“Change is coming whether you like it or not” (Greta Thunberg)
by Eirian Davies
For those of us who belong to a certain generation, the word Zoom referred to the red, yellow and green rocket-shaped ice-lolly that needed to be licked/eaten rather quickly before it started dripping down the fingers, hands and wrists during those long summer days of bygone times. This didn’t happen very often of course. Buying an ice-lolly from the corner shop was a rare treat as freezers in the home were not as common in those days.
Today, however, Zoom is the popular technological medium for families from all corners of Wales and the world to keep in touch, or for important decisions, which will have long-lasting effects on our lives, are made. Even our Nant Gwrtheyrn Welsh lessons are held via Zoom at the moment rather than the tutor pacing animatedly around the classroom sharing not only the Welsh language but also Welsh culture to eager learners.
Undoubtedly, the lockdown has taught us many new things, be it getting to grips with the latest technology in order to keep in touch with loved ones or ordering the necessary essentials online. But, what has – and I’m sure what will – stay with us for a very long time is that the last few months has taught us the value of what we already have on our doorstep and to be thankful that we are fortunate enough to live in the beautiful North Wales.
The travel restrictions implemented during the lockdown obviously meant that we were all spending more time in our homes, hence the attention given by many of us to the neglected garden, be it tidying the borders or even turning our hands to planting tomatoes and potatoes! What pleasure came from gazing in awe at the numerous birds feasting on the nuts and suet block, even to the point of ordering the beautifully presented children’s book Llyfr Adar Mawr y Plant by 10 year old Onwy Gower so that we can at last learn the names of the visiting birds. Who also could forget the deep blue skies during the fine weather we had in April and the crisp, clear nights where the moon and stars shone as brightly as they did during the summers of our childhood?
One glorious evening at the end of May it was possible even to stare in amazement at a tiny yellow speck in the night sky – the rocket that had been launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida earlier in the day on its 19 hour journey to the International Space Station in the middle of nowhere. Was it a coincidence, or did the restrictions on the use of motor vehicles travelling from one useless journey to another and the fact that aircrafts were sitting idly in airports instead of pouring their poisonous carbon waste actually making a difference to the quality of the air that we breathe? Undoubtedly!
Certainly, the last few months have been frustrating and worrying for us all (and continues to be so for many), but it has also given us time to reflect on what is truly important in our lives.
Now that lockdown is slowly easing, what of the future? Will we return to our old habits of rushing from one place to another without taking time to stop and stare in wonder at what is around us? Can life actually be worthwhile without the newest, must-have gadget or – heaven forbid – “my roots need retouching”. Or will we be able to hang on to our leisurely strolls along quiet country lanes devoid of endless traffic. Greeting and stopping to chat – from a distance – with acquaintances and strangers alike. Sharing our concerns whilst giving each other a much-needed boost. Perhaps a bit of both. The key to success is in the balance.
Definitely, there is an important place for the latest technology, both in the workplace and in our everyday lives. We have seen, for example, that there is no need to travel four hours from one part of the country to the other in order to attend a two-hour meeting. Just think of all that time wasted, the travel expenses without even mentioning the harmful emissions inflicted on our communities. It is quite possible to attend meetings and reach amicable and effective conclusions without leaving the comfort of our own homes.
But there is also a place for the traditional approach. Nothing can compete with transferring knowledge of culture and language face to face in the good old classroom, where new Welsh speakers are able to interact with each other in pairs or groups; yet, the use of Zoom with its ‘breakout rooms’ will no doubt continue to be hugely important for communicating the Welsh language and culture.
As I started by quoting a Swedish environmental activist who is passionate in raising awareness of climate change, I will finish by quoting the controversial politician Vladimir Lenin, which I feel encapsulates the lockdown period perfectly:
“There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen.” Discuss!