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by Sam Mosley

My Granda always claimed that he came from Viking stock, and indeed the area of Northumberland that he hailed from is steeped in Viking history. I relate a period in his life where Granpops was behaving in a manner even loopier than our standards.

Nanna had noticed his loopy shift some time back but decided that it was no one’s business but their own. Then, one night, she burst into our front room, bellowing and sobbing, causing me to miss a vital element to the plot in Coronation Street. Finally, managing to pause the control button, we sat Nanna down and, between sobs, unfolded her sad tale.

Apparently, somewhere in the middle of Songs of Praise, Granpops jumped up and announced that their marriage was illegal.

She thought he was mucking about and replied ‘Oh really, well it was you who decided to be wed in the custom of a traditional Viking marriage. Surely even you can't forget that ceremony. I know I'll never forget the embarrassment, even fifty years later.’

‘Embarrassment?’ he questioned.

‘Indeed,’ she replied. ‘Particularly the element where you smacked my naked buttocks six times with a live mackerel!’

‘That's correct,’ Granpops concurred. ‘For it is the true way of the Viking. However,’ continued Granpops, ‘the reality being it wasn't really a live Mackerel. I was actually wielding a mackerel from a tin.’

Naturally Nanna, taken aback, broke into a fresh outpouring of sorrow: ‘Tinned mackerel? How do you think that makes me feel? Dirty, that’s how.’

We sedated Nanna with several stouts and a Brandy which cooled her down to a slow shaking of the head and the repeated murmur of ‘What will people think?’ 

Realising that there was a possible danger of Nanna staying at our house, we made urgent enquiries into the whereabouts of Granpops.

A bitter Nanna snarled ‘Who, the love child of Spartacus? Well,’ she leered, ‘you know how he was always going on about wanting to be buried at sea in a burning boat?  Well, I waited till he was asleep…’ She stood up, slapped her thighs and amongst a roar of laughter announced ‘I GRANTED HIM HIS WISH.’

Between her squeals of laughter, she pointed to nowhere in particular and squeaked out ‘He’s well alight and floating down the Tyne.’

Following the stunned silence, Big Sis grabs the Yellow Pages. ‘Who do you contact for that then?’

We shrugged. ‘Police? Fire Brigade? Viking Rescue?

We shrugged again and released the pause on the television.

Suddenly Granpops was amongst us, singed, wet and wild.

‘It's a miracle,’ he roared. 'I was about to enter Valhalla when the Viking God Odin sent these kids to rescue me in a boat they had twocked off the river police. They thought I was doing it for Children In Need, had a whip round and gave me 6.33... All right, eh?’