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The Mermaid who hated the sea


Chia-Mei walked along the sea-shore. She loved walking along this rocky coast, towards the series of flat rocks where she liked to sit and read to herself, listening to the tides as they came in and the wet roar of the sea , and to the far distant horizon of where the sea ended , and the pale view of the sky that matched so well with the darker colour of the water beneath. But she was not going to be alone today. For, just if front of her, there sat a figure. It was a young girl, who sat quietly  singing to herself, and at the same time was combing her long waist-length hair with a small comb. And from the waist down, she had a long fish-like body with a pair of fins at the end.

            ‘At last’ thought Chia-Mei. ‘I’ve seen a mermaid!’ And she went boldly up to the mermaid, without even thinking about whether she might be afraid or not. The mermaid looked up at her as she approached. ‘What are you looking at!’ she snapped. ‘Haven’t you seen any one doin’ their ‘air before’ ‘I’m so sorry’ stammered Chia’Mei. ‘It’s just that, that I’ve never seen a mermaid before’. ‘Well, you ‘ave now, Now get lost’. But Chia-Mei still stood there. ‘Please’ she said. ‘Can I just sit and talk to you? I won’t be a problem’. The mermaid looked at her and said disgustedly, ‘Oh alright. Just for a while though’. So Chia-Mei sat down and watched the mermaid comb through her long flaxen hair. ‘Trouble with this sea-water’, she said at length. ‘it really messes your ‘air up a treat. Can’t do anyfink wiv’ it’. ‘Can I help?’ asked Chia-Mei. ‘I can help you comb it through if you like’. The mermaid sniffed but silently passed the comb across to Chia-Mei. She squatted down  and began to gently comb through the mermaid’s long, silky hair. She was amazed at how fine it was, and how it almost seemed to glow with it’s own brilliance.

            After a while, Chia_Mei asked, ‘ Why are you so cross? You don’t need to be. What is it that annoys you so much? It’s a shame. You don’t need to be like this.’ The mermaid looked at her sharply and became silent for a few moments. Then she began her own story. ‘I’ll tell you why. Some time ago, I fell in love with this young  sailor. He was from London, he was. Pretty good, innit? But I really liked him. He was a nice bloke. He fell overboard, and I picked him up, like, so he could get back. And then we sort of stayed together. I used to follow his ship, so that I always knew where he was, and he used to see me and shout out  to me, whenever he saw me following. But, in the end, the bleeder never came back. Turns out he’d met another girl on land and went and got married, didn’t he! So I never saw him again. Really broke me up, it did’.

            Chia-Mei looked ate the mermaid with real concern. The mermaid’s eyes were welling up with tears, and she felt really sad for her. ‘Where did you get your way of talking? You don’t sound like a mermaid at all. Not, at any rate, what I was led to believe by what I’ve heard about mermaids’. It was the wrong thing to say. The mermaid’s eyes flashed, and she said angrily ‘What do you know about mermaids! You don’t know anytfink. I got this speaking, as you call it, from Charlie, that I really loved. If I don’t speak proper, then that’s too bad. Why don’t you just clear off, and leave me to it! I don’t need your sympathy. Get lost!.

            Chia- Mei retreated away for the sulky mermaid, and then stopped. She looked back, and saw that the mermaid was really crying. She was crying miserably, and suddenly Chia-mei felt really sad, and wished she hadn’t said the words that she had used. She went back and sat down by the mermaid. ‘I’m sorry’ she said. ‘I wish I hadn’t said that. And I didn’t mean it. Please forgive me’. The mermaid looked at her, and wiped her nose with a bit of dry seaweed. ‘It’s all right’ she muttered. ‘Get a bit miserable sometimes. Not your fault. ‘But why are you so sad? said  Chia-Mei persistently, for she was a curious and caring young girl. ‘I will try to help, if I can. Please let me’. And the mermaid thought for a while.

            She replied gently at first, and then with increasing anger. “I don’t like the sea! It’s so wet! It’s all horrible and it messes me hair up like nobody’s business! That’s why I have to spend half me time trying to comb it out! And all those ‘orrible slimy fish! And them lobsters, they give you a nip as soon as look at you, and as for them crabs – ‘orribble!

Why I was born a mermaid’ I don’t know. I’d rather be on dry land with legs. The sea – Yuk! The things that that water does to your hair! It really ruins it. It’s not bleeding fair! Why do I have to be a mermaid! I don’t even get on with that other lot of mermaids. Such a whinging lot, with their nice dulcet tones and their so-called sweet singing voices! I don’t care about them at all! Who cares! It’s a rotten life being a mermaid, I can tell you!. And she subsided into an angry silence, flapping her fins on the flat rock that she was sitting on.

            Chia-Mei sat silently for a while, listening to the mermaid’s sobs, trying to think how she could help. Then a sudden idea came into her mind. ‘Can I ask you something? What is it that you really want to do? Apart from just swimming around?’The mermaid paused and thought. ‘ ‘I’d really want to explore. Sunken cities and all that. I’d really like to see other things, other people, how they lived, everything. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. But I don’t know anything about it.’ ‘I tell you what, said Chia-Mei, firmly,

\’I’ll bring you some books about exploration and about finding out about things. My grandfather has got some marvellous books about all this’ The mermaid looked rather doubtful. ‘I can’t read or write’. ‘But that doesn’t matter’ exclaimed Chia—Mei. ‘ I can read them to you, and I can teach you to read if you want me to. Chia-mei suddenly looked at the mermaid, and realised how beautiful she was, with her gentle oval face, her dark brown eyes, with long eyelashes, and her long flowing hair. And suddenly felt sad for the mermaid, who didn’t want to be a mermaid, but wanted to be someone else. And she felt like crying.

            But every week Chia-Mei and the mermaid met, and Chia-mei read her stories of

exploration, of discoveries, and of adventures. The mermaid listened with great  excitement. ‘How amazing exploring is! she exclaimed. Chia-Mei had noticed how she had nearly lost all her previous accent. Now her voice was more musical and more fascinating. When Chia-Mei pointed this out to her, she blushed. ‘Perhaps that’s right. Sometimes you pick up things from other people that you don’t know about. But maybe, maybe, I am finding my true voice at last’.

            Then, finally, a few weeks later, the mermaid broke the news to Chia-Mai. ‘I’m going away.  I’m going to go exploring. You see, I know where the lost city of Atlantis is. I’m going to look at it. I want to see what it’s like. I will come back and tell you. Because, you see, I can tell, that you are going to be famous one day. You will be. And I hope that you remember me’. Chia-Mei’s eyes glistened with tears, and she realised the mermaid’s eyes were too. They silently hugged each other, the salty but mild fragrance of the mermaid lingering with her. ‘I’ve got to go now’ said the mermaid..’But I will come back some day and tell you about what I have seen’ ‘Please!’ shouted Chia-Mei. ‘Please tell me your name!’ The mermaid looked back and laughed – a sweet, gentle laugh. ‘ My name is Miranda.’ And with that, she laughed again and  dived into the sea.

Frank Jackson (02/11/06)

To Graham.

I think I first knew Graham through the practiced-based thesis group that I was attending as a guest and contributor. I subsequently got to know him because we lived quite near each other, and I often met him either in the street or in some alehouse!  From the start, I always regarded him as a scholar and intellect. Pure instinct on my part, but I knew that was what he was. I always had a great respect for him, because I knew he was interested in antiquity and its reflections in past studies, and I thought that this was a wonderful area to work in. He could be somewhat irascible, but he was always very kindly to other people, and genuinely went out of his way to help them. I always found him an interesting and shrewd man to talk to. In a way, he was a slight mystery to me, because I knew nothing of his background, so he was a kind of a walking enigma. But I genuinely liked him. I respected his intellect, which he never tried to push in your face, and his knowledge, which was very considerable. I would always hope that, in this world, there will be a place of honour for Graham, and others like him.

Frank Jackson  (01/11/06)