Son: Teach Dad to play ‘Animal Crossing’. It’s flattering. He wants to show he’s interested in my life etc. But, quickly, he becomes very needy. Wants to visit my island, water my orchard, chat to me all the time. Will he behave like this when I get my own home?
Me: Exhilarated. I have my own island in ‘Animal Crossing’ (‘a peaceful paradise of your own making’) I love collecting seeds and doing DIY! Getting on fabulously with son, who is a patient tutor. Can’t wait for tomorrow so we can have another session together.
Son: Discuss my ‘dad dilemma’ with Friendship Group. Many report similar cases. Parents insisting on ‘doing things together’, faking interest in stuff we like. ‘F’ says dad’s behaviour is a type of cultural appropriation, like the Elgin marbles. Warns me if Dad is allowed to carry on, he’ll want to join my WhatsApp and Snapchat groups, effectively invading every part of my life, like Japanese knot weed. We agree it is important parents are given clear boundaries or they will take the mickey. Resolve to be cruel to be kind, tonight.
Mother: Easter Sunday. Panic: haven’t bought grandson an Easter egg or flowers for daughter in law. Must get to shops. Perhaps church service, too.
Me: Mother heading out the door. She’s forgotten (again) that going out is dangerous, possibly deadly. I better stop her.
Mother: Government says I can’t go out, according to son. Half of what he says is unintelligible, the other half unintelligent. Says I will be arrested if I go shopping? But daughter in law says he’s right so come back inside. Daughter in law has bought me an Easter egg to give grandson. Wonderful woman. Son says I can go to church online but I have never heard such nonsense, even from him.
Me: Wife asks me if I have heard of Middle-Class Bingo. Tell her I’ve been playing it all my life. Feeling bruised by last night’s bottle of wine and intense initiation into ‘Animal Crossing’. Slip upstairs for a quick snooze, as wife heads off for a run. As I drift off, I wonder if I will ever go on the tube again?
Son: Accidentally wake up. Rearrange duvet and go back to sleep.
Mother: ‘Death on the Nile’ is on. Met David Niven several times. Utterly charming man. Wrote a brilliant memoir, whose name escapes me.
Me: Wake up and wonder if son wants to play ‘Animal Crossing’. Decide not to wake him up as he is only young once.
Wife: Sour dough bread in a Dutch Oven. New recipe. Very excited. Play Handel’s ‘Messiah’ while making the dough. Can hear ‘Death on the Nile’ from the sitting room. Turn up the volume on the Messiah. Battle of the bands?
Wife: ‘V’ brings coffee around for a chat in the front garden. Husband lurks around the conversation, like Fester, and manhandles the red Japanese maple, whose feathery leaves are blossoming. When he brings out the hedge clippers, I ask him to go and get dressed. ‘V’ very patient.
Wife: Slobbery is getting me down. Tonight we are going to dress up for dinner and eat outside. Clarify with husband that this means trousers, shoes and a shirt. There’s enough time for him to go iron something, if he wants to.
Mother: ‘Death on the Nile’ is as dated as I am. As ironing is banned because it’s a holy day, I retire to bedroom before tonight’s dinner sur l’herbe.
Wife: Mow lawn.
Wife: Clean and varnish garden table.
Wife: Zoom with daughter.
Wife: Shower. Is it wrong to drink a G&T while dressing for dinner or just another banal box ticked in Middle Class Bingo?
Son: I have laid the table in the garden. This means carrying: 4 plates, 12 items of cutlery items, 4 wine glasses, 4 water glasses, a salt cellar, a pepper grinder, 4 condiment bottles (some unpleasantly sticky), 4 napkins, 4 chair cushions, a bottle of red and white wine and a jug of water. This is quite a lot of exercise (300ft there and back?). I realise we are all in this together, but I am sure dad will pretend he has done his bit tonight just by grilling 3 steaks. We need to collect more data about who is actually doing what to ensure the pain is shared equitably. How?
Me: Propose we watch ‘Apocalypse Now: Final Cut’ after dinner because (1) it is the greatest film ever (2) son is studying ‘Heart of Darkness’ forA Level and this movie is based on it. I announce Son says he’s already got his English A Level and doesn’t believe it can be as good as ‘Bridesmaids’. Mother doesn’t want to be reminded of the apocalypse on Easter Sunday but and wife is game on, as long as she can do her crocheting while it’s on. Watching Apocalypse Now while crocheting feels disrespectful, like knitting at the guillotine. But I’m happy her vote gives me a working majority over the TV remote.
Wife: Thoroughly depressed. Crocheting cocked up, too many G&Ts? Movie equally grim.
Me: ‘Apocalypse Now: Final Cut’ enormously uplifting film. This version has a section involving French plantation owners and a sex scene with Martin Sheen, which I have never seen before! Only £3.99 on Amazon TV! Is it relevant to lock down? Absolutely. As Kurtz says in the movie we must look horror in the face. Isn’t that what we’re doing with Covid-19. Head upstairs to play ‘Animal Crossing’ with son.
Son: Dad’s outside my bedroom wittering on about the face of horror? If he asks to play ‘Animal Crossing’ am I strong enough to say no? Must I set boundaries?