Once upon a time, a bunch of bored mariners thought it would be a good idea to put to sea in a nicked sailing ship and create havoc on the high seas by getting drunk on rum, swinging through rigging, stealing parrots and burying their ill-gotten gains on remote desert islands. Much 'yo ho ho-ing' ensued and a good time was had by all concerned before they were summarily hunted down by the grown ups and hanged from the highest yardarm in the Royal Navy. The saucy ol' thigh-slapping mince up was over.
The fashion for tight trousers, big boots, long coats, headscarves and earrings rapidly petered out and never really made a comeback until the New Romantic era of the 1980s when the Camden Palace was awash with saucy ol' wannabe seadogs recapturing that golden era, but without the parrots, Spanish gold... and being lynched by a bunch of matelots.
The Wilderness Years
Piracy in its classic incarnation was thus ruthlessly stamped out. The fertile hunting grounds of the Spanish Main were at peace and piracy really fell out of vogue. A few also-rans tried it on off the North and West coasts of Africa in the 19th century, but they weren't really proper pirates and lacked any kind of piratical dress sense. They were soon put in their place.
Certain parts of the world, however, have always maintained a piratical tradition, and hints aren't easily taken - notably in the South China Sea. Again, these aren't really proper pirates, more floating gangs of Triads, who'll slit yer throat rather than ravage your women and make you walk a plank. Their attire is also questionable and not in keeping with the accepted uniform of tight-fitting breeches and shirts open to the waist. Rank amateurs. Still, the navy gave them a shoeing on more than one occasion - after much critique of their wardrobe department. In any case, Johnny Foreigner's ships could not withstand much in the way of punishment due to them being made from paper and cardboard and looking somewhat antiquated when compared to a British ironclad.
Two things were proved:
- To be a proper pirate you really have to dress the part
- Don't fuck with the Royal Navy
Fast forward to the early 21st century. It came as something of a surprise to many to learn that piracy was alive and well and doing a roaring trade off the East coast of Africa - Somalia to be precise. What has apparently transpired was that an old Burt Lancaster movie was shown in the Mogadishu Astoria one Saturday morning and it went down a fucking storm with the locals. Inspired, they took to the waves and decided to emulate Burt and his dumb sidekick. They soon hit gold - the black variety.
But somehow, the sums were simply not adding up. How could half a dozen Irish jiggers in a leaky speedboat take over a supertanker the size of Wolverhampton armed with nothing more than an air rifle and a rusty carving knife? How could this floating behemoth containing millions of gallons (and dollar’s worth) of the very life blood of the West be held to ransom by people with no dental plan or dress sense - and under the very noses of those guardians of the seas: the Royal Navy?
It appeared that the only people with any idea how to deal with such matters were the pirates themselves – all other parties having painted themselves in to the analogical corner with Health and Safety and Human Rights concerns.
Two things were proved:
- To be an effective pirate, you do not need to dress the part
- The Royal Navy is fucked
Now everyone knows what a bunch of stymied idiots we’ve become, we’ll soon have AK-47-toting Somali pirates hijacking pedaloes off the coast of Great Yarmouth and boarding pleasure cruisers on the Grand Union Canal - and claiming benefits in the process.
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