Daily Express

There’s no Zoom for doubt... these online catch-ups are here to stay


A FRIEND rang this week to say she’d been to a May Ball last Saturday. I was already laying into her before she’d finished her sentence. What was she thinking of? It’s not safe yet! Boris hadn’t even introduced his “limited contact with people” plan at that stage and she was already going to balls.

I was halfway through the rant – which was obviously spawned by jealousy – when I realised, she couldn’t possibly have been to a proper ball, could she? So when I stopped and said: “It wasn’t a real-life ball was it?” She said, “No, of course not. It was a ball with 280 guests on Zoom in nine different ‘rooms’.” Who knew technology could be so sophistica­ted?

Yes, I do Zoom. I use it for TV appearance­s and for chats with close friends.

All my “besties” and I have at least one every week. Although the last one was frustratin­g because one of the girls (the one who hadn’t washed her sheets for five weeks) has taken a while to get the hang of it largely because she is to technology what I am to quantum physics.

She STILL doesn’t have an iPhone and is using one of those old Nokia gems that even I got rid of 10 years ago.

Anyway, on this particular Zoom meeting all she had to do was click on the link another friend had emailed to her. “I haven’t got the email,” she wailed.

But we knew she must have done because the friend who sent it is a whizz with technology and never makes mistakes. Anyway, she eventually managed to click on it but then she couldn’t find the audio button so we could see her franticall­y waving her arms about trying to mouth that she couldn’t hear us. Of the 40-minute Zoom call I think we actually talked for about three minutes. The other 37 were spent texting her to tell her what to do.

Anyway, back to my other friend and her May Ball. I know, that for me, 280 “guests” in Zoom “rooms” would be too hard to navigate, especially if there was lots of drinking going on – which she says there was and that the hardcore were still at it till 2am.

And it got me thinking – why has it taken a pandemic to get us to Skype and Zoom with

I’VE finally given up on pretending I’m going to get fit during lockdown. I started off optimistic­ally with JoeWicks’s daily PE sessions and frequent jogs. However my enthusiasm has dwindled over the weeks.

As a lapsed Catholic, I’m used to heaving around a fairly hefty kettlebell of guilt but these days it’s like I’m competing in the World’s Strongest Man pulling a 40-tonne truck with my teeth.

But it’s not just my rapidly-expanding waistline that weighs on my mind. I’m crucially aware how far away from the frontline I am in a lovely, financiall­y-stable bubble working from home and pottering about the garden in the sunshine to our friends and relatives every week? It’s always been there but still, we talk to relatives abroad and people we don’t see very often by phone, text or email which maintains a contact, yes – but not a close one.This way it’s so much more intimate. You feel like you’ve actually spent time with your friends and the people you love. No, it’s no substitute for the real thing. You can’t hug or touch them – but they’re in front of you nonetheles­s.And it’s a whole lot better than a two-line email or text.

I’ve talked to my good friends more during lockdown than I did in “normal” life. Because before there was always the excuse that life, work, got in the way so it might be weeks before we actually spoke or met up.

But during lockdown we’ve spoken every week. And they have been meaningful conversati­ons – the kind we’d have if we were face to face. Which is why when this is over, we’ve already decided we’re doing the Zoom thing every week and then if work means we don’t see each other for a while at least we keep in close contact and we know what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Another friend told me she’d spent an hour catching up with someone she hadn’t seen in over a year: “I was in the summerhous­e with a bottle of wine talking to this friend I used to live near to but hadn’t seen. It felt like the whole of the previous year just melted away. And we were close again.”

Now, you wouldn’t feel like sending a long email, would you?

So, if lockdown has taught us anything it should be that technology, as frustratin­g as it may sometimes be, means we can still stay close even if it doesn’t involve being in the same room. that after

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