Confined to Barracks: Day 28

Bruce Little / diary / / 0 Comments / Like this

Virtual life and fondleslabs

So, pretty much 4 weeks into “work from home and social distancing”, although, not quite that long in terms of official lockdown. I’m pretty lucky – I live in a quiet East Devon village and I have a back garden to occupy my time in spring. I was talking to a colleague via Skype the other day who lives in a flat in Exeter with no outdoor space. That brought home to me the claustrophobic conditions some must be living in at the mo. In the bigger picture, in order to stay safe, staying at home in a flat is a small price to pay but I can understand, if not condone, why people are bending the rules.

Anyway, Skype. That meeting was on Skype and it reminded me that, since this situation blew up, my virtual work and social life has ballooned. While I am getting a bit fed up with spending all of my working day speaking into a headset – and I have taken a week off just to chill out and escape from that – my virtual social life has gone bananas. Every Wednesday is the Facebook village pub quiz which in the real world is every fortnight. Every Thursday is a catchup with some of my old Uni mates who I’d normally see 3-4 times a year. I’ve had 4-way family Zoom conversations and a Facebook video chat with an old school friend I’d not seen in over 20 years. I was a little apprehensive about that last one but we gassed on for about 90 minutes as if we’d last seen each other at Christmas. I’ve also been, briefly, to a virtual birthday party and had a catch up with my wife’s Uni crowd.

I am genuinely standing people up from 60 minute video conferences due to being double-booked. Weird.

Anyway, Fondleslabs. I have always resisted buying iPads. Not that they’re undesirable – quite the opposite – but the last time I tried to use one it was just so damn hard to get it to integrate with anything non-Apple. That last time I experienced one was using my parents’ device. It was given to them by my brother when he moved abroad about 10 years ago so they could keep in touch via Facetime. Could I get it to integrate with my Andoid phone or my Windows laptop? Could I heck. And that “walled garden” approach has kept me at arms length for the last decade or so.

Now, my parents have made me buy an iPad. Yes, really.

Well, they didn’t quite make me but it was the only way out of a dilemma. They are now in their mid-eighties and not getting any younger. My new year resolution was therefore easy – to get to see them more this year. Family life had meant that a two-hour drive up the motorway for a weekend “at home” near Malvern was only being done about 4-5 times a year. I wanted to increase that by at least 2 and then Coronavirus came along. Lockdown. I’ll be lucky to get up there again this year. And I’m worried about them. Not only because of their age but because they are effectively cut off. Despite owning an iPad (probably an original or at least a Mk2 iteration) they are technophobes. They don’t do internet shopping or banking and, to date, I’ve been quite grateful for that as it’s protected them from the scams and scumbags of the internet.

So, I thought I’d at least reach out and Skype them from my Android phone. No luck as they can’t install the latest Skype on their prehistoric tablet. Same for Zoom. Same for anything else I tried. So, in a fit of desperation I bought an iPad so I could talk to them via Facetime. Me. The Church of Apple hating IT guy from Exeter. But, what the heck I figured it was about the same cost as 3 visits up the road in terms of fuel and other costs that a weekend away would attract and, well, if anything happened to them and I never saw them in the flesh again, at least seeing them by video link is better by miles than the phone.

Serious bit there. I don’t do serious in these blog posts. They are meant to be an escape for me and nothing more.

Anyway, I really quite like it. Yes I flipping do. The “walled garden” seems to have had a few gates built into it these days. My favourite Microsoft apps are installed and it integrates nicely with my Android phone and Windows PC. It will take something to make me transition the whole hog to Apple – not least the price of their kit – but it really is a nice device to use.

And it’s served its purpose. Seeing M&D is just a virtual button press away, just like my old Uni and school friends. I’m able to keep in touch and, even if it’s only psychological, feel somewhat more reassured about their situation.

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