Jonny McCambridge: The day Jonathan’s world turned upside down

When I meet people for the first time they often ask if I prefer to be called Jonathan or Jonny.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 6:00 am
Welcome to my upside down working world

While I don’t particularly mind which name is used, the reasoning behind the question is understandable.

It is true that I operate as both a Jonathan and a Jonny. Not distinct people, but separate sides of the same coin.

Jonny is the person who writes this column. The bumbling, confused middle-aged daddy relating his adventures as an analogue guy living in a digital age.

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Jonny is a relaxed character who likes to find the humour in all situations, who is comfortable talking about mental health, who is baffled by technology at every turn and who never travels too far from the loving embrace of his family.

Jonny appears at weekends, in the evenings, on days off work, or when in the company of friends.

But then there is Jonathan. He is the serious-minded professional without much tangible sense of fun, constantly dealing with stress, worrying about time pressures and how to get things done. You might occasionally see his name on news stories on other pages of this paper.

Jonathan is often concerned about financial issues. It is the name which appears on correspondences with red lettering from the bank or credit card company.

When he has a row with his wife, she refers to him as Jonathan (or occasionally something worse).

Jonathan is usually to be found first thing in the morning, on working days, when he has to go to a meeting or an event, or at the end of the month just before pay day.

While this might all sound a bit schizophrenic, I suppose it is not that unusual that we have separate parts of our personalities that we automatically employ for appropriate occasions. The only difference here is that I have named them.

But life is messy and there are often times when one state bleeds into another. Jonny sometimes makes an appearance at a point when it would be much better that he stays hidden.

Until a couple of years ago I had never taken part in a Zoom call in my life. Now, I have to do it on a daily basis. But, despite the familiarity with the process which has grown, the residual terror of the technology never quite leaves me.

There is always that fear that it will fail at my end. That a great conversation will be taking place while I am left staring at a blank screen, unable to get connected.

But Jonathan cannot afford to be unhinged by such uncertainties at this moment. He has an important work call. Some of Northern Ireland’s top medical bosses are giving a briefing on the state of the health service for several well-known journalists. And me.

The call begins. The host asks the journalists to turn our cameras on. Several faces fill the screen. They are all suitably serious, given the gravity of the topic matter we will be discussing.

Then I appear. I know it is me because my name is at the bottom of the screen. Jonathan McCambridge. But something is not quite right. In the image on the screen I am upside down.

‘Hello Jonathan, you appear to be upside down,’ the host remarks.

I panic and begin to babble uncontrollably. After about a minute of this I realise I’m on mute and nobody else can hear me.

To be clear, I have no explanation as to why I am upside down and I am equally clueless about how to resolve the issue. My wife, who also works as a journalist, is on the call and I can see her laughing at the corner of my screen.

My phone starts to buzz as I get messages from other reporters.

‘Do you know you’re upside down?’

‘Why are you upside down?’

The host begins the meeting. She introduces everyone. All the top medical officials. All the senior journalists. I am introduced at the end as ‘Jonathan, who is upside down.’

The briefing continues. As the health bosses talk about pressures on hospitals, domiciliary care and GP services, the journalists nod along grimly. I nod along grimly also; but I am upside down.

This is a situation where Jonathan should be in charge. But Jonny, with his unique blend of chaos and incompetence, has rolled his tank onto Jonathan’s lawn and flattened all of the flowers.

There is a brief lull in proceedings. I decide to quickly check on my son who is next door doing his homework.

I run into the next room. My son is not doing his homework but is playing on his Nintendo.

‘Don’t forget you have to do your homework buddy,’ I gently chide him.

‘I will daddy.’

I’m about to leave the room when another thought occurs.

‘I don’t suppose you know why the Zoom on my laptop is upside down?’

He answers without looking up.

‘Yeah, I switched it to upside down when I was on a call with my friends yesterday.’

For a few seconds I splutter in exasperation as I struggle to find the right words.

‘Well, well … do you know how to fix it?’

He shrugs his shoulders.

‘Yeah, of course, it’s easy.’

‘Well, can you do it then?’

He grudgingly sets down his controller and follows me into the kitchen. There, in front of all the health chiefs and the journalists, my eight-year-old son alters the settings on the Zoom call.

I am no longer upside down.

The briefing finishes and I rush to file my story. Then I go back to see my son who is still playing Nintendo, and still has not started his homework.

‘Come on son, let’s get the homework done now.’

As we begin the maths and spellings, it occurs to me that perhaps I should be angry with him. He has made me foolish in the most serious of situations. But he is my boy, and I don’t have the heart or the stomach for that.

‘You know daddy,’ he says after a while. ‘The Zoom on your laptop is not very good. I wanted to set the background to outer space and to make the person appear as a cat, but they don’t seem to have those features on your Zoom. You need an upgrade.’

Jonny laughs and gathers his son into his arms for a huge cuddle.

Jonathan shudders as an icy sensation runs down his spine.