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.

The Best Dad Ever

Your Dad is a natural parent.  When you were born, he showed me how to hold you, clean you and change your nappies.  If I remember correctly his exact words were “YOU’RE going to have to do this one day”.  In brief, having parented me for 15 years, he already had it down to a fine art when you came along.

It’s not all one-sided, in return I protect Daddy from his two main fears; running out of chocolate and, of course, his only natural enemy, the spider.

If you’ve ever wondered why Daddy vacuums the house so much, and why it’s Mummy that insulates the loft, it’s just part of the ongoing Daddy vs Arachnids war. Daddy can hoover up the small ones, but as you know Mummy has to catch the big ones with the more traditional glass and a bit of card.

Daddy Versus Arachnids

Mummy can’t kill spiders because they eat flies, and she hates flies.  Also, as the mediator between Daddy and the Arachnid species, I don’t really want to start any vendettas with the bigger ones.  At least not until I’ve finished the loft – where Daddy won’t set foot for love nor money until I’ve spider-proofed it completely. 

Daddy isn’t afraid of much else.  Although that’s not always a good thing either, for example when he chases down people, with what are clearly gang-tattoos, to give them a good telling off for dropping litter.   

Thing One – Daddy may well be where you get your urge to police people from.  Although, that could also be Grandma Tiny-Face, as she is equally keen on rugby-tackling litter-louts twice her size.  Though, to be fair, EVERYONE is at least twice Grandma’s size. 

Daddy has always been a very kind person, he especially loves looking after old people, but he’ll help anyone who crosses his path.   

If you see him out and about he’ll invariably be helping an old dear across the road (not always me), picking up their spilled groceries, or waiting with them for an ambulance whilst other people (like Mummy) step over their cold motionless body and hurry about their day. 

As you already know Daddy is the “fun” parent and Mummy is the screechy-killjoy one.  He’s the one who swings you up in the air (usually straight towards fan-blades or a mirror) and Mummy’s the one who screams.

There is no right way to be a parent in the same way as there is no right way to be a human (although in both cases there are plenty of wrong ways) but if there was a right way to be a fantastic Dad, your Dad would be as close as it’s possible to get.



If you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned Grandad El Paso (my Dad) on Father’s Day, it’s because I took him out for lunch and he was perfectly lovely the whole time. 

It was great for our Father-Daughter relationship but the downside was no new material for the blog…


The Family Memory

There has long persisted a myth that one side of our family has the most diabolical memory known to man, or as it is more commonly experienced in our family, known to woman.  This myth has persisted because none of us can remember if it’s true or not, or why we keep finding our purse in the fridge.

Not everyone in our family suffers from “the memory”;  Thing Two you are lucky enough to have inherited yours from Daddy’s side.  Bad news Thing One, I think maybe it comes with the ADHD.  …Although I forget why I think that.

A poor working memory doesn’t have to be a disability though.  Over the years I have discovered a few handy tips to cope with it.  I’ll impart these to you now, in writing – because…   well, I forget why but here goes.

Never trust your memory – Write It Down

“Of course I’ll remember my best friend’s new baby’s name!  It’s SO them, it’s unique, it’s beautiful, it’s…    shit what is it?!”

Keep an address book, preferably brightly-coloured and too heavy to move.  Write in it, methodically, all the important details – especially addresses and phone numbers, and especially that one number you are 100% certain you will remember tomorrow – you won’t.

Keep a calendar, somewhere highly visible, a place where you naturally glance every day is ideal.  If the screen of your gaming PC is a little inconvenient, maybe try on the back of the door.

Post-its AND Technology – Two-Pronged Attack

“Oh-my-God I’m so excited, the finale of my favourite show ever is on tomorrow night, I can’t wait to find out what happens with the dragons, and the White-Walkers and the…   Last night, it was on last night! That’s why all these spoilers are on Twitter.  Arrggh!”

Set a reminder on the TV, AND stick a post-it next to the telly, or the door, or on the fridge, preferably all three.

Also, TOP-TIP, marry someone with a better memory and get them interested in the programme.  Make sure they’re the kind of person who won’t start watching it without you (*gives Daddy serious side-eye*).

Explain It – Friends Will Understand

I mean pick your moments obviously.  A job interview, for example, is NOT a great time.

Once you’re safely out of the probation period of a job (having narrowly survived on post-its and Outlook reminders) that’s the PERFECT time to let the cat out of the bag.

It’s good to tell friends early days so that they are more understanding when you remember every word of a Star Wars film but can’t remember that today is their birthday.

True friends will probably overlook the occasional lapse BUT, true friends are also worth making the effort for.  Employ all of the above techniques to do everything you can to remember their stuff.  If only, to show them how important they are to you.  By the time you lapse, hopefully they’ll have seen you turn up to a night out in your slippers enough times to have made their peace with it.

It’s a Handicap, Not an Excuse

Everyone has something they don’t do as well as others, it doesn’t detract from what they’re great at, and this is just the same.  It’s not a get out of jail free card though – literally, I’ve checked with a policeman.  It’s simply an area we have to work harder at to achieve the same results as others.

Most of the time, with a bit of effort we can function just like everyone else, standard hit and miss, except that when we miss, we don’t remember the embarrassment. Win-win.


At any one time there are at least three family members concerned they have dementia, but this is only because they don’t remember that their memories have always been this terrible.

I have checked the Dementia leaflets in the doctor’s surgery several thousand times and the gist of the thing is this:-

If you know who you are, where you are and who you’re with, it doesn’t matter if you can’t remember: why you went in there, what for, or the word for the thing you’re trying to tell them about, which you’ve currently misplaced.

I’ve also heard people say that people with bad memories don’t get dementia.  I don’t know if that’s true or if, as I strongly suspect, it’s just impossible to tell the difference.

Now, what did I come in here for…

Diet Advice

Everything in Moderation

Despite regularly chanting “everything in moderation” at you like a wise old Buddha, it will quickly become abundantly clear (from my similarity to a wise old Buddha if nothing else) that I have never followed my own advice for longer than the minute it popped into my head.

I can tell you some basics, like burn off more calories than you take in and you’ll lose weight.  It works both ways, take in more calories than you can use and you’ll gain weight.   

Although, if you’re lucky enough to take after Grandma you’ll be able to stuff your face with anything, then drive every single person in the room crazy by announcing how terrible it is to not be able to put on weight “no matter what I do”. 

I suppose that’s an important bit of advice, if you’re lucky enough to take after Grandma, do remember not to gloat.  Saying “I just can’t put weight on no matter how much I eat” is the equivalent of loudly proclaiming that “I have so much money I can’t get rid of it no matter how much I spend.”  It’s not only a problem that most people want, it’s also one they’ll hate you for, immeasurably.

She’s No Renée Zellweger

Also, to an extent Grandma is telling only a partial truth, when she says “no matter how much I eat” or “how much I try”

(a) She rarely eats food with a high fat or sugar content.  Yeah, sure, she can put away a roast dinner (eventually, once she’s cut it into one hundred pieces and chased it around her plate for an hour) but it’s not like she’s ever sat down and eaten a box of donuts to herself, even once.   

(b) She’s never really “tried” to put on weight – That’s an out-and-out lie.  She’s not Renée Zellweger preparing for a role, and she’s not in training to become a boxer either. 

Remember the old woman lies sometimes, so before we take her word for it let’s do a controlled experiment at least, where we make her eat only pizza and cream-cakes for a week and see if she still “can’t put on any weight”.

I suppose the most important thing I can tell you about diet is not to get too hung up about it.  There are no bad foods, just bad portion sizes.  …Actually there are LOADS of bad foods, anything with more than one ingredient that doesn’t sound like food for a start.

OK, so some general guidelines:-

  • Drink water when you’re thirsty – hydration is important for health
  • Foods made of food are good
  • Foods not made of food are usually less good (also applies to drinks)
  • You can tell what is food by the way the ingredient list says things like milk or butter
  •  Vice versa if it says things like Chemicalum Biexplosionate or Arsium Flypoosite
  • Smaller portions and exercise will help you lose weight
  • Larger portions and no exercise will make you put on weight
  • Food is not your enemy, or your friend, it’s just food

Most importantly of all, do as I say and not as I do.  

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. 

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:-


To My Eldest Child

“Not Werewolves Just Hairy” was my response to your first ever question, and it still stands, we are not werewolves, we’re just hairy.  You were seven when you asked, and I’ll never forget your disappointment at the answer.

Certainly, I do get a little cranky around a full moon and I can blunt a bic lady-shave with just a glance but I can say with some authority that is the extent of the similarity.  I’m not saying we’re not magical or mythical creatures of ANY kind, but until that Ancestry DNA test comes through we can’t know for sure exactly what percentage of us is Yeti.

I’m just going to repeat something here for clarity, it was your first EVER question, and you were SEVEN.  You skipped the early intense questioning phase most children go through, (“why is the sky blue?” “what are legs for?”) preferring instead your own special brand of “I already know EVERYTHING” spoken with an exasperated eye-roll.

At the time I was so proud of you for being independent and self-sufficient. A few short years later and we’re preparing for your SATS with me trying to cram 10 whole years’ worth of general knowledge into your reluctant little head in a few short weeks and frankly I regret not taking a more Victorian approach to parenting in your early years.

The truth though, is that not everyone goes through life in the same way, at the same time or with the same results, and I thought what if you go through the questioning phase MUCH later?  Like in your forties.  So this blog is to hopefully answer all the questions you might have when your curiosity finally surpasses the stage where you can be left in a locked room with a box marked “secret” and yet never open it.  (Seriously, how do you do that?!  I can spend four hours Googling one thing!)

This blog is for you, and for my more curious, and infinitely more dangerous, youngest child, and for anyone else who has similar questions they need answers to (non-legally-binding, casual, often random, answers) or for anyone who wants to share their own family quirks, questions and answers.

My first piece of advice is, ask MORE questions.  To clarify, that’s not the same as “question everything” (no-one likes that guy) but question often and thoughtfully, sometimes silently, but DO question, it’s important.