Great name for a band, right? 

Well, whilst Saggy Marigolds might be the best ensemble you’ve never heard of, it is in fact a pseudonym for a powerhouse of talent in my gaming group. And by talent, I don’t just mean around the board. 

Two names. Two people. Two skill sets. See, now, you were expecting one person for a moment there, weren’t you? Zoink! [Although, whilst great to start strong, I fully appreciate I now have only myself to blame if reader engagement starts dropping off the blog cliff!]. 

Ok, so let me say at the outset that Saggy Marigolds is most definitely not a case of the whole people package being more than the sum of their parts. As with evolution itself, rarely has two heads on a singular body been better than one. Individually, they rock. Simple as. And when I have the privilege of interacting with either of them, my day is better.

But I didn’t know Saggy or Marigolds until a few months ago. And yet, not knowing them now would leave an obvious void. 

And by that, I do not simply mean a space in time otherwise spent messaging, gaming, and chatting with them (although that would happen too.) No, there would be a particular kind of emptiness left in its place.

Now, if this is starting to sound a little creepy in the “Single White Female”  sense, please don’t be alarmed. I won’t be buying them any puppies nor will I be doing anything gruesome with a pair of stiletto heels! 

I assure you that I am not obsessed with either Saggy nor Marigolds. But I am in awe of each of them and surprised by their effect upon me. Strange for people I have only recently met, but current circumstances are dictating some rather unique situations.  

For all of its destructive force, Coronavirus has changed the world. It has changed what we previously took for granted. It has even changed the ways we undertake our most basic functions. Washing, eating, sleeping, working. You name it, we are all adapting it to ensure we can get ourselves dressed in clean pyjamas ready for a day of Zoom work calls, life-schooling, and boredom baking. 

I should mention at this juncture that I am not sitting here in full PPE as I simultaneously eat my cornflakes and type (believe me, I have tried, but spoon plus milk plus visor plus keyboard make for one messy breakfast). The pre-food ritual of hand-washing as we sing along to four rounds of Happy Birthday does, however, make every meal an event! (I am still wearing my tin-foil fedora, though, in case anyone is interested 😉). 

It hasn’t stopped there, of course. Everything we do has changed. I have previously written about my supermarket guerrilla warfare tactics, the digital gaming revolution, and our home-schooling-home-working headaches (all of which I reserve rights to return!). But something which I have started to reflect upon in greater detail is the effects the pandemic is having on relationships. 

And whilst I can think of a thousand examples whereby COVID has placed unimaginable strain upon our primal need to  maintain social contact (not for a moment ignoring the darker side of enforced cohabitation), my own experience has been thankfully quite different. 

You see, with the benefit of distance, I have started to undertake a personal audit. Taking inspiration from our ability to follow and unfollow people on social media at the click of a button, I have been considering a serious social spring clean. 

Like the mutant Tupperware caged food-monsters lurking at the back of the fridge, some relationships become toxic over time. The energy expended to maintain these associations surpass the enjoyment and fulfilment received from them until you end up in negative emotional equity. They quite literally suck the life-blood out of you. 

When considering my own friendship group, I was initially reluctant to deep-dive, preferring instead to rely on historical high points and mellowed memories. Anxiety sneered as it reminded me that I didn’t deserve to have friends, let alone the autonomy to pick and choose them. 

But, with Coronavirus raising the stakes, I buckled up and tentatively started to explore. 

Ooft. Like watching a showstopper cake wobble on Bake-Off, it made for uncomfortable viewing. Realising that some of the friendships which I previously held to the highest order had become the most devoid of true, lasting affection was a body-blow. 

Oldest friends, closest relations. People for whom I would still do anything and who I thought had my best interests at heart. Seen through the prism of Coronavirus, however, their effect on my life now seems less “Yellow Submarine”  and more “Eleanor Rigby”.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not in any way grading my friends by what they do for me, give me, or how many times I see them. Some friendships are so enduring that years can go by (as they currently are) without contact and our next meeting is like no time has passed at all. The mutuality of respect and fondness bearing the absence. 

My best friend moved away last year, having been living with us temporarily when the pandemic dropped. Work requiring re-location rather than (hopefully!) anything I said. Her departure was a gut-punch and, although we message, video chat and voice memo daily, I feel the effects of her physical absence. 

Strange really as we aren’t overly touchy-feely. We don’t scream, squeal, or wrap ourselves up in each other for comfort. Until about a decade ago, we were tight but no Thelma and Louise. Fast forward a decade, however, and I am the Ron to her Hermione. When she is there with me, things somehow feel less overwhelming. Less scary. Less impossible. 

Like Bearded Moon, she knows every step of my journey, she sees my scars, she never judges. She is not invincible, far from it. But she lets me in. She trusts me. And for her, that is what counts. That is a true friend. 

Whilst I therefore would like to say that I have gone all Marie Kondo on the relationships red flagged for removal, I would be lying. I am not there yet. They definitely don’t bring me joy, however, the strength to stand up to a toxic friendship is an active work-in-progress. Anxiety’s doubt cloud hangs heavily over me but Bearded Moon and my best friend are standing by, umbrellas at the ready for when I can. 

So what does this have to do with Saggy Marigolds? 

Well, thanks to Coronavirus, I am very pleased to say that they have come into my life. And, notwithstanding the novelty and virtual basis of our initial connection, I already consider them friends.

And, in all honesty, I am the lucky one because, for all of my musings about relationship reciprocity, I am most definitely getting the better end of the friendship bargain here. Saggy is cooler than me. She is funnier than me, and she is most definitely cleverer than me. 

For example, she has a PhD which she doesn’t talk about because well, that would (a) ruin her too-cool-for-school street cred and (b) because she habitually underestimates just how accomplished she is. 

Working in a scientific field where success and authority is often measured solely by the presence of a Y chromosome, Saggy is living proof that anything they can do she can do better. She is a woman not to be messed with at work and the same plays out around the gaming table. 

Having recently completed an epic challenge whereby Saggy and Marigolds played their entire game collection in a month, the stats were ever in her favour. This is not to detract from the stellar efforts of Marigolds, of course, but Saggy is a player predator and she got game. 

Not one to be left behind, Marigolds is another tour-de-force in his professional field and around the board. I lose track of the number of games I have lost as he pulls a killer combo move at the last minute, granting me the humiliation of last place. 

But, underlying the fun cardboard competition and mad-cap gif-battles we gear up to fight, I have quickly developed a true affection and admiration for him. He is kind. He is funny. And, just like Saggy, he is incredibly intelligent. 

Their relationship is of course a private affair. But, from an onlooker’s perspective, they seem to have that special sauce. Patience diluting restlessness. Gentility calming ambition. Enthusiasm weakening uncertainty. They are different. They are equals. They are Saggy Marigolds. 

A few months back, they didn’t know me. I didn’t know them. There is still so much I don’t know and may never know about them, but what I do know I like very much. 

Although our paths are very different, at this moment in time, I see reflected in them a lot of my own life with Bearded Moon. Indeed, some of the first photos I saw of their house was mid DIY project and that is something which courses through the veins of my husband and me faster than quick drying filler. 

There are differences there too, though, of course. For example, they are incredibly fit and work out religiously, putting my daily one sit-up routine (undertaken simply the pursuit of actually getting up) to shame. They also have two gorgeous cats who pepper my Instagram account with their fluffy fabulousness. But that, I think, is part of the growing bond between us. I enjoy learning about the things they like and they (seem to!) tolerate my predilections in equal measure. 

More than that, however, there is no pressure in our relationship. The weight of time-spent is absent, friendship dues of years past not having any sway in our connection. And whilst that might make our relationship somehow less valid to some, for me, that freshness, that genuine desire to be friends with someone rather than going through the motions simply because they were a friend once, is a much more powerful experience. 

If you would also like to see Saggy in action, check out her Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/saggyhead