Rifling through my desk drawers the other day in search of an elusive document I needed, I came across a file I had totally forgotten about. Opening its green cover revealed a spiral bound collection of short stories I had written – from a cycling pig to the story behind an oil painting I owned – well over twenty years ago typed on my old Amstrad 9512 (what a great word processor that was!). I had filed them away because I thought these stories were all pretty much rubbish. Looking at them now with a seasoned and trained eye, I’ve come to the conclusion they actually weren’t half bad. One in particular brought back fond memories as it was written as a bedtime story for my granddaughter when she was about two years old. She always asked for it whenever she came to stay.
Called The Adventures of Simon Seahorse, at the time I’d intended to write a collection of stories about this little seahorse, each with a moral. I think having written the first, I came to the conclusion I wasn’t really a child’s story writer and was still trying to find my feet as a writer. This was long before I’d even begun to think of writing whole novels; short stories being a progression from the poetry I’d written.
Reading Simon Seahorse now I can see it is very much in the vain of Finding Nemo but I am glad I hadn’t thrown it away, grateful for advice given to me at a writing course in London to “Never, ever throw away anything you have written. Never delete or erase for it will always come in useful somewhere one day”. I don’t think Simon will ever turn out to be the great adventurer I’d hoped he would be but it was fun writing it at the time and reading it my granddaughter. I wonder if she remembers him?
I’ve included a short extract below and would be interested to hear your opinion of it and ask as I do of my paintings: Hang, slash or burn? Or in this case: Publish, hide away or shred?
Simon Seahorse heaved a huge sigh. He was so bored! Every day it was always the same – nothing but eating to do. Now, eating all day was all very well, and yes, there were advantages, of course, but let’s be honest about it, eating all day, day after day, isn’t much fun, especially when it’s always the same – nothing but plankton and seaweed. It was plankton for breakfast, plankton for lunch, and guess what was for tea? Yes, plankton, followed by a nibble of seaweed for pudding.
Simon wanted to have some fun for a change. The trouble was all his brothers and sisters ever wanted to do was eat. All the other little seahorses wanted to do all day was eat. They didn’t want to play and swim and enjoy the ocean. It was all so boring obeying his parents’ orders, for they were the same each day, too!
“Now don’t forget, children,” his Mummy would say. “Eat up all you can so you will go big and strong like Daddy.” “Yes, Mummy, we will,” all the little seahorses would chant in chorus. “Eat up all your greens or your tails will never stay curly,” Daddy Seahorse would add. “We will.” “And don’t forget to keep well away from Garry the Grouper, or he’ll gobble you up for his supper.”
“Okay Mummy, we won’t forget,” all the little seahorses would reply. All except Simon, that is. He would just open and close his mouth, pretending to answer. He wasn’t frightened of Garry the Grouper. He’d never seen him but he’d heard all about the big fat black fish that patrolled the edge of the Sargasso Sea where they all lived. Mean old Garry wouldn’t catch him for breakfast, nor for lunch and especially not for supper.
So today, Simon decided he was going to have some fun instead. He swam alongside all his brothers and sisters, pretending to nibble at the little bits of plankton that drifted by on the current, darting in and out of the seaweed, and when he was sure they were not watching, and keeping one of his little eyes on his mummy and daddy, Simon slipped his tail off the long weed stem he was holding on to, and swam silently away from the group.
He swam and swam, wiggling his tiny pink body over towards the next patch of floating seaweed where he knew his one and only friend, Julie the Jellyfish, lived.
Mummy and Daddy Seahorse didn’t like him being friendly with jellyfish as jellyfish are well‑known to be rather fond of eating young, tender seahorses, or any other little fish for that matter.
But Julie was different. She, too, was bored with floating about all day just trailing her long tentacles in the water hoping to catch a fish or two for her dinner. She would drift over close to where Simon usually hung about, but instead of wanting to eat him, she only wanted someone to talk to and play with.
Julie was delighted to see Simon swimming her way, although she was very surprised to see him alone today. Normally his parents wouldn’t let him out on his own for he was still very young, and the ocean was a very dangerous place for a little seahorse to be swimming about in all alone. There were lots of big nasty fish about, especially Garry the Grouper, who loved nothing better for breakfast than little lost seahorses, and there were lots of strong currents in the water that could sweep you away great distances so that you became lost, never to find your way back home again!
“Hello, Simon,” said Julie when he finally reached her.
“Hello, Julie,” Simon replied. “Will you play with me today? I’m so fed up with just eating. Let’s go and find some fun.”
“Oh let’s,” Julie said, shaking her long tentacles with excitement. “But are you sure? Does your Mummy and Daddy know where you are?”
“Of course they do,” Simon fibbed. “I’m almost grown up now. I can swim where ever I want to, as long as I’m home before dark!” He was so convincing that Julie believed him.
“All right,” she said. “What shall we do?”
The two friends decided they would swim out further along under the floating seaweed and see what they could find there. Neither of them had been that far before so it was going to be quite an adventure, so off they swam side by side.
As they went, they could see lots of other seahorses clinging onto the weeds by their curly tails and all were busy eating. They saw lots of other jellyfish too. Some small like Julie, others much, much bigger with long trailing tentacles that stretched for yards beneath them.
“You have to be very careful of those long tentacles,” Julie warned Simon. “They sting if you touch them and then they haul you in and gobble you up, so keep well away from them.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Julie, I’ll be careful,” Simon said. “Will your tentacles grow that long, and will you sting if I touch you?”
“I expect I will grow much, much bigger. As big as my Mummy and Daddy, I think. My tentacles already sting like theirs, but because I like you and you are my best friend, I will not sting you. Ever!”
Don’t forget – you can catch up on my Slimming for George campaign here