Why Did We Once Holiday With Drunken Pirates?

This is a very good question, and one you are sure to ask one day soon.  The short answer is it was Grandad’s 70th birthday.  The long answer is the same, but in the following excruciating detail:-

It all started the way most of our holidays with Grandad start, with him talking us into going by lying about what the holiday would entail.

Grandad with big eyes, “Please-please-please! A quiet family holiday? Is that too much to ask for MY special birthday?”

A tearful Grandad had gone into great detail about how important it was to him to spend some real QUALITY time with his Grandchildren, after all, he “might not have many more years left”…  *sniff* *fake cry* *sniff*

Ten massive ladles of guilt later and the next step was for me to talk your Dad into it, which wasn’t so easy because he’d been on holiday with Grandad before.

Mum: Of Course I remember “the horror”, but come on, it’s only once every ten years. Dad: Like Pennywise from the film IT?! That can’t just be a coincidence...

I tried to point out to Grandad that we don’t really go on holiday with other people in our family and that considering we struggle to spend an hour or two together the rest of the year it might not be the best idea, and he said:-

Grandad rolling his eyes: Is this about Blackpool again? I wasn’t drunk. Everyone likes to rest their eyes when traffic slows down, it’s normal!

Foolishly we agreed to go, on the promise of separate accommodation, and for an absolute maximum of 3 days.  I mean, a quiet family holiday, how bad could it be?!

Hints of changes to the original itinerary soon started to creep in…

Grandad: I’m thinking of inviting a few work pals. ...And Sue, Jim? Maybe Dave? ...And remember my neighbours from down the road - I want to say... Ken and Barb?

The thing is, whilst Grandad enjoys the fantasy of spending quality time with his family, what he really wants to do is party with his friends, and because in his mind he is compromising in the first place by spending time with his family, he should really be allowed to party with his friends.

Anyway, long story short we end up on the North East coast, also known as the coldest seaside resort in the British Isles – it makes Scotland look like Barbados. 

Grandad in the rain covered in snow “It’s really quite bracing once you’re used to it!”

There we were shivering on our “close family quality-time” holiday with Grandad.  Just us, and 20 to 30 of Grandad’s closest friends and acquaintances, plus a couple of people whose names he thought “might be Ken and Barb”.

You’re right, this doesn’t explain the “Drunken Pirates” bit.  Ok, so Grandad had mentioned that we should bring pirate outfits for you kids and ourselves for a “special birthday outing”.  Your Dad joked that he hoped it wouldn’t involve a boat as we were all recovering from ear and balance problems and you as small children couldn’t swim yet.

Mum rolling eyes: Don’t be ridiculous it won’t involve a boat. Pfft, a boat?!

Of course it DID involve a boat.  Grandad had hired a “Pirate Galleon” to take us around the bay – he thought he’d hired it exclusively, but he hadn’t, so our close family unit, and entourage of 30 by now VERY drunken 50-70 year-old pirates, were accompanied by 20 or so very sober non-pirates.

The other passengers seemed less than impressed to be on board a sea vessel with so many inebriated pirates, especially as Grandad held up the boat’s departure for ten minutes to wait for the slower drunker pirates.  We tried to pretend we weren’t with them but obviously that was made all the more difficult by our matching pirate outfits…

Naturally, being small children, you and your cousin bloody LOVED being on the boat.  Your Dad, and I, and Auntie Kate, were less keen…

Boat, three kids, each of us holding onto a kid for dear life. Me sobbing “Oh God! We’re all going to die!”

Amazingly, we all made it back in one piece and unfortunately no drunken pirates were harmed so they continued to party noisily into the night whilst we kissed the ground and thanked God for our separate accommodation.

Luckily the next day Grandad organised some “real quality family time” crab-fishing off the pier, just us, and him, and 20 or so very hungover pirates, trying miserably to attach dead fish-heads to hooks.  Which obviously is also TOTALLY NORMAL. 

I am fairly certain we WILL be “busy” on his 80th.

Other People’s Thoughts?

Should you care what other people think about you?  I mean, have you met other people?!   

Let me tell you a little something about other people.  Other people like that TV show you think is stupid.  They like that popular book that you think is dull.  Other people think specifically is pronounced “pacifically”. 

Ok, yes, SOME other people, but if you extrapolate those results to include all the other nonsense in the world that you disagree with, like say fruit teas, I still think it’s safe to say that other people’s opinions, en masse, are no useful measure of anything.

Ok, so we’ve established that you SHOULDN’T care what other people think about you, but to be honest you already knew that didn’t you?  No one is sat around wishing that they cared more about what other people think.

Nobody likes the idea that someone else might think badly of them; it’s not a fun feeling.  As humans we are hard-wired to care what other people think, it’s a survival tool left over from times where you could be murdered on a whim.

Everyone cares at least a little about what other people think, but it is still better for your mental health if you can learn to care a little less. What you’re aiming for is to take the caring well below the red line of obsession, whilst still keeping it well above the blue line of psychopathy.

There are two things that have helped me to stop caring what other people think about me quite so much, and I’ll share those with you here.

Firstly, the realisation that other people seldom think about you, and when they do, it is short-lived.  I can promise you other people spend most of their awake-time thinking about their own lives, not yours. 

Secondly, people who really know you won’t judge you unfairly, and people who don’t know you, aren’t in a position to judge you.

It really is mind over matter, or as Dr Seuss so brilliantly put it:

I once had a “friend” who told unpleasant lies about me, in whispers, to our social group.  When I found out I was devastated and embarrassed initially, until I realised that anyone who really knew me had known immediately that the lies were untrue as they found me and told me so.   

This one incident in my life, which seemed so small and petty at the time, completely freed me from caring about what other people think.  It really hammered home the point for me because a couple of people did believe the lies and I discovered for myself that I honestly didn’t care, because I realised that they didn’t know me at all.

It is SO much fun to be yourself, don’t let people who don’t matter take that away from you.  Please resolve today to not let what other people MIGHT think stop you from being you. Instead, do what you choose, say what you feel and be YOU.

Freedom Of Speech – Why?

Now you might think it’s ironic that I am about to big up the importance of being able to speak freely, when 90% of the phrases I have screamed at you throughout your childhood involve the words “shut” and “up”. 

Silence isn’t always Golden

Sure silencing other people sounds great, but there’s a problem.  Where free communication stops, conspiracy festers.  Underground groups form and then the ignorance they whisper to each other goes unchecked by anyone better placed to explain the truth.

It’s only human to want people that you don’t agree with to shut up, and one of the best reasons people have for wanting to limit free-speech is that it’s bloody hard work arguing with idiots.  BUT, and here’s the important bit, one of the WORST reasons people have for wanting to limit free-speech, is to silence all opponents.

There are countries in this world that do not have freedom of speech, and for precisely the worst reason above.  So we must fight hard to maintain the freedoms we currently might NOT enjoy, but do HAVE.  Even if that means our ears do bleed occasionally.

Listen To Opposing Views 

You don’t have to listen to someone whose general values and opinions are the opposite of yours, but you should, because you might learn something 

…even if it’s just something to use against them later. 

Seriously, the phrase “know your enemy” was invented for a reason.  It’s easier to outgun someone if you know what they’re packing.

Another important reason to listen to people you disagree with, is to maintain objectivity in your own opinions.   Living in an echo-chamber, where nothing is ever challenged, not only damages your objectivity, but worse it damages your ability to argue your case effectively.    

Auntie Kate and I have never liked the phrase “If you’ve got a problem, say it to my face!” because we both hate confrontation and agree it’s far more comfortable for everyone, if people say things behind our backs instead. 

We are of course right, it IS way more comfortable, but it neither identifies nor resolves problems, for that unfortunately, you have to let others speak out.

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.


What’s Wrong With Grandad?

You’re right, you don’t even need to ask which Grandad, because one of them’s a “normal”, and the other very clearly isn’t.

Whenever I have talked about blaming my “parents” for the way I am, I did of course mean one of them, VERY MUCH more so than the other.  I mean Grandma’s nuts but we like her.  Everyone has one good parent and one we’d rather we could go back in time in a Dolorian to ensure our mother never met.  My Dad, your Grandad, is two parts Travis Bickle, to one part Alan Partridge.  He’s an unusual mix of psychotic and hilariously awkward.

I’m going to start with a positive example of this because in all honestly, on this blog I intend to slag him off a LOT.  One of the best things Grandad ever did for me, aside from figuratively burning an example-based manual on “How Not To Behave” into my psyche, is he gave me true inner self-confidence.

Grandad gave me inner self-confidence, not by spending quality-time with me (obviously you’ve met him – or the side of his head whilst he’s on his mobile anyway) but by always making sure I knew I was loved.

Now “ordinary” parents might do this by being available, asking about your day, or as we do, monitoring your every move as though you were made of porcelain.  Not Grandad, oh no, this is an example of one of the conversations we’d regularly have about how much he loved me:-