“We need to have a Zoom meeting,” said the bank manager, firmly, when she rang me the other day. And I have to say, the idea filled me with dread.
I’ve seen news reports of what can happen during these Zoom meetings. You can fall foul of terrible internet connections, and get broken sentences and thereby misunderstandings.
You can get interrupted by a small child (not very likely here anymore) or by one of the domestic staff strolling past in the background (even less likely).
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Or you can join the long list of politicians, mostly third-rate regional ones, who join meetings after one too many sherbets, or the ones who somehow give away their favourite “leisure and special interest” websites when they log in.
I was also worried that whatever needed to be discussed couldn’t be discussed over the good old-fashioned telephone – albeit it a mobile one.
It’s that time of year when we discuss harvest and the accounts, which once again aren’t quite ready, so we’ll have to rely on last year’s fair-to-middling ones.
The thorny topic of the overdraft eventually crops up, and I draw on my classical drama training (I’ve done Oedipus Tyrannus in the original Greek, don’t you know, darling) to convince her that the ship is steady and all’s well; the limit should do us fine for another year. Was there something more serious to discuss?
Hazel’s computer in the main hall has a camera and, being nearer to the thingymawotsit box, better internet (my office computer needs a furlong of corroded cable to connect to the outside world), so we got things set up there.
After five minutes of button pressing once the allotted hour had arrived, things got under way – and off to a truly terrible start. There, at the top of the screen, was my DIY Lockdown 2 haircut.
If they were recording the call for training purposes, they might have to edit out the language when I saw it as others see it.
Lockdown 1’s 16mm trim had been a great success. I was able slap my boy round the head and say “See? I’m not going bald!”
This time? Let’s just say I’m glad he’s 350 miles away, enjoying weekly police visits to his student flat. Was the summer really that stressful on the scalp?
The connection seemed fine, and once we’d compared backgrounds (hers: a suspiciously well-decorated room; ours: traditional farmhouse bed-warming pan and a non-functioning grandfather clock of dubious vintage) we finally got down to banking business.
Harvest? Better than we’d dared hope for at the end of March. Price prospects? All in the safe hands of Paul the Octopus at Trinity Grain’s marketing team, so who knows?
We discussed plans, prospective purchases, new loans and paid-off loans – all the mundane stuff, and all relatively painless.
I did worry that my refusal to look at the screen (God, that haircut!) might have been interpreted by the bank’s body language experts (looking in, no doubt) as “shifty as heck – possibly not telling the whole truth”.
In the end, all seemed fine, there was no banking bombshell, and we said our goodbyes and signed off, with more button stabbing.
But it didn’t feel right. There was no tea and coffee, no Hobnobs, no flat-coats arriving uninvited in the lap.
I do hope this isn’t the future. If it is, I’ll have to get that clock mended. Mind you, if Paul the Octopus nails the top wheat prices this year, we’ll get it mended and take on some domestic staff to give it a weekly polish. And a proper barber.