A tale of trying to help.
We're in the middle of a pandemic lockdown and grandsons, 6 and 4, are having home schooling. Their Mum and Dad are doing a great job, particularly Mum as she happens to be at home more. There is a dedicated ‘school room’ with desks and wall-space for paintings. The curriculum is varied and obviously interesting, demonstrated by the fact that the elder one even does some homework to prepare for the following day’s lessons. From the younger one, tongue-poking-out concentration as a picture is coloured in.
Granny and I get regular updates on progress in the form of photos and the 'odd' video communication via Zoom (or whatever it is we use.) It’s lovely to see developing minds stimulated and youngsters enjoying their schooling.
BUT, there’s a clue in the previous paragraph to the idiosyncrasies associated with Grandparents getting involved with (fairly basic) technology. The clue is the word ‘odd’. In this instance it doesn’t refer to occasional, no in this case it’s peculiar.
As we chat we can see our grandsons and their as Mother clear as a bell but they can only see us sideways! Whatever knobs and buttons we push the image remains stubbornly perpendicular. We received nagging yet perfectly reasonable questions such as, ‘why is Nanny Janny like that?’ or, ‘Pappa Jo, can’t you mend it?’
Pappa Jo was, and still probably is, known as a bit of a fixer. When the elder son was three he once greeted me, on what was a social visit, with his plastic cordless drill in case I was in need of supplementary equipment. Anyhow, neither Jan or I could answer their questions. Even when we physically moved the tablet through ninety degrees it didn’t make a difference, our image sprung sideways again. We concluded there must be an inherent fault with the apparatus.
Mum was doing her best but the vision of Pappa Jo drinking a cup of tea at right angles, defying the laws of physics, partly undermined weeks of diligent tuition. So we now do less face to face chatting. We still communicate by text and email and we can rely on Mum’s mini videos to keep us up to date. Plus the kids and Mum ride over on their bikes and talk to us over the fence so we have the joy of seeing them and they us, the right way up.
Move on a few days and the elder boy is being schooled in the basics of the Second World War. He is a very diligent and bright child and, like many children his age, soaks up information like the desert absorbs a shower of rain. Granny told Mum that she could help with this project because her father served in Africa during the war. It would be interesting and informative to tell the boy a little about his great-grandfather. Jan told me she would make a little video and send it. Simple!!
I remember videos in class at school. I looked forward to them as a change from the teachers incessant drone. Plus I could have a nap when the lights were dimmed. To prepare the way for her ‘video tutorial’ Jan sent a couple of photographs of her father in Air Force uniform. To whet the youngster’s appetite you understand!
After a couple of false starts (one of which was no volume) she started to record her monologue. She’s not great when reading scripts and prefers to organize her mind and record ‘on the wing’ in one take. She’s actually a natural orator who can draw people in.
She sat in the lounge and was well into her recording when my phone went off in the room next door. She battled on as I relayed to my brother (too loudly) what shopping he could pick up for us. Then I got a couple of texts and an email, all of which induce my phone to make an assortment of bleeps and tunelets.
Nanny Janny replayed her recording. All was well until it had picked up me talking to my brother (there was some banter in there too, some of which was language not suited to youth education.) Then the beeps and whistles could be heard, overpowering a section on how great-grandfather Jack went about repairing the wood-constructed Mosquito aeroplane. Yes, great-grandfather was a joiner. You could hear Nanny Janny’s tone switching from mild annoyance to a chuckling giggle at the various interruptions.
She watched it back. ‘That won’t do,’ she said, so set about re-recording her piece having banished me and my offending telephone to the garage. I returned fifteen minutes later to find a triumphant smile on my wife’s face. ‘Done it, and sent it. Had a text to say they’ve received it. Thank goodness for that,’ she said with a weary sigh.
Later that evening Nanny Janny got a call from her daughter. Jan asked if they’d all watched the video. ‘Yes,’ said daughter. ‘We were just a bit surprised that Pappa Jo swearing at his brother was included with history of the war.’ She’d sent the wrong video, the earlier unedited version. For the next hour Jan couldn’t stop laughing as she imagined the kids wondering what a box of Merlot and chewing gum had to do with great grandfather mending aeroplanes during the war.
Jan is proud of her father’s wartime endeavours. She’s also proud that she sent a video from her armchair all the way across the village to the school-room. After all, she’d just about managed to harness a branch of communications technology. I think it’s fair to say that the boys were perplexed rather than enlightened. The elder was asked for his reaction, having had a couple of days to digest all the information.
He said, ‘well.......,’ pause. ‘At least Nanny Janny and Pappa Jo were the right way up.’