Communication in the time of Corona.
By Sarah Penney, The Roaring Girls' communication queen and resident Welsh lass.
I hope you’re all keeping well during these bizarre, messy times. My name’s Sarah and not only am I the social media whizz, but also an actor. Nice to e-meet you all!
If there’s one thing I know how to do, that’s communication, (it says so in my job title) but during the lock-down, I’ve been having a bit of a struggle trying to stay in touch with my large, loud, complicated family.
This week, I thought I’d share with you my trials and tribulations, and how I accidentally told my grandfather’s network provider that he was dead.
Connection – it’s never felt more important to stay in touch with your friends and family at the moment, but there’s only so many times you can watch your Nanna’s chin because she doesn’t know how to hold the phone, or watch your pal have a shit whilst talking to you about the recent government regulations. I am reaching the end of my tether, and it wasn’t that long to begin with! That being said, there’s a joyful feeling of being able to have a meeting whilst being in your pyjamas from the waist down, or talking to Sharon from accounts about updates, whilst nipping slightly out of shot for a sip of a poor-man's Sangria. (Yes, it’s 10 in the morning, yes, I will share the recipe.)
My niece turned one this month, and though the plan was to be in Wales for her birthday, I was able to video call her and sing to her down the phone, whilst she enthusiastically clapped her hands and furiously tried to watch Toy Story in the background. Just being able to see her has made this month slightly easier, and though I can’t wait to travel and give her a big, big squidge, I’ll take what I can for now.
There’s two people in my family who have been struggling with the technological art of communication though, and that’s my grandparents – my Nanna and Bampa. They’re called Anne and Trevor, and are the most ridiculous, hilarious, unusual pair. My Bampa is partially deaf in both ears, and shouts at everyone and everything. ALL THE TIME. My Nanna struggles to walk and has to use a wheelchair mostly, but has this sparkle in her eye, like the glint of a story yet to be told. Between them, they’re a fucking liability. I say this with upmost love and respect, of course.
My Bampa is a trickster, a walking, pranking, genius. Some of my favourites over the years have been pretending to push my Nanna into moving traffic at a crossing "just to check she’s awake," and sitting in her wheelchair when she’s popped into the toilet at a supermarket, only to ask a cleaning lady to touch his forehead and leap out of the wheelchair screaming "IT’S A MIRACLE!" They’ve been married for over 50 years, and they share so much laughter, eye-rolling and fun together.
My Bampa recently purchased a smart phone from Tesco, because he wanted to take ‘better photographs of his wife.’ My Nanna hates having her photo taken, and his camera roll is full to the brim of pictures of her pegging the washing out, eating biscuits, making the bed and sleeping on the settee. The rest of my family and I were all video calling, so why couldn’t I video my grandparents? Then, I had it. WhatsApp! If I could talk my Bampa through downloading it onto his phone, then I could video. Easy, right? WRONG.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to talk a pensioner through downloading an app onto their phone over a landline, but let me tell you, if you have a penchant for getting frustrated and a last nerve that you’d like to get rid of, have I got the task for you! Don’t get me wrong, I also laughed a whole lot, and could hear my Nanna giggling away in the background, I could picture her chuckling, with her shoulders going up and down, and her hands on her belly, the glint in her eye sparkling away. "BAMPA. YOU’RE LOOKING FOR SOMETHING CALLED PLAYSTORE."
"There’s nothing like that on here Sarah!"
"WHAT CAN YOU SEE ON YOUR SCREEN? READ IT OUT TO ME."
"Oh, right! Let me see now. Where’s my glasses? Oh, on my head. Right. Here we go. Just looking now. There we are. Right then. Calculator, no… Calendar, no… Torch, no… Phone, no… Playstore, no-"
"YES, THAT ONE! THAT’S THE ONE! PLAYSTORE. THAT’S WHAT I TOLD YOU TO LOOK FOR."
"I thought you said BUY MORE!"
Eventually, after trying and failing for an hour, I decided to ask my Nanna’s lovely neighbour to help. She’d already been dropping bread and milk into the house for them on a weekly basis, and she’s a long-time friend of the family, so I knew she was just the right person for the job. She, of course, obliged and did it in seconds for him, through the letterbox. (Such are the times we find ourselves in.)
Finally, we had the chance. The opportunity to speak face to face for the first time in months. I couldn’t believe we’d finally made it!
100MB of data left - bugger.
I asked my Bampa to ring Tesco and buy a one-off data bundle of 1GB. It would do for the time being, at least! After trying to talk him through doing it, how to text for data, and how to call, I went onto the Tesco website and managed to live chat with a member of the team, who introduced himself as Javeed. By this time, I was so exhausted by it all. I’d tried to ring, tried downloading the Tesco app and tried to recover my Bampa’s email password through a series of cryptic clues given to me over the phone.
"Now then. Do you know the nickname I had when I was a boy?"
"I’ll give you three guesses."
"Bampa, we’ve been on the phone for an hour and 45 minutes. Can’t you just give it to me?"
"Have you ever heard of the musician Toscanini?’"
"Well if you had, you might guess it quicker."
He then sang me a song.
I begged Javeed to help me add the data, with one, (quite literally) fatal typo.
How did Javeed respond to this? Did he chuckle? Make a silly joke, or just put the classic "LOL?" Ever a professional, Javeed remained true to his duty and simply said "No problem, I can add that for you." (Way to bring the mood down, Javeed.)
Anyway, long story short, my Bampa now has 1GB of data, and I have the patience of David Attenborough visiting a plastic factory.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some video calls to make.
(And if you’re reading this, Javeed, wherever you may be, I don’t think you have the powers of a Ouija board - but if my Bampa carries on, you might bloody need them!)