Wednesday, 23 December 2020

A Tale of the Sea by Barbara Gaskell Denvil

Read the story ... guess the song

here's a clue:

Marriage is always a hard won ompmise.

Yes, I shouldn’t complain, and anyway, I’m not complaining. I love my wife, she’s a darling, even if she does spent half the day combing her hair. OK so that’s an exaggeration, but my sweet girl is, I admit, a little obsessed with her appearance.

But she’s not alone. Yes, OK, I’m obsessed by her appearance too. She’s so beautiful, I can’t take my eyes off her. Just plain gorgeous!

We’ve not been married long, and we didn’t meet long before that, so I don’t pretend to know her as well as I should. But she’s a darling. And that hair I moaned about – well, forget it. Her hair is so long and beautiful, I don’t care if she combs it day and night.

Let me introduce myself. I’m Hugh, and she calls me Hughie, and I’m just turned fifty one. She’s younger than me – looks about twenty, but she says she’s not that young. She’s just lucky to look younger than she really is. 

My gorgeous Grace, and I call her Gracey, is absolutely gorgeous. How she ever fell for me, I’ve no idea. OK, so I’ve got a bit of money behind me, but she’s not after that. I mean, for goodness sake, we never spend any.

We live by the sea, and I love to sit with Gracey in the evenings watching the moon come up, its reflection like a magic silver balloon on the dark rippled water. We both love the sea, and the night with all those stars glittering while Gracey kisses me, like a little star herself.

It’s only a summer house, and I bought it a few years ago, thinking that I could retire early and laze in the heat every day as I watched the holiday-makers dance on the sand and paddle in the shallows.

The cottage is in Italy, way down south, an island bobbing cheerfully in the Mediterranean, no nasty tidal waves, just the sunshine wishing us good morning with a blurred stripe of lilac and pink across that flat blue horizon. Sometimes a mist comes in and I scurry indoors and put the kettle on. But most of the time I swim, or sit on the rocks, lie on the sand or have a little swing on the hammock I’ve put up. Trouble is, getting off the hammock is easy. Getting on needs a scientific  code and a degree in mathematics. I slept all night on it once, a hot night of course, but there wasn’t room for Gracey to slip on with me, so I didn’t do it again.

We like to cuddle up at night like all newly married couples, and that’s the best of all. At night, during the day, on the rocks and everywhere else too.

I know I mentioned watching the tourists dance on the sand. I must admit that’s a load of baloney. When I first decided to buy a holiday home, that’s what I imagined doing. But then this house came on the market and I couldn’t resist it. We’re actually quite isolated and I like it like that. There’s no holiday villas here except my own and there’s no regular ferry, only the small one I order myself when I want to go to the mainland. I like the odd visit to Sicily, and of course I need to go shopping sometimes. 

I nipped over to Syracuse a week back, to buy a couple of surprise presents for Gracey. She likes unexpected gifts. Well, doesn’t everyone? She’d given me this gorgeous crystal, shimmering green and as heavy as a rock. I use it as a paper weight. It looks grand on my desk. So I bought Gracey a new mirror with a real silver back and handle, and a hair brush to go with it. Rather special I must admit, and it cost a fair bit. But like I said, money’s not my problem.

Another thing I have to admit and that’s my money came from. Yes, I used to be a smuggler. I was captain of a ship sailing from Europe out to the East, bringing back cheap cigarettes, and illicit cocktails, and I made a fortune. Indeed, I ended up buying my own somewhat smaller boat and carried on the same business. No drugs. Nothing naughty. Just taking good stuff from where it’s legal to other places where it cost a whole lot more in the proper shops. I suppose you’d call it helping others to avoid paying tax. 

That’s right, a smuggler. My little boat through troubled waters. Not so bad. But don’t tell anyone else or I might end up in the nick. I loved it actually, sailing into the sunset, cruising through those summer nights, and on into the stunning beauty of those first rays of the dawn.

There is no horizon at night. The sky and the sea are the same colour and the stars reflect so that you feel you’re swimming through the sky. It’s all the same. But then you stand on deck looking out to the east and there it comes, first just a flicker, and then that magical line of lightest gold, thin as a ribbon, slicing through the black above and the black below.

Anyway, I’m into all that sweet memory stuff again, and you’ll be bored. So I’ll hurry on. I was a bit scared of getting nabbed, so I retired. I could afford to. I even sold the boat, called The Splash – well, I’ve always liked to keep things light and humorous, even when I’m strictly speaking a criminal.

What, me? Never.

So after I met Gracey, I sold my dear little boat to a friend I’d made in Syracuse, Paolo, who used to help me with the smuggling and knew the business. He was delighted, paid me well, and whenever I need a lift to the mainland he comes to get me, and sails me back too. The perfect arrangement.

Grazie, Paoloa. Sei un vero amico.

I phone him to come and get me when necessary but of course sometimes he’s away at work – if you call it work. I’ve often thought they should build a bridge between these little islands. It’s not so far. But too far I expect, since I certainly couldn’t swim it. I may not be poor, but I could never afford that either.

Paolo got on well with Gracey too of course. Gracey herself had loads of friends, mostly other girls, and they all loved to meet up on our island, sit around on the sand and laugh together. They sang together too, and knew plenty of languages between them. I invited them into the house for supper quite often, and I liked cooking for them. I made special cakes with cream, stuff they’d never been used to, so I liked to show off my special skills a bit.

We’d sit around chatting till night swept down across the sky outside, and the cool night breeze sang at us through the open door.

So yes, very romantic and as beautiful as you can imagine. 

But there are small problems too. Oh, honestly, what marriage can ever exist without the occasional difficulty? I can overcome most of them, but it’s a bit awkward sometimes. And I can’t help thinking when I get older, I might need a doctor, and I might not be able to cook so much, so I might not want to live in such an isolated area. After all, at fifty one I can see old age slipping across those sweet blue waves, ready to claim me.

Unfortunately there’s so much Gracie can’t do. It’s not her fault, but my darling girl just can’t cook and can’t go shopping either. We’re happy together, and she calls me her beloved Hughie. But my sweet angel needs carrying up from the water to the house, and so do most of her friends. Oh, I’m not complaining. She isn’t that heavy. My Gracey is slim and beautiful. I am always awed by her amazing shape.

Indeed, we first met when I was sailing back to the island on The Splash and I saw this amazing beauty bobbing in the water close to the prow of my boat. We were too far from the coast for a tourist to be swimming, so I panicked, and jumped overboard to rescue her. It was a bit of a shock when I carried her onto the deck.

But even so, without any legs, my wife certainly has disadvantages. She doesn’t complain either. I mean, she’s used to it, and she’s always been like this. And I suppose that having a tail instead of legs can be an advantage too. Wow, she’s a great swimmer. She’d win any race in the water and get the gold medal, but of course she couldn’t do it. The Olympics wouldn’t ever permit a mermaid to enter their competitions.

I love Gracey’s tail. The scales are like silk, and they shine in a hundred soft watery colours. But that’s another problem. When I get old, will she just swim off into the deeper oceans and leave me forever?

So I’ve been ever so lucky, but you’ll understand when I say it’s not all one hundred percent easy. But I also repeat, I can’t complain. There aren’t many men who get the chance to marry a mermaid.

         did you guess the song?


I hope Barbara won't mind me doing a quick plug for my own novella


I was born approximately two hundred years ago (It sometimes feels that way) in Gloucestershire, England, right in the heart of the Cotswolds. After a few years I moved to London and fell in love with the history which oozes through the old stones, and the medieval atmosphere leaks from the beautiful old buildings. For many years, I walked the old cobbled lanes and researched the 15th century from original sources, and the books in the British Museum. I worked there in the Department of Ancient Documents, a place which I adored, full of scrolls illuminated by medieval monks, and hordes of informative parchments.
My father was an academic and playwright, my mother was a retired teacher, and my sister was an author of fantasy. I had no other passion except the arts, and books

Already a passionate reader half crazed by the avid consumption of literature, I had grown out of Enid Blyton when I was about six. Next came a passion for Georgette Heyer, although far too young to understand romance. Once again it was the historical details I loved and I moved quickly onto Shakespeare, Dorothy Dunnett, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and a host of others.

I started writing. Nonsense naturally! But I kept it up and eventually write articles and short stories for current magazines and newspapers. I was also a tutor for scriptwriting, and a reviewer for Books and Bookmen. That kept me busy until I married. A husband and three little girls (including identical twins) were a full-time job, and for most of the time I also worked at secretarial jobs, keeping the threat of starvation at bay and paying for the baked beans.

After leaving my husband, I started writing again but this time I was distracted by something different, as I had a wonderful 18 year romance with a man who lived on his yacht in the Mediterranean, sailing during spring, summer, and autumn, and exploring Europe by car in winter.

My partner died, and I was bereft, deciding to come to Australia for a change instead of sitting around in stagnant tears. Writing again, and seriously this time, I wrote full length books in all my favourite genres. I was accepted by one of the big top 5 publishers, and two of my historical crime/mysteries were published in the traditional manner. However, although I was reasonably well paid and sold reasonably well, I also found myself disliking the control system.  I had to write as commanded, insert bucket loads more romance, accept covers I hated, and generally do as I was told.

Now, happy and free, I self-publish, and enjoy every minute of my writing. I live in Australia, adore the weather, the birds and the wildlife, and live a placid life during the day and a wonderfully exciting one in my dreams at night.

I have written fantasy and historical fiction. Very different genres, but all are crime mysteries in one way or another. I have almost finished my children’s series (Bannister’s Muster series, for middle-grade children), no crime here, but a vibrant mixture of history and fantasy. After this is complete I am moving onto a series of modern crime mysteries, and I’m looking forward to that.

Writing is and always has been my passion, now that I am able to do this full time, I am in my element and life couldn’t be better (a little more sunshine might help though).

alas - last story tomorrow!


  1. Wonderful Barbara!! Gracey being a mermaid completely escaped me until the end and I couldn't even get close to guessing the song!!

    1. Thanks so much, Richard. I appreciate the words of such an excellent writer

  2. Posted on behalf of Marina Osipova: "I have expected an absolutely different (mundane) outcome of the relationship. That is why the intriguing and charming story took me by surprise. Loved it."

    1. That's so kind, thanks so very much - a lovely boost for Christmas Eve


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