a Frenchman at the beginning of Amelie.

However, I had forgotten about Etisalat. I should have realised that to watch a programme starting at 9pm I should start getting the television ready at 5pm. My son had gone off to watch Wigan against Birmingham or some equally dismal encounter, so for some foolish reason I was reasonably confident. I even went for a stroll before the game to ease the nerves.

At 9pm I went into the television room. It was turned off. I switched it on. There was a stuck screen with a picture of a frozen footballer. Whistling nervously, I turned it off. Nothing. Then the first text message from my Scottish friend appeared. "Where is the English chariot?" he asked.

I unplugged all the plugs, put them back in, phoned up eVision - or is it eLife? - and after 30 minutes, I suddenly had a picture. Then it switched abruptly from rugby to football: Al Jazeera had somehow decided the round ball game was more important. And it wasn't even on Al Jazeera 10, but Al Jazeera 3, so I'm not quite sure why I had to subscribe to a special channel to watch the game a week earlier.

When I did finally get to watch the match, it was rather dismal. I had to turn my phone off because my Scottish friend got so excited he started claiming to have Irish roots. The English team played so badly that I even turned the television off. Then I got a message that Etisalat had abandoned its US$12 billion (Dh44.07bn) bid for Zain. Good, I thought. This will give them the chance to sort out my television.


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