Things My Parents Argue About Now That They’re Retired

Like every couple who have been together for a significant amount of time, my parents are prone to the occasional argument.

I don’t think that this is particularly their fault. They have been together for thirty years now and being with same person for three decades has its challenges.

In addition, two years ago, my mum joined my dad in the realms of retirement and, as a result, the two of them have been spending more time at home together than they did previously.

Before they both retired, they spent long hours apart working shifts which provided them with a healthy break from each other. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder but presence does a frictionless relationship squander (not sure that this is an actual saying, not even sure that frictionless is a word tbh..)

Like most people, my parent’s never fight about the actual emotional tensions in their relationship.

Instead, they tend to use everyday items and mundane issues as proxies for the underlying problems that they are attempting to address. For example, they recently had an argument over a jar of jam which they insisted was ‘about the jam and nothing but the jam’. However, I personally think it was about my Dad’s percieved lack of emotional transparency.

Like most couples who have enjoyed many years of marriage, my parents have an unparalleled ability to create an argument out of just about anything, including the process of arguing itself. One of their favourite arguments is the ‘We’re Not Having an Argument’ argument in which each of them tries to convince the other that they are not pissed off whilst progressively becoming increasingly pissed off.

This argument, which sometimes feels like an infinite loop of disagreement, can basically be summed up as the following.

The pandemic has also put a lot of additional tension on my parent’s relationship.

Being together for thirty years is challenging.

Being together for thirty years and then retiring and living together in the same house is even more challenging.

Being together for thirty years, retiring and living together in the same house WITH NO FORM OF ESCAPE is another thing altogether.

I first realised that my parent’s relationship was suffering from pandemic pressure a few months ago when they had a full-on meltdown argument over a towel.

The argument started when my dad made the grave mistake of disrupting a towel washing system that my mum had put into place during the first lockdown.

I’m not totally clear on the intricate details of my mum’s towel washing system (something to do with keeping light and dark towels separate) but I assume she made it in an attempt to create some sort of order for herself in the middle of the coronavirus chaos.

Therefore, when my dad tampered with the system, he was messing with one of the things that was helping my mum cling to some semblance of control; this is the only thing I can think of to explain the ferocity of her reaction.

My dad bore the brunt of my mum’s towel-fuelled wrath for around fifteen minutes, making several further impassioned comparisons between her domestic activities and Orwell’s 1984 in the meantime.

The argument eventually climaxed when my dad stormed out of the house in order to get some ‘freedom from oppression’ time and threatened that he might not come back. However, his rebellious resolve didn’t last long as, ten minutes later, he returned home because he needed a wee.

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that my parents have an awful relationship; they don’t. Obviously, things have been very stressful and uncertain over the last year and a half and this manifests itself in tension and outbursts of rage over insignificant things.

I’ve heard that it is important to look for small blessings in times of hardship and, as far as my parent’s relationship is concerned, I guess one of the small blessings is they haven’t been going on as many car journeys together as they would have done in the before times.

The car is probably one of the worst places to have a squabbling match as it physically impossible to take a time out unless you do a Ladybird and lob yourself into the road. Therefore, any argument that my parents enter into the car tends to escalate and become quite heated.

Obviously having an impassioned argument isn’t one of the things that driving instructors tend to focus on when teaching people to drive safely.

Maybe then, it is a small solace that my parents have been stuck in the house together because at least then I don’t have to worry about them inadvertently crashing because they’ve been fighting about towels.

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10 Mythical Creatures Attending a Zoom Meeting.

Zoom meetings, both personal and professional, have become a prominent part of most people’s lives over the last year.

One of my favourite zoom meetings is a weekly writing group that I attend with some of my improv friends in Liverpool.

Improvisers are great people to write with as they are amazing at taking a base idea and expanding it into a myriad of different possibilities. This creative ‘hive mind’ is one of the things I love the most about improv as it tends to result in the creation of characters and scenarios that I never would have conceived of on my own.

A great example of this happened a couple of weeks ago when I came to the meeting with an idea for a cartoon that I wanted to run past the group. I wanted to take the character of Medusa out of ancient mythology and into modern day lockdown life by having her turn to stone after checking out her own face on zoom.

My friends assured me that the joke worked and we then went on to have a full on idea splurge about how various monsters and mythological would conduct themselves on zoom. 

I’ve included some of the results from this session below. Turns out humans aren’t the only ones struggling with communicating through online video conferencing software…

Unlike Medusa, Dracula is completely unable to check out his own face.

“Alexa, who is the fairest of them all?”

Troll doing what he does best.

Werewolf hasn’t shaved in months.

Frankenstein’s monster just wants people to hear him out.

Hades’ dog is causing mayhem in the background.

Dead man zooming.

Signal starts getting a bit dodgy once you’re past the upper atmosphere.

Mermaids have finally been accepted as part of our world.

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My Lockdown Diary Entries

I started writing a diary in March 2020.

I was struggling with my mental health at the time and thought that writing down my thoughts would help me gain some perspective on how I was feeling.  

The escalation of the coronavirus situation also made me feel like I was living through history and I quite liked the idea of documenting life in the pandemic like some sort modern day Samuel Pepys. I imagined people in the year 2500 discovering my diary and lording it as a priceless historical artifact, offering profound insights into life at a time of international crisis – a relic of a bygone time.

I recently read back through the my diary entries from the last year. This somewhat derailed my ambitions of becoming an iconic 21st Century diarist.

Firstly, the entries are generally too short and sporadically written to provide a cohesive account of what happened over the course of the pandemic. Secondly, some of them are so melodramatically emotional and swear word ridden that they make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

As a result, I decided to put together a compilation of a few of the more legible, lighthearted entries on here in an attempt to make some sense of my lockdown experience:

19th March 2020

Things have gone completely mad. Everybody is freaking out and panic buying supplies. People are raiding the aisles like they’re on some sort of dystopian version of Supermarket Sweep.

Saw a video on Instagram of two women fighting over a packet of toilet rolls as if their lives depended on it. It was a bit like The Hunger Games but in Asda.

23rd March 2020

So Boris has put us in quarantine. Feels like we’re all straying into unknown territory. Bear Grylls will probably be in talks with the BBC about producing a show on how to survive.

1st April

Grandad rang today and said that he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. He told us that it had been much harder for his parents in the war. I told him that just because something is more bad than another thing doesn’t stop the thing itself from being bad. He told me that I was being ridiculous and that I’d understand someday. I wanted to see things from his perspective so I visualised myself as an old lady telling my grandkids how hard lockdown was.

I guess it is a little less impressive than surviving two wars…

10th May 2020

Boris just made a lockdown exit speech where he effectively told people to go out to work but also stay at home which is, quite frankly, a paradox. Honestly, watching his speech was like watching two separate versions of Boris from different parallel universes being merged into one and talking over each other. But maybe that’s going a bit too Rick and Morty on the whole thing.

15th May 2020

Spent all day in a minion onesie. I feel like I would have judged myself for that in the past. I mean is a minion onesie even an acceptable thing for a 26 year old to own? You know what? Fuck it. Society’s closed. If I want to wear a minion onesie then I bloody well will.

Some day in May (I’d lost all concept of time at this point)

Had a breakdown today which was weird because I’ve been feeling pretty emotionally numb all week. It’s a bit like all my feelings have been put in lockdown and every now and then my brain decides to relax the restrictions and I ended up crying hysterically into a packet of Doritos.

5th June 2020

Played sims today. Moved my family to the beach and they had a welcome BBQ with all the neighbours. For some reason,  I suddenly started feeling really really jealous of them getting to socialise so I put them in the pool and removed the ladder. Afterwards I sat down and analysed my feelings and realised that my actions were unnecessarily harsh and impulsive. Felt bad about the whole thing in hindsight but I’d already pressed save so there’s no going back.

21st April

Did pilates today to try and be more aware of myself in my body. Don’t think the awareness I achieved was the type of awareness I was originally going for.

17th July 2020

Listened to another one of Boris’ addressing the nation speeches – poor guy had no idea what was coming when he took the PM position on. I reckon the smuggest people in Britain right now are the introverts and Teresa May. Probably triumphantly running through a field of wheat as we speak.

12th September 2020

Saw a middle aged man dressed in a full superman costume riding a Segway down the prom whilst blasting the Superman theme out of a speaker. Probably would have judged him in the before times. Now it’s like, you know what mate, it’s a tough time and if that’s your coping mechanism, go for it. You do you.

29th October 2020

Mum told me that she was standing in a queue today and the man behind her wasn’t wearing a mask.  She asked him to wear one and he told her that he was a human person and if he decided not to wear a mask than that was his prerogative. Wonder if when he said human person, he actually meant total dickhead?

10th November 2020

Trump was trumped by Biden. What a relief, almost makes up for how awful that Trump pun was.   

19th December 2020

Government just announced that London is going into a Tier 4 lockdown two days before Christmas. I feel bad for Londoners but even worse for the kids of the future sitting history exams on the Government’s response to COVID-19 and having to memorise like a billion different things.

24th December 2020

Mum came into my room today whilst I was getting in touch with my inner zen (meditating) and asked me to contribute to the housework. I told her that unfortunately contributing housework would be destructive to my relationship with my inner zen. She told me that my lack of cooperation was disruptive to her inner zen and also the Feng Shui of the house. I told her she could always ask Santa for some Feng Shui if she liked it that much. I am a terrible daughter.

30th December 2020

Played Catan today with my brothers. Got into a massive fight with Robert about ore supplies after I built a settlement on an ore hexagon that he had wanted to build on. He said that I had completely screwed him over with my ‘total dickhead’ of a move to which I replied that he could always trade with me if he wanted to increase his ore supplies. He said I could take my ore supplies and stick them up my arse. Nothing like a nice family board game to lighten the mood.

4th January 2021

We’re in lockdown again. Sigh. Feeling much calmer this time round. Resigned to my fate.

6th January 2021

A load of Trump supporters marched straight into the capitol today. I guess some small deluded part of me though that we would leave the shitshow behind in 2020 but it seems the series of unfortunate events is continuing into 2021. Feel like I’m living in a Lemony Snicket novel.

This was my penultimate diary entry. Now, you would assume that the final entry would have a thoughtful concluding comment, some sort of witticism to up the whole coronavirus experience in a profound way.

Instead, when I turned the page, I found something that looked a lot like this:

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2020: A Review

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that 2020 has been the weirdest, craziest, scariest, most existentially-challenging, emotionally-draining year of my life.

A lot of bad things have happened and, at times, whilst caught in a Matrix-style existential mindset, I’ve become convinced that I’ve probably been living in an unpublished Lemony Snicket novel without being aware of it.

I mean, at least the Baudelaire kids were allowed to move between households…

The whole year has felt like an extension of that strange period between Christmas and New Year when you lose all track of time and end up eating an excessive amount of chocolate whilst engaging in a nostalgic Julie Andrews movie marathon because you’ve forgotten your purpose in life, there’s nothing else to do and at least Julie seems happy about things.

It takes one crazy year to mess with both the foundations of society and the concept time itself and it’s a bit weird to think that it’s coming to an end, almost like stepping out of some surreal alternate reality.

Months, weeks and days have melded into one another and become one long unstructured mass of time and, looking back, it’s hard to believe that I’ve achieved anything or done anything significant.

As a result, I thought it would be useful to write a post to remind myself that I have done some things this year, aside from of sitting on a sofa in my oldest tattiest hoody, staring into the existential abyss whilst stoically making my way through a family size bag of Doritos.

LIST OF 2020 ACHIEVEMENTS SOME THINGS I’VE DONE

  1. Survived 365 surreal, weird, stressful 2020 days.

2. Watched several of Boris Johnson’s ‘addressing the nation’ speeches and only considered punching the TV once or twice (exhibiting considerable emotional control).

3. Recovered from a spiraling Amazon addiction after realising that buying loads of things to help with stress (candles, incense sticks, meditation journals etc.) was only making me more stressed about the state of the high street and also the state of my bank account.

4. Managed to keep in touch with most of my friends, despite being confronted with my own face on Zoom more than I would have liked.

5. Didn’t shave my legs for the entirety of Lockdown 1.0.

6. Didn’t wear a bra for the entirety of Lockdown 1.0.

7. Briefly considered wearing a bra when going to the supermarket…

8. … and then didn’t (I’m sure that’s feminism or something… and by ‘something’ I mean extreme laziness).

9. Became closer to nature by taking lots of relaxing walks in the park.

10. Became closer to my dogs by taking several distinctly less relaxing walks in the park.

Swan was angered when Jessie made a unconsidered attempt chase it in what was potentially the most terrifying moment of my life to date.

11. Ran out of perfume and avoided buying more from Amazon by discovering a cheaper alternative.

12. Learnt to juggle (3 balls, not general life responsibilities)

13. Shaved my brother’s head and briefly considered becoming a barber. #RethinkReskillReboot

14. Resisted a sudden impulsive urge to shave my own head whilst bored and looking for something to do.

15. Briefly tried to eat more healthily to counter an increased amount of sedentary sofa time but then decided that it was a difficult time and I deserved to treat myself.

16. Did yoga like 10 times and only broke one item of furniture in the process.

17. Discovered a brand new way of burning calories.

18. Discovered a new comeback that has proved useful for whenever I get yelled at by groups of youths in the street.

19. Got bored and built a really tall tower out of used toilet rolls.

I mean, it looked a little bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa before it fell on top of me so it was basically like being on holiday.

20. Took up mindfulness and meditation and stuck with it even though my body seemed intent on conspiring against me.

21. Survived several mental breakdowns.

23. Had more time to write and draw (it may have been an awful year but at least I’ve got a few decent cartoons out of it!)

All in all, I may have entered 2020 with a fresh rush of energy and a resolve to strive to become the best version of myself that I possibly could be. And I may now be ending it by dragging a significantly less impressive version of myself towards the finish line.

But, all things considered, I reckon that is the biggest achievement I could have hoped for.

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I Think I Might Be A Background Character In My Own Life…

When I was younger, I used to have a very vivid imagination and spent a lot of time immersing myself in fictional worlds.

When I watched films like Lord of the Rings, I always identified with the main protagonists – I thought I’d be brave and courageous like Arogorn or Legolas or loyal and determined like Sam.

I guess I assumed that when a great crisis came along that threatened the entire world, I would grow up to be one of the heroes at the centre of the action, facing the threat head on.

However, as I’ve progressed into adulthood, I’ve come to realise that the person that I perceive myself to be doesn’t always match up with the person who I actually am in reality.

For a while now, I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that I might actually be one of life’s generic background characters and, if anything, the coronavirus pandemic has served to confirm this.

Nowadays, I’ve drastically lowered my expectations.

If I were a character in Lord of the Rings, I wouldn’t be Frodo or SamWise Gamgee – I reckon I’d be one of the bog-standard Hobbits that sat on my arse in the Shire whilst shit went down, progressively making my way through multiple meals a day with no real idea of what was going on.

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This is a more accurate representation of how I’ve spent my days in this time of national crisis.

Sitting at home with my thoughts is challenging in its own way.

Whilst I may be feeling powerless to change external circumstances, at the beginning of April I decided I could still adopt the mindset of a hero and work on myself so that I would exit lockdown feeling more physically and mentally robust than when I entered it.

My childhood protagonist complex kicked in again and I had visions of myself effortlessly holding my body in strenuous yoga positions like Luke Skywalker in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’.

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However, if you’ve read my previous blog post, you will know that my attempts transform myself into a zen yogic goddess weren’t particularly successful…

As the days and weeks have melded into one long strange expanse of time, my self-disapline has run off with my sanity, leaving me with a physical and mental state that more closely resemble Jabba the Hutt and that weird crazed rat creature that hangs out with him.

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