The Best Things in Life Are Free

It’s the really unpleasant crap that eats up all our money.  The very best things, a first kiss, a sunny day or a well-behaved child certainly cannot be bought, so money isn’t the only route to happiness. 

I am womansplaining this particular saying because whilst the above is how most people, human people, interpret “The Best Things in Life Are Free”, that is not how Grandad takes it.  Grandad thinks it means “Stuff is best, if you GET IT FOR FREE”.

He Loves A Bargain

Grandad LOVES a bargain.  This is great when he’s passing a coat shop with a big sale on, as his compulsion results in an urge to buy a coat for everyone he’s ever met if they happen to be the size that’s available at the largest discount.

Evil Step-Grandma-One

It was less great when he met Evil Step-Grandma-One, who looked like a pig with a giant arse, but she was 10 years younger, which constituted a bargain in Grandad’s eyes.  He didn’t like her, but he was compelled to show off to his friends about her nonetheless.

There is another downside to Grandad’s quest to pay less.  Have you ever wondered why Grandad’s roof leaks?  Or, why mice have opened up a fairground in his kitchen?  Even though, as he buys coats for the whole world, he clearly has the money to fix these things.

Broken Boiler

If OUR boiler were to break, we would have to raise a substantial amount to pay a plumber, preferably corgi-registered, to come and fix it.  It would be a huge problem for us as, best case scenario, we’d have to raise the funds, find a reliable plumber and wait in for the repair. 

Grandad would approach this situation somewhat differently…  Grandad would start by ringing everyone he knows to “tell on” the boiler.

His next step is to continue in abject horror that anything this terrible could befall HIM.  Next he will explain why this is different, and worse, than what has ever happened to anyone else EVER, and seek to elicit some kind of consensus about how terrible the boiler’s behaviour is, perhaps in an attempt to shame the boiler back into action?

Kicking It

If that fails, he then tries good old percussive maintenance.

Can You Fix It?

His next step, and this is the particularly unusual part of his response, is to ask if YOU can fix it.

We then have a long convoluted session of a game I like to call “annoy the hell out of someone with stupid but detailed questions to see if they give in and come round to take a look”.

Once he finishes ringing everyone he knows, if that still hasn’t worked he simply moves on to ANYONE else he comes into contact with, distant neighbours, work colleagues, complete strangers…

Amazingly, this scattergun approach, coupled with that weird streak of luck that he has (or pact with the devil, whatever) eventually combines to result in locating someone who will fix things, either for beer or a reduced rate.  

However, because of the length of time this approach takes to work, it does have the more predictable outcome that Grandad always has at least one large item in need of urgent repair at any given time, and that some of the repairs he has had done are of the quality one would expect if someone was working for beer.  

…Never touch his electrics!

Grandma Tiny-Face Turns 70!

Grandma turns 70 today, but she’s not your typical 70-year-old, she is always full of energy and never still.  I should say, Grandma Tiny-Face is not her real name, it’s Christine*.  I should also explain, for anyone else reading this, that she doesn’t only have a tiny-face, she is in fact, tiny all over.  Like a little skipping happy-pixie.

Some people, cruel people, would say that she is the clear source of the ADHD that runs so strongly through our family, but I would remind them that Grandad is also a massive fidget, so really, that trophy is yet to be awarded – Although her ability to drift off mid-conversation does leave her firmly in the running.

We asked Grandma what she wanted for her “big” birthday, and after some spiel about good health and world peace, and us explaining that they were both out of our price-range, she settled on an almond tree.  She loves a practical gift does Grandma – she’d make a terrible Kardashian.

Rescue Dog That Wasn’t

Grandma rescued a little dog recently “Pike” from the mountains of Spain.  I’m not sure how much rescuing was involved, as sun-drenched mountains seem like somewhere a dog would love to be. Don’t they?

We weren’t overjoyed to meet “Pike” initially, what with us all being ALLERGIC to dogs, and Daddy having that slight phobia since he was a postman, and all the bitings and facial-scarring.  Still, we can see how much joy Pike brings to her by the big smile plastered all across her tiny pixie-face.

Grandma loves nothing more than skipping off on a five-mile hike with her little pal, but she likes to pretend that it’s a chore.  She says “phew, it’s hard work because he runs so fast!”  Then we have to point out that she’s dragging him behind her again.

We live near Grandma now and the lovely thing about that is that you both get to see more of her.  I used to love having my Grandma (her Mum) in my life and I love that you have her.  I also like that she sometimes goes to your school stuff instead of me and Daddy.  It’s so great when she goes INSTEAD of me.  What’s not so great is when she goes WITH ME.

Quick example – School calls a meeting for a residential trip, to tell us what to pack etc.  The Headmistress addresses the roomful of parents and Grandma starts replying to her like they are the only two people in the room.

High Shame Threshold

Grandma is where we get our really high shame threshold from.  Like the rest of us, I don’t think she can afford to lower it, considering how impulsive the ADHD makes her. 

For my 16th birthday she took me to the cinema to see A Cry In The Dark, and halfway through she stood up and yelled “my God they’ve found the matinee jacket!”  I tried to tell her that A Cry in the Dark was a title, not an instruction, but it was too late.

We have to forgive Grandma for these things, partly because we’re all like that, but also because of all the wonderful things she does.  She brought Auntie Kate and I up to be strong, independent, resourceful women. 

Even if sometimes she achieved this by lying to us:-

Leading By Example

Other times she led by example.  I especially love Grandma’s many, many, techniques for opening jars and bottles.  Throughout my childhood there wasn’t a door-jam in the house that hadn’t been horribly maimed in the process of opening pop bottles. 

I have never heard Grandma say anything like “I’ll have to wait for a man to come in and open that”.  I have however seen her take a crowbar to a jar of pickled onions, more than once.

Happy 70th Birthday Grandma Tiny-Face.  We hope you get the good health and the world peace that you wanted, and that, at the very least, the stick-in-a-pot we bought you turns into a lovely tree.

* Her name’s not Christine either, but then you know that already.

Why “Grandad El Paso”?

“El Paso” is not actually Grandad’s real name, I’ve used it here to disguise his true identity.  I hope that’s not too much of a shock.  His real name is Brian*.

The origin of “El Paso” is a little more complicated.  I think it can only be fully explained if

(a) you know what Grandad currently looks like, and

(b) you are familiar with the Old El Paso adverts featuring Danny Trejo as a machete-wielding patriarch (circa 2013).

The short version is, it’s because you (youngest child) used to think Grandad was Danny Trejo’s character in the Old El Paso adverts.

It’s hard to say exactly why you thought Grandad was an angry, intimidating, machete-wielding, Mexican gangsta.  Most people would describe him (physically) as more of a cross between Brian Clough and David Dickinson.   …They might also possibly say he wears Noel Edmund’s tightly-tucked-in blouses, if they were feeling particularly unkind.


I suppose it could have been Grandad’s perma-tan that led you to think he might be Mexican.  He does like to keep his tan level topped up to a “dark creosote” at all times.  He makes David Dickinson and Bob Monkhouse seem “lightly-tanned”.  He maintains it by holidaying regularly and never using any sun protection EVER.

Also, Grandad has incredible luck with the weather.  Wherever he goes the sun follows, which is unusual for a character from the dark side – I mean you’d never see Vader or Voldemort on the beach with a lemon sorbet.  On the other hand I imagine bringing on a drought is right up their street so maybe it does kind of make sense after all.

Bad Temper

As you know Grandad does have a “bit of a temper” as Grandma likes to call it.  Auntie Kate and I usually prefer to stick with something more specific, like “remember when he chased me down the road calling me the C-word?” or any story ending with a waiter saying “Please Mr Brian, you leave now, no more to fight, you be going home to sleep yes?”

Thanks to years of childhood-trauma-induced-static, the air around Grandad does crackle with tension.  Anyone who has lived with someone with anger-management problems will tell you that the hairs on the back of your neck know what’s about to happen before you do. Maybe that played some part in you mistaking him for a machete-wielding gangsta?


You’re right that moustache does look quite Mexican, but the snag with that is, he doesn’t actually have the moustache.  I added that to help disguise him, so on that basis I’d say it’s unlikely to have been the moustache.

Old El Paso Advert

All we know is, whenever the Old El Paso advert came on the TV, you would wander over, point and say “Gang-ga”. 

For a while we thought you were saying “Gangsta” and you might be some kind of child genius but then sure enough on Grandad’s next visit you walked right up to him, poked him in the shin and said “Gang-ga”.  At this point Daddy and I both looked at each other and went “Ahhhhhhhhh, yeah, that makes more sense” and so “Grandad El Paso” was born.

*His name’s not Brian either, obviously, but let’s pretend it is.


Romance – Find A Nice Girl

Now, I think I’ve made it clear throughout your childhood that I’d specifically like you to marry tall blonde girls (emphasis on tall) haven’t I? 

I estimate you will have heard the phrase “we don’t need any more short and dark in this family” roughly 18-20 million times by adulthood.  To clarify, I’ve never meant that in a Hitler-esque way, I’m not hoping you’ll kick-start a new Aryan race.  It’s simply that if my side of the family get any shorter we will disappear, and the only reason I’m suggesting we aim to increase the amount of blonde in our family is because they tend to be less hirsute people.  The phrase “Blondes have more fun” was invented specifically to point out the disparity between the amount of time spent by brunettes on body-hair removal.  Pfft, blondes.

I suppose I should cover my thoughts on personality too, rather than solely on the potentially dodgy area of eugenics…  Find a nice girl. 

Never underestimate the value of nice.  When you’re having a rough day, having someone nice to pick you up and help you through is wonderful.  When you’re having a great day having someone nice to share the joy with is also wonderful.  There is no bad time to have someone nice and kind around you.

“Exciting” is always immediately desirable obviously.  Exciting is by it’s very nature, well, exciting.  If, like me, you are lucky enough to be excited at a nice kind person, then that is fabulous, I can hope for no more.  If not, just bear in mind that when you’ve had a rough day at work, or some terrible news, excitement might be off somewhere else being exciting.

Grandad for example (did you see this coming?)  Grandad loves to bring excitement to his relationships, particularly to his romantic relationships.  Whether it be expensive flowers and a trip to Paris as a surprise date early in a relationship, or the surprise of turning up at the door menacingly after he’s been firmly dumped for terrible behaviour.  Either way, he loves to surprise.


Exciting people love a grand gesture.  If I asked Grandad to prove his paternal love for me by robbing a bank he would (or so he regularly assures me).  If I wanted a hand moving house, or fixing a leak, I can promise you that you wouldn’t see him for dust (or around 3 months until he was sure the danger had passed).  Life isn’t full of trips to Paris, it’s full of moving house and leaks and everyday nonsense.  People who can deal with everyday nonsense are the best, if you find them, grab one and never, ever, let go.