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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My D of E Experience – Part 2: Mountain Rescue Edition

Before you go on a DofE expedition, one of the key skills you have to learn is map-reading.

Learning how to map read is important because you are not allowed access to your smart phone during the expedition and if you get lost you can’t just Google Maps your way out of the situation.

In my opinion, giving a teenager a map and expecting them to know which direction to go in is a dubious concept. I didn’t even know who I was back then, let alone where I was going.

Despite this, I somehow managed to make it through my Bronze expedition without getting lost.

My Silver practice expedition, however, was a different story.

On the trip, I was in a group with three other girls; Emma, Anita and Nashwa.

The first two days of the expedition had gone quite well. We had not been chased by cows or any other types of agricultural livestock and I had only fallen head first into a bog once.

However, on the penultimate day, we were walking down a steep hill into a valley and, when we reached the bottom, it dawned upon us that we had absolutely no clue where we were.

We had been concentrating so hard on not decking it and sliding down the hill on our backsides, that we hadn’t really been concentrating on where we were going.

Now, the smartest thing to do at this point would have been to retrace our steps, walk back up the hill and try to get our bearings from a higher vantage point. But we’d already walked up several hills that day and, quite frankly, couldn’t be arsed walking back up another one.

We knew that when we had started descending, we had been going in the right direction so we assumed that if we carried on walking in that direction, we would eventually arrive somewhere vaguely near the campsite.

After around two hours of walking, the sky was getting a bit murky and we were becoming increasingly concerned. We were in a pretty remote area and hadn’t seen a road or village for several hours and there was nobody we could see to ask for help or directions.  

At the beginning of the expedition, we had been given an old brick phone to use in emergencies so we rang one of the teachers and told her that we were lost. She then replied with what remains to this day one of the most useless responses I have ever received:

Considering that the very nature of being lost means you tend to have no idea where you are, this question was pretty hard to answer.

We tried to describe our surroundings on the off-chance that this would help her to pinpoint our location.

However, it turned out that finding a location in the Peak District on the basis of that it had some trees and some grass was the equivalent of finding a specific place in the city with some cars, a lot of concrete and a few mad-looking pigeons.

Eventually, we gave our teacher the coordinates of our last checkpoint and she told us to stay where we were and set up camp.

She reassured us that we couldn’t have gone that far and told us that some of the expedition leaders had set out to look for us so we would probably be found by the end of the day.

Feeling somewhat reassured, we set up one of our tents and tried our best to relax and get some sleep.

However, when we woke up the next morning, we still hadn’t been found.

To make things worse, a thick layer of cloud had come down into the valley, restricting visibility and, for some reason, we no longer had any signal on our phone.

Logically, we should have known that teachers had a safeguarding responsibility not to leave any students stranded in some random remote area of the Lake District and remained calm.

However, as we were four teenagers, we immediately over-dramaticised the whole situation and freaked out.

After several minutes of catastrophising, we exhausted ourselves and stood looking at the cloud that created a slightly ethereal atmosphere around us.

‘Maybe we’ve died and gone to heaven,’ Emma said quietly.

‘No if this was heaven then there wouldn’t be so much sheep poo everywhere,’ I replied, more to reassure myself than anything else.

After a while, the cloud transformed into a fine drizzle and we decided to pack up our tent and gear and start walking in order to warm ourselves up.  

We set our compasses in the general direction we were supposed to be heading in but, other than that, we had absolutely no idea where we were going.

To make things worse, around twenty minutes into the walk we came across a sheep skull lying on a rock in a small stream. Of course, our brains immediately rocketed into over-analytic panic.  

After we had been walking for what seemed like an age, we finally came across a sheep shed which was extremely exciting as it was the first thing we had seen in over 24 hours that remotely resembled civilisation.

We rushed inside, relieved to have found some shelter from the rain that was slowly soaking through our waterproofs.

Once inside, we unpacked our rucksacks and got into our sleeping bags.

As it was the last day of our expedition, we were running low on supplies. In terms of food, we had half a packet of Tangfastics, a Cuppa Soup and two special K bars between us.

Assuming we were miles from civilisation, we immediately put a rationing system into place, reasoning that if we all limited ourselves to one Tangfastic a day, we would maybe be able to last for a week before we starved to death.

Although it was nice to be out of the rain, the fact that we were no longer walking gave our minds space to ruminate and it wasn’t long before our thoughts started to spiral.

We continued on this train for several minutes, digging ourselves deeper into a pit of hyperbolic despair until:

We all fell silent, somewhat consoled by this thought.

We had been sitting in the shed for around 30 minutes when Nashwa noticed that a bar of signal had returned to the phone and we briefly considered calling our mums with our last words.

Then, worried that this oasis of signal would be temporary state of affairs, we thought it was best to try and call for help. We decided to bypass ringing the teachers and go straight for the big guns and call Mountain Rescue.

When Mountain Rescue picked up the phone, it turned out that they were already looking for us. They’d been contacted by our teachers and had already been out searching for several hours.  

Once we hung up the phone, we were beside ourselves with relief and excitement. Everything was fine! The teachers hadn’t left us for dead and Mountain Rescue were out looking for us! We were saved!

Then a disturbing thought started to dawn on us. If Mountain Rescue had been out looking for us for hours, why hadn’t they found us yet? Were we so lost that we couldn’t be found even by Mountain Rescue? Had we accidentally walked through a wardrobe and had ended in some Narnia-like alternate universe?

Over the course of the next hour, Nashwa called Mountain Rescue several times for reassurance. Eventually, it got to the point where the operator didn’t even bother asking who was on the end of the line and just simply said the words ‘Is this Nashwa again?’ whenever he picked up the phone.

Around two hours after our initial phone call, we heard the sound of an engine. Assuming that Mountain Rescue had finally arrived to rescue us, we ran estatically out of the shed, unaware that the person who was approaching the shed was in fact just a farmer on a quadbike.

Imagine if you will, that you are a farmer going about his business in the peace and quiet of the English countryside when suddenly four semi-traumatised girls gone feral burst out of your shed manically blowing their whistles and yelling ‘Mountain Rescue’ at you.

Needless to say, the poor farmer dude crapped himself.

‘It’s me, Nashwa!’ Nashwa yelled in his face, obviously still convinced that he was part of the search team. We all waited for him to react but he just started at us, completely bewildered.

‘It’s Nashwa,’ Emma shouted, pointing at Nashwa only to be met with more confused silence.

‘Nashwa,’ I added unhelpfully.

A pause.

‘Wait are you not Mountain Rescue?’ Anita asked.

‘No. I’m just a farmer. I live in the house just down there.’

We stared at him disbelievingly. ‘There’s a house here?’

‘Yes, it’s only a two minute walk away. You’ll be able to see it when the cloud lifts.’

We stared at him and then we stared at each other, trying to process the fact that we had been sitting in a cold windswept shed for hours, convinced that we were miles from civilisation and beyond hope of rescue when, in fact, civilisation had only been 500 metres away all along.

I reckon that the Duke of Edinburgh would have been proud of us…

To read Part 1 of my DofE experience, click here. If you enjoyed this post, feel free to visit the ‘All Blog Posts’ tab at the top of the page for more. For more blog posts and drawings, you can also follow me on Instagram and Facebook .

I Should Not Be Allowed To Play Board Games…

I don’t really consider myself to be a competitive person.

In general, I would rather spend my energy cooperating with others, as opposed to trying to beat them.

However, there is one area of life which poses an exception to this rule – playing board games.

Nothing brings out the worst, most primal aspects of my personality quite like participating in a game of Monopoly, Cluedo or Kerplunk.

Logically, I am aware that getting overly competitive when playing board games is ridiculous.

I know, for example, that ‘The Game of Life’ is not as important as my actual life. However, when I am actually playing ‘The Game of Life’, the outcome of the game rapidly becomes the single most important thing in existence and I genuinely care more about the success of that teeny tiny little plastic human in their teeny tiny plastic car than I do about my actual human self.

This being said, most board games are specifically designed to encourage competitiveness. For example, the title of the game ‘Frustration’ is indicative of the fact that it is meant to induce a feeling of mild frustration in those who play it.

However, the phrase ‘mild frustration’ cannot do justice to the raw untamed rage that I experience when I am losing a board game.

It is as if all the competitiveness that I should be using in other areas of my life is stored up and released all in one go. All semblance of respectful and dignified adulthood crumbles and is replaced by an all-consuming desire to win, no matter the cost. 

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I’m Worried That I Worry Too Much…

I have a tendency to be quite an anxious person.

I think it’s impossible not to experience some form of anxiety in our interconnected modern world world.

Advances in technology have meant that we are exposed to more electronic stimuli than ever before (eg. emails, online news articles and social media notifications) and it is difficult for our brains to process all this information without becoming overwhelmed.

Humans have highly active imaginations.

On one hand, this is great because it enables us to think creatively, visualise solutions to problems and progress as a species.

Unfortunately, my imagination doesn’t seem to want produce ground-breaking scientific discoveries or beautiful works of art and instead spends a significant amount of its time blowing tiny insignificant things out vastly of proportion.

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In the past, I have tried to retrain my brain to think in a healthier, more positive way.

However, I have found that forcing myself to believe that things are fine doesn’t give me space to fully acknowledge and process any negative emotions that I may be experiencing.

iceburg-2.pngAs a result, I usually end up desperately trying to maintain a serene and dignified outer image, despite the fact that I am feeling distinctly less fine that I was previously.

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All in all, the best way to deal with anxiety is to take time to understand how it works what triggers it so that it is easier to live alongside it as opposed to pretending that it isn’t there.

It is also important to surround yourself with people who can provide you with emotional support and, more importantly, a ready supply of comfort food.

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The Art of Taking a Good Passport Photo…

I love my passport – it enables me to travel all over the world and explore different countries.

However, there is one aspect of my passport that I do not like at all.

In my passport, I would ideally like a photo that portrays me as a happy, sun-kissed, free-spirited world traveller. Unfortunately, my current photo makes me look like a combination of a pale washed-out convict and a potato.

Now, I’m sure that there is a subtle art to taking a good passport photo – I just don’t have a clue what it is. As far as I’m concerned, it’s absolutely impossible.

In fact, I’m pretty certain that the secret to taking a good passport photo is just to have a good face in the first place, the kind of face that will still manage to look nice when it is stripped of all emotion and framed in awkwardly bright light before being stamped on an official document.

Unfortunately, I do not have one of these faces, which really doesn’t do anything for my passport photo’s overall aesthetic.img_0365.png

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