Fragile and Vulnerable, but Marvellous When it Works

If there’s something worrying me when I go to bed, I dream that I’ve got to play an oboe concerto. The score is missing, or I haven’t a good reed, or the piece is far too difficult. I wake up relieved, and only a tiny bit regretful that I am not a professional musician. Such were my dreams on Monday night.

But the task on Tuesday morning was nevertheless a performance. I must wake at 3.30 am to present time@work, our timesheet software, to a roomful of lawyers in Singapore. I am in Sofia, six hours behind them.


I’ve sent out the Webex invitation earlier. Webex is a software tool that enables you to share your screen with people all over the world. My partners in business, Ramesh and Charles from Kuala Lumpur, are in the room in Singapore and they’ll project my PC via their PC and a projector, onto a screen. We’ll talk through Skype, and they’ll pass an iPad around the room so that people can ask me questions. I will never know what they look like, or if they are smiling or frowning, or even listening.

This is fabulous technology. Cheaper than flying to Singapore and back.

So, I ‘m awake at 3.30 in a hotel in Sofia. Quick shower, and then down to the lobby, where I’m told the WiFi network is more reliable. It’s dark, but the receptionist is standing behind reception (he has no chair, poor man, so I suppose sleeps at his post like a horse, standing up). He works 8 am to 8 pm, he tells me, two days on, two days off. He is nevertheless cheerful.

Yes, he can make me a cup of tea. This is marvellous news. Without tea, I am useless.

The security guard is sleeping on the sofa in the Lobby Bar, so I move to another dark corner from where Singapore won’t hear Balkan snoring and where my declamatory tones won’t wake the guard.

Power plugged in. Earphones on. I open my Inbox l to discover an email from late last night that says the potential client has changed the agenda and wants to see a few more things that I haven’t yet prepared. Alarming, but manageable.

35 minutes to go, so I do some quick changes to the system, amend my PowerPoint presentation (don’t worry, I only do five slides), and make sure the system is still working.

10 minutes to go, and I suddenly realise that I’m not connected to the internet. The icon says I’m connected but I’m actually not. I can’t start the Webex meeting so something must be wrong. I do the usual troubleshooting to no avail.

9 minutes to go. I force a restart on the PC. But that doesn’t help.

7 minutes to go. There’s no one at reception now, so I decide to try to connect from my room, where clearly, at some point in the night, the connection was working.

5 minutes to go. In my room it doesn’t work either.

3 minutes to go. Back in reception. The cheerful receptionist looks dubious, but agrees to restart the router.

2 minutes to go and finally it’s all working.

Ramesh has been Skyping frantically, ‘Where are you?’ thinking, perhaps, that I have overslept.

Now I am calm. ‘I am Mrs de Winter now,’ I say to myself quietly.

And then I’m on air.

‘Good morning, Singapore!’

Of course, I lost my changes to the PowerPoint presentation when I forced a restart, but it doesn’t matter and the presentation goes well. No one knows anything was ever wrong.

There are so many links in this wonderful technological chain. It is marvellous when it works, but oh, so vulnerable.

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