Yesterday I had occasion to visit my daughter Grace and her husband for a coffee and chat in advance of an online family conference courtesy of Zoom.
I hesitate to use the phrase ‘killing two birds with one stone’ in this context but, being barely semi-literate when it comes to modern technology, this arrangement had the advantage that someone else was doing the business when it came to setting things up for the latter purpose.
Come the big moment and I took up my agreed position beside Grace on the sofa at a suitable if not full social distance.
Within seconds and at the first attempt we were immediately in near-perfect contact with one of the two other expected participants.
The other, my brother – like me nearer seventy years of age than sixty – was late arriving which gave me the opportunity to review and admire the quality of the ‘connection’.
On the screen of the laptop on the coffee table at ‘our’ end there were two rectangular screens in which both Grace and I – and our distant fellow attendee – were now visible in glorious high-definition detail and sound.
Often when watching a television news bulletin or some general magazine programme, it is noticeable how variable the technical quality of the input of ‘remote’ contributors can be.
Sometimes it is perfectly crystal clear on ‘on point’ but upon others it leaves much to be desired, being either vision-blurred and/or coming through in slow-motion accompanied by indistinct sound out of synch with the movement of the participant’s lips – and this can apply whether they be dialling in from the wilds of outer Mongolia or from just half a mile away in downtown sunny central London.
Yesterday our initial ‘contact’ was in the former category.
Suddenly my brother ‘arrived’. The first problem was that although we could hear him clearly there was no visible image of him to be had.
When later, after a couple of minutes tuition from the generation after mine and some ‘trial and error’ fumblings he managed to engineer himself out of the problem and join us in majestic full colour mode, the quality was a degree or two less than perfect.
To the rest of us it seemed as if he was broadcasting from inside a wooden potting shed on the shores of Lake Windemere on a cold, crisp, misty morning in mid-February. Either that, or possibly coming to us live from a steam room in a Turkish public bath spa.
And thus his input remained throughout.
Our meeting was required by both law and convention but in the scheme and state of the modern world scarcely of significant global importance.
Our business done inside forty minutes, we concluded by agreeing the date of our next similar gathering and wishing ourselves a cheery time of it until we next had an opportunity to get together collectively or otherwise.
And a short time later I was on my way back home leaving Grace and her husband free to relax and enjoy what was left of the weekend.
On route driving home I was suddenly struck by an unwelcome revelation.
It hadn’t occurred to me during it, but looking back on the meeting I remembered the on-screen rectangular box in which Grace could be seen ‘live’ sitting at one end of her sofa.
Beside her – but at the other end – had been what appeared to be a somewhat distracted, possibly ‘off the pace’, (borderline frail) little old man in glasses. Me.