Happy Birthday

It’s my daughter’s birthday today so I rang her this morning and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ down the phone. When she asked “Are you washing your hands?” I was completely bemused. She laughed and added “and are you going to sing it twice?”.  If we’d had that conversation three months ago, I wouldn’t have had a clue what she meant.  Now, I laughed back – I completely understood, we were joking about the theme tune to Covid 19.

Tonight, at 6 o’clock I’m invited to her party. I’ll be joining 40 other people who will be zooming to Oxfordshire to raise a glass to the birthday girl.

On Easter Sunday I caught the lunchtime sunshine of my friends Bob and Frances on the 6th floor of their apartment in Austin, Texas and next weekend I’m having supper with Mridula and Vijaya in Bangalore, India.  It’s the latest way of talking to people on camera on your computer or if you’re on the move you take your iPhone or iPad with you

On Tuesday I’m in a weekly board meeting with people in Singapore, Ireland and London. The agenda and papers relating to London and security issues, staffing levels, key workers and furloughing arrived by email and are already read. After tomorrow’s Zoom meeting there’ll be the question of communicating to a wider audience – emails.

Last night from my wee art studio here in Scotland I joined my grandkids in Bristol for the second of their regular ‘on-line’ You tube music and art sessions. I was amazed to learn that I was one of over a thousand people from all over the world who had joined the session.  It’s a long way from being a supportive grandparent who turns up to applaud the end of year concert.

This is the future and I’ve decided to join it.

One widowed friend recently opened up a small chink in the window of developing new relationships. Then Covid19 arrived and now she is experiencing and enjoying virtual dating. Sitting down at a keyboard with a camera is a novel way of getting to know somebody. One advantage is that if you don’t like the person you see on the screen, with one press of the ‘off button’ the suitor vanishes and you can always claim the wi-fi failed!  If the relationship does develop then Covid 19 ensures that in the immediate future the perennial question of physical contact isn’t a high priority in the equation.  Of course, we know that meeting people you don’t know on-line, or face to face, is fraught with dangers – manipulation and lying to name but two! But just as we’ll continue to call out self-interested politicians who lie and manipulate for their own ends so too there’ll be even keener public attention paid to others who profit by exploiting vulnerable people.  

This week has been exciting in terms of learning about social media and communication. I’ve started using Instagram which is a photographic record of what I’m doing. If it sounds banal, it could be, but in the current situation of lockdown it’s engaging my imagination and I’ve stopped to photograph nodding daffodils, the moon and seascapes in a way that I didn’t somehow make time for when life was on full throttle. I can see real positive uses for Instagram in this new world so I’m experimenting daily and going to link it with my blogs.

Thank goodness we live in an age of communication. Without it this virus and lockdown would have really defeated many of us.  It may seem hard to keep up with all these different and innovative ways of communication but, if we want to create and participate in a completely changed world, we have to be able to use these tools effectively

There are many huge problems to be addressed, but right now Is a time to look for solutions. Solutions that you, your community and your family have been discovering over the last few weeks. In the confusion and chaos, we have recognised generosity, admired those caring for others, seen loyalty between colleagues and received kindness from neighbours who have looked out for us.  We have all clapped for the incredible NHS workers on the frontline and I’m sure many of us have had a special moment when a small act of kindness touched our hearts. These underlying values are a big part of the solution to the problems we will have to face. So, I’m using today’s blog to highlight communication because you and I have a part to play in using it to create a better world.

Now it’s time to tidy my hair, put a scarf round my neck (only your top half really shows on camera). Then, as I wash my hands, I’ll hum Happy Birthday twice, open a bottle of ‘bubbly’ and join the Zoom birthday party.

P.S. I’d love to hear from you about anything that is working for you. I’m asking a few questions here and hoping there may be a few brief responses. I’d like to get a thoughtful conversation going.

Have you experienced any positive changes in the way that people are communicating with you in this crisis?

Has this affected you?  

How can we ensure that these values are embedded in our communities for the next generation?

Please feel free to add any other thoughts

3 Replies to “Happy Birthday”

  1. Brilliant, and I love seeing the moon over the water, as I so clearly remember your seeing it while we were talking the evening…
    I like your blogs – even though they may occasionally make me feel rather inadequate in the small number of things I am achieving while locked down…
    I too am loving the opportunity to WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom, deeply aware however how much of a luxury it is to have the devices to use them. Did you know that, as I learned yesterday from my friend Danielle, whose son Christophe is the Head of the Big Date Institute here at Oxford University and who is frequently on the radio/TV, that only 20 or 25% of 65 years old, who are the most socially active of the older population (free time, some cash, grandchildren etc.) have a smart phone (I don’t know about iPads or computers)? This is something they are deeply aware of as they develop the app which will in due course log our eventual contact with this (any I suppose in future any other) virus… This latter development has of course ethical implications which are food for thought…
    For myself, I am incredibly grateful I long ago made the decision to actively enjoy the opportunity to learn how to use my devices (not yet WordPress I know!) and spent a delightful Easter evening supper with some dear friends on Zoom: I had dressed up, flowers in my hair as a kind of Easter bonnet, laid the table with candles, and we chatted happily for nearly 3 hours! I am spending more time virtually face to face with friends than ever before, and although it doesn’t replace a physical contact it is so much better than just emailing/phoning/texting…
    Keep writing! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dearest Claire

    Have replied on your blog.

    I have maddeningly lost one of the breathing bits on the mask I bought in Dubai. As your piece is ad-supported, do you have any suggestions on where to get hold of a good mask, as I am sure we’ll all have to wear them mandatorily when we go out anyway? For the time being I’ve taped over the hole and can still breathe!!! Off to get up, get dressed and go for a walk over the other side of the rainbow bridge in the University Parks. Jxx



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