Meeting with pals in the virtual pub

Barbara Scully’s online hook-up for after-work drinks proved to be nothing like the real thing

Meeting with pals in the virtual pub

WHEN I retired from the world of paid employment in 2001 to become a full time housewife and mother, I worried about the huge change I was making to my life. Would I be bored at home? Would I ever learn to cook properly? Would I be a useless mammy? But most of all I worried about WHO WOULD I TALK TO?

I began my working life way back in December 1979 when I presented myself for my first day at the head office of JWT Holidays. I remember well thinking, “Finally my life is beginning” and in lots of ways I was right. JWT was a fantastic place to work. The hours could be long and the pay was modest but the craic was ninety. Friday nights after work it was over to the pub for a drink which usually turned into three or maybe four. Oh those were the days ... cashing cheques to buy another round, sitting in a fug of smoke, and trying to stay awake on the last bus home.

My time with JWT probably represented the pinnacle of my ‘after work drinking’ but it was a tradition that survived in each of my subsequent careers to some degree. Now I work for myself, from home and yes sometimes it’s lonely. I miss having colleagues. I miss canteen coffee breaks, I miss lunching with workmates but most of all I miss drinks after work of a Friday. So when I read recently about other homeworkers having Friday Night Virtual Pub nights, ie beers via Skype, my interest was piqued. Could this be for me?

There was only one way to find out and that was to give it a go. Deciding that maybe this was a young person’s kind of event I got in touch with two of my favourite people from behind the scenes of TV3’s Midday, where I regularly find myself on the panel. Jenn McGuirk and Paul Blake both immediately agreed to join me online.

So it was that last Friday after I tidied my desk for the weekend, I brushed my hair, applied some lippy and opened a bottle of wine. I took my laptop from my ‘office’ down to the kitchen and positioned myself and it on the sofa in the corner and logged onto Skype. I had set up a group in advance to facilitate our chat and so I dialled in. Paul answered first, waving a bottle of beer, like a good guinea pig. But when Jenn answered all we had was sound and no picture. After some furkelling about, I discovered that unless I had Skype premium (which involved a monthly subscription) we were not going to be able to do a group chat with video. By now the intrepid photographer had arrived and was anxious to get started. Deciding we needed video we bid Jenn farewell and Paul and I settled down for a chat.

Suddenly the room was filled with loud barking from Paul’s dog Rolo, who clearly wanted in on the craic. Paul roared at him to “Shut it”. This strange voice shouting, coupled with a big dog barking, set off my own canine eejit, who came rushing into the kitchen yapping like a thing possessed. We calmed the dogs down and restored order and were just getting stuck into some gossip when a friend of mine arrived into the kitchen yodelling “Hello” like Mrs Brown’s friend Winnie. Introductions were made and I hastily tried to explain the concept of after work drinks on Skype to my friend. She took in the photographer, the wine and the strange man on my laptop and beat a hasty retreat, muttering about being sorry to have interrupted us.

By now I was on my second glass of wine and starting to feel a bit giddy. The photographer was happy that he had what he needed; gathering his camera and tripping over the dog, he backed out the door calling “I’ll let myself out, thanks”.

Paul and I resumed our chat only to be interrupted a few minutes later by my 12-year-old daughter, who arrived home to find her mother delightedly telling dirty jokes with a strange man on the computer and a half empty bottle of wine on the floor. At this point I surrendered. Paul was relieved. I think our Skype date had managed to convince him that domestic life in the suburbs was something that sent sane women mad in the end.

Someone told me that group chats were possible with video on Google+. I’m not sure I’ll bother.

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