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Ed’s letter | Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

I have A virtual-world problem. My 18-month-old niece, last seen as a very small, freshly hatched grub before the lockdown, thinks I am a cast member of some kind of TV show on one of the many screens she has grown up with. She seems generally pleased with my regular programming. And I do my best to be entertaining. Loud singing, peekaboo, silly noises, funny walks, and multiple kiss blowing. But, given my limited experience as a toddler-TV presenter, I note, with a chill in my heart, that she quickly tires of me. She is a cruel critic. She votes with her feet. I am often and rapidly banished from her island as she moves on to more exciting concerns. Like the big cardboard box in the middle of my brother’s London lounge. Now, that is a fascinating preoccupation. Harsh.

And when this poppet is exasperated by the nonsense emanating from the phone, she quite calmly demands that her ever-attendant and obedient adults change the “show”. I would laugh if it were not so manifestly brutal. My soul is rent, I tell you. I am on par with Peppa Pig in this tot’s entertainment universe. And I fear the pig is winning. Worse still, the audience is about to grow exponentially by the imminent addition of another member. I don’t know if my shtick will translate. Everyone’s a critic these days.

I know what I need. It’s a long, metal tube, designed to keep me subdued and placid via minimal oxygen infusions; sleep deprivation; rough prodding at irregular intervals administered, just as I pass out, by pushy attendants in garish uniforms, demanding I wear my seat belt over my blanket; dodgy, lukewarm food in boiling plastic containers served at 2am; 12 hours of schlocky French films; and, at the end of it all, someone gratuitously feeling me up and confiscating my saline solution. I am not as far gone as the silly Australians who booked out the Qantas “flight to nowhere” in 10 minutes and proceeded to circle Sydney for four glorious hours in October last year. But I am close.

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I long for the joys of leaving the comforts of home in the afternoon and striding like a broken, dried-out husk of myself into a brand-new country the next morning. Is there any greater miracle of contemporary life? I know, I know, there is technology — where would we be without video conferencing? But still there is something to be said for “in real life”. Plus I really need a chance to get my ratings up.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FOR SORE MINDS

Meanwhile, the Finnish — like the excellent, high-performing Nordic folk that they are — have decided to address the international travel deficit and Zoom fatigue with alacrity. “Only in Lapland”, the official travel marketers for Finnish Lapland are happy to now supply scenes for use on Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom, so that the eye can travel out of your colleagues’ bedrooms and homes and into the far reaches of that marvellous land. You can also stream the sounds of Lapland — think ice cracking and snow-shoe crunching — as you tune out of your weekly Zoom. If those do not help, go out and jump into your icy, autumnal pool and then down a fiery, white spirit. They do that in Lapland. And it will round off the virtual travel experience quite nicely. If it’s good enough for Santa…

X Aspasia

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Aspasia Karras is acting editor for Wanted, and publisher at Arena Holdings.

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