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It's Good to Talk

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My mum and dad, they love a good natter, bless 'em. Doesn't everybody's? But they find technology confusing, a bit scary even. And while they've always shown a polite interest in the latest iPhone-this or iPad-that, I know they'd never give up their old-fashioned corded phone without a fight. But that may change, now they've discovered YouTube.

It informs them. It entertains them. Above all, it makes them feel connected with the outside world. No bad thing, during a pandemic. Now they know what they've been missing. Now they realise technology is just a means to an end. Would they go one step further? From YouTube spectator, to Zoom Room participator? Mmm, I wonder ...

Did you know, our group leaders have turned many face-to-face sessions into Zoom offerings? And they're keen to welcome U3A members, old and new! So I decided to do a little experiment. To help 'the maybes' to make up their minds, about taking the plunge. And to see if this might open up a whole new world, for my folks back home. Here's how it went:

Can the Monarchy survive its newest Royals (and the Duke of York)? The media has certainly given us plenty of food for thought, haven't they? So everyone's got an opinion, right? I emailed Kath Reader, and received an invitation to join the next meeting of The Discussion Group. The big day arrived soon enough. I took a deep breath, then clicked the link.

A wall of faces suddenly filled my laptop screen. Within seconds, they began to laugh and joke from the confines of their little Zoom boxes. I listened to their lively chit-chat for a few minutes, while the stragglers joined the video call. The mood felt very laid-back, and if I had any nerves before, they simply melted away at that point. Friendly group, tick.

Just over a dozen, including Kath (leader) and myself (guest). And not all strangers, when I scanned the faces more closely. I spotted two people from the table tennis fraternity, and even a colleague from the website team. What a small world! Mainly female members, but little risk of a lopsided debate with two gents on board. Balanced group, tick.

At first, we chipped in with brief standalone comments, testing the waters if you like. Then more detailed, and more complex, arguments began to fly in every direction. The press, social media, The Crown (you know, that TV historical drama), even a personal contact – the evidence was piling up, on both sides. Hearty debate, tick.

Kath made sure that everyone had a chance to air their views. She posed questions to individuals, as well as to the whole group. And she made well-timed remarks, to break up the occasional silence. Some spoke more, and more often, than others. Some sat on the proverbial fence, and watched while others defended their chosen side. Allies and opponents were listened to, with equal respect. Fair debate, tick.

Before I knew it, the session was over, and we were exchanging our goodbyes. And before you ask me, no, we never did reach a conclusion. But I don't believe that's the secret to a successful discussion group, do you? After all, it's the journey that matters, not the destination. Now then, wasn't it T.S. Eliot who said that? Smart guy ...

For a bunch of retired gentlefolk, this group isn't afraid to tackle the tough issues. Coming up later in the term: post-Brexit, free speech, and child poverty. So if you think you're tough enough, why not contact Kath Reader today, and have your say at the next meeting of The Discussion Group.

Teresa
(website editor)

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