Shared Moments: ‘Zooming with Oliver’ written by Oliver Cross

The Corona-19 virus is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, unless you happen to be the very same Eric Yuan who introduced the Zoom corporation to the public in 2013, without realising that soon afterwards the public would find uses for Zoom that probably hadn’t occurred to Eric Yuan.

He must have thought there would be a host of business and educational uses for Zoom, which allows up to nine people at a time  to appear on one screen in a conversation from their own homes.

True they’ve been shrunk to matchbox-size and have a tendency to freeze mid-frame, as if they were having an extreme cardio-vascular event, but it’s not wholly unlike being in a roomful of people trying to carry on as if nothing too much had happened,

For example, a group of regulars at the Chemic Tavern in Woodhouse, Leeds – including me – meet twice a week on Zoom to try and recreate the aimless chat we used to enjoy before the big lockdown and now continue because, although it’s nothing like being in a pub, it’s something like being in the human race.

The problem is that we don’t have much to tell each other because there’s very little news that’s not virus-relayed and we don’t get out much. Often we end up showing each other what we’re making for tea or trying to remember all the good stuff we’ve seen on telly, which doesn’t take long.

The community group Caring Together in Woodhouse and Little London, which offers activities and advice for the over-55s and which Lynne and I belong to, has thought of a more imaginative use of Zoom.

Last week it attempted to recreate the full cinematic experience without big screens, screaming music or precariously-employed staff. There was, however, a Zoom showing of the 2017 musical The Greatest Showman, a bag of popcorn, nuts and  pleasantly unhealthy sweets, and, to represent the bit where the audience shuffles around looking first for their seats and then for the exit, a short Zoom discussion before and after the show.

It all made for something that felt like an Occasion because watching a film at home isn’t an Occasion and talking on Zoom isn’t an Occasion but combining the two, so that there is some sense of communal activity, is at the very least an Event, similar, in quality, if not in size, to a big sports final or a premier at the Odeon, Leicester Square.

Incidentally, The Greatest Showman, based on the life of the circus entrepreneur PT Barnum but not to be confused with the 1986 musical Barnum, was… well, not exactly Oklahoma or Carousel but still welcome enough in troubled and very rainy times.

Thank you for sharing Oliver, until next time….

p.s. And a big thank you to Ann for sharing your film with us 🙂