As I was drawing this page, I began to notice just how much Mortessa’s Accountant (the elderly chap telling the tale, for those of you who have forgotten) resembles my grandpa.

My grandpa is a great guy – Unfortunately, he’s pretty much on the downward slope right now. He has vascular dementia, and a recent infection afflicted him with delerium, driving him out of the house and into the hospital – The staff of which I would like to take this opportunity to thank profusely. The Royal Alexandra Hospital, the NHS, and the quality, polite, and professional staff who work there – you’ve always done right by me and my family.

We’re hoping that grandpa will be able to go home soon, but it certainly won’t be without care workers assisting him and my gran. But at least he’ll be home – it wouldn’t feel right putting him into a retirement place without at least giving him one last shot in his own house. Besides, from a purely selfish point of view, I would be extremely sad if we would no longer see Grandpa sat in his chair, napping, or offering pithy (if occasionally non-sensical) remarks.

Grandpa has lived a heck of a life. He was an able seaman in the Royal Navy, something he is still justifiably proud of. He’s been all over the world, he’s fought against pirates in Malaysia, he’s even jumped into the ocean over the Mariana Trench. He also nearly died while on-base in Cyprus from meningitis, and needed two holes drilled in his head to relieve the pressure – he still wears the dents proudly on his crown. He’s fallen off the gun-decks. TWICE. Cracked his skull and sustained a little bit of brain damage. Did that bother him?

Did it hell.

Grandpa kept on going, and keeps on going, although I suspect his plans to escape from the hospital to join up with the Russian Convoy won’t be coming to fruition any time soon. He wasn’t a quitter, and even now he still has a strong will, even if his body and his mind sometimes don’t quite let him do what he wants to do.

I fully credit Grandpa for kick-starting my interest in storytelling. As a kid, and even as I grew up, he was always telling me fascinating wee stories. The aforementioned Mariana Trench incident, where he dived off the deck, and hit the water… And kept going… And going… And going… Sinking down past the ship’s propellor, wondering if he was ever going to stop! Or when he was fighting in Malaysia and the man next to him got shot, the bullet going right through him, and the gore going everywhere – the perfect tale to tell to an eight-year old. Or the time he got arrested for breaking into a car in London while on shore leave. Not to steal the thing, but because he was utterly pished and just needed somewhere to sleep.

He doesn’t tell his stories all that much anymore, nor does he threaten to sing the Song of the Clyde so often. But he retains his sense of humour, his pride in himself, and more importantly his pride in us, his family. He would often look at me and my sister and, with great conviction and admiration, that we had obviously inherited his intellect and good looks. Which would swiftly be quashed by one or more other relatives gently reminding him that we’re not actually genetically related (this started long before the dementia kicked in).

Whether or not we’re genetically related is an utter irrelevance to me, to my sister, dad, mum, aunt. Grandpa Sandy has been, and still is a major influence in my life, and I love him dearly. Without him, I would definitely be a different person. I wouldn’t have my love of stories, nor my desire to match him and tell my own. I wouldn’t have my respect for the navy, or be so aware of its rich (and sometimes baffling traditions).

I know that one day, I’ll have to say goodbye to him. But I’m so happy he’s still with us now, and that even though he still believes himself to be aboard the HMS Brighton, he is at least happy, and that he is still somehow capable of recongnising us and conversing with us like he always used to do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and wipe my tears away! If you’re drinking at all, or you plan on drinking later, I’d ask you to raise a tot o’ rum to Alexander Ross, one of Her Majesty’s finest, and a damn good man.

My Grandpa.