Once upon a time, in the oceans at the ends of the world, there lived a mermaid.
Being a mermaid was a great life, what with the plentiful supply of seafood, sunshine and swimming in the cool blue ocean.
And for many years she enjoyed her solitude.
Then, one day, a ship sailed close to her rock and moored anchor there.
“Fair mermaid” the ship’s captain called out, “these waters are known to be treacherous by all who have sailed them. We are trying to get home from the new world; can you help to guide us past these dangers?”
The mermaid scratched an itch beneath one of her armpits and contemplated this for a moment.
“Yeah, sure mate. You want to go about five miles due north of here, then take a turn north west for about ten miles, then north again for ten miles then you can start to come back north easterly and head straight for home. But whatever you do, don’t go straight north east from here.”
There was some murmuring amongst the men on board.
“That takes us a whole week off course!” they whispered.
Then the captain thanked the mermaid, ordered anchor to be lifted and set off in the direction that she’d warned them of.
Just as they were disappearing into the distance there was a loud crunch as their ship hit the rocks, took on water and promptly sank into the sea.
A few weeks later a second ship arrived.
“Beautiful maiden from the deep, I am bewitched by your beauty. Say that you’ll marry me and I will take you to London to live as my wife in luxury!”
The mermaid stared up at the fawning ship’s captain with a raised eyebrow.
“Nah, you’re alright pal, I think I’ll just stay here.”
“You have broken my heart sweet siren, but at least let us know how to get home through these troublesome tides”.
“Yep. You want to go about five miles due north, then take a turn north west for about ten, then north again for ten then you can come back north easterly and head home. But don’t, repeat do not, go north east from here.”
The captain, breathing in her body and beauty with his eyes nodded. Then he lifted anchor and sailed north west as he was instructed. Hours later however, he suddenly stopped, realising that he had forgotten the directions he’d been given. Then he abruptly turned the boat eastwards. Shortly afterwards the mermaid watched his ship, still visible in the distance, swallowed whole by a giant sea-monster leaping from the deep.
Months later a third ship arrived and the mermaid, perched on the sunshine on her rock, rolled her eyes as it approached and laid anchor.
The ship’s crew, peering nervously over the side, stared down at her as she sunbathed.
After a few minutes staring, the ship’s captain finally plucked up the courage to speak.
“Oh fearful siren, we have been warned of your temptress ways that have sent so many fine sailors to their deaths! Do not tempt us nor try us for we are ready for your tricks! Simply tell us how to get home and spare the lives of good men that wish you no harm.”
The mermaid frowned.
“Right. I’ve had just about enough of this crap.”
“First of all, it’s not my fault that I’ve got such a spectacular body. Can’t help it.”
“Secondly, even if I were into sweaty bearded men who spend their lives floating around on bits of wood with other sweaty bearded men, the physics aren’t exactly going to work “downstairs” if you know what I mean…”
“Thirdly, if none of you can remember or trust my instructions then that’s your own damn fault!
“I mean, if one of you had bothered to ask, then I’d have been more than happy to write it down!”
There was a stunned pause as the captain and crew recovered from her strong words.
“Tis true what they say!” said one of the crew, “The monsters in these waters be terrifying!”
And with that, they all decided to start new lives and turn back the way they came.