Mermaid (France)

France ~ Dordogne – 1996

You may note that this is a tale that dates back to some time ago – in fact it is from the dusty shelves of the Taggart family archives ~ so you could say we’re going in a time machine all the way back to 1996(ish)…yes, so you’ll have to picture me as a little four…or maybe five year old…actually, maybe even six year old! (I have literally no clue!) Strange, I don’t really have too many memories of the early years of my life; I think most of them are just made up ones fabricated by looking at old photos and imagining the scenes they depict…actually, I do recall  as a very, very young child scampering up to my Mother sobbing; claiming that I was not a human at all, and was in fact a robot -my proof being that I could see mechanical cogs spinning in circular cycles inside my head, and could only see black and green stripes due to my limited robotic vision…what would I do? What kind of life does a robot have in this world? How do robots pee…eat…BREATHE?! I remember the horror at seeing her immediate reaction, which was of course to laugh…and tell me that it was just a figment of my bizarre imagination – but I was never truly convinced…hmm…

So no, no real early memories – I hope that isn’t my brain blocking out something horrific…come to think of it maybe I was tested on by mad scientists, possibly even aliens…that would actually explain a lot. No proof yet though…YET.

Mulder GIF

Anyway, sorry I got a little sidetracked there – so yes, I was a young child of an unconfirmed age – and we were on a family holiday at a family friend’s holiday home in the Dordogne, France – it’s who you know! We went there a few times during our long summer school breaks, it was a lovely place – a detached country home with a vast garden, surrounded by crop fields that were a great place to play and run around in…and inevitably, get lost and cry. Naturally there was the river Dordogne just down the road which was invariably packed out on a hot summer’s day – full to the brim with reddish brown bodies, lying on a multitude of towels to try and dull the harshness of the rough rocks beneath…I was always a little bit surprised, sorry ~ understatement of the century! I was always completely freaked out by European sunbathing customs as a young child – the whole thing was always such an awkward strange process that seemed to strike at anytime when I least expected it…it’d be like…

…ahhh just walking along, hopefully we get an ice cream later, hmm that kid has a ball, I want a ball, oh that lady has nice sunglas-WHOAAAAAAA WHAAAAT?! Don’t look…but why? Don’t look…keep walking…why? …Mam why does…never mind…don’t look…they’re…wrinkled…but…I don’t…

Awkward Superbad GIF

Thankfully I am a little better with that kind of thing these days, but honestly not by a tremendous degree. Safe to say that on the day in question I saw many a woman, and man actually (some with just as large assets), with everything out – I found it bizarre that you just had to act like this was fine, normal in fact…“it’s just what they do here John” – I nodded in agreement as if everything made sense now…but was still mystified as to what strange section of the world we were making our way through, and when it was that we would be able to return to England: the land of fully clothed people and eternal winter.

Once we got to what would be “our spot”, my sister immediately suggested we escape and play in the river – I was in the mindset that I would do anything to get away from the sunbathers that surrounded us, so naturally I automatically agreed and fled to the safety of the water…while my Mother shouted about sunhats, sun cream and not going out of sight (this fell on deaf ears). In the river there is a limited a limited selection of games to play especially for weak swimmers – so after five or ten minuted of splashing each, we grew bored and opted for a switch to a fun game of…pretend to drown. Let me run you through the rules in case you are unfamiliar with this classic, which truly is fun for all the family…so what you do is this, you edge close to the strongest part of the river, (extra points if you are on your tip-toes and can barely keep your nose above water) and take it in turns to put your head under the water…you then wait a while (you know just so the drowning thing is actually believable, otherwise what’s the point?!) You then float to the surface as if you are a dead corpse…until you can’t take the whole not breathing thing any more, and then flip back upright so that the other player can rate your theatrical performance and then take their turn! I’m sure you’d agree that it is a joy-filled game! The best thing about it is that there is no potential for anything to ever go wrong, ever. Well…you know…or so we thought…I mean, it’s just a game, right?

My sister had just taken had her go,;she had flailed around quite impressively and had even added a few big bubbles out – a pretty good performance – but I was confident I could go one better…I stepped back and started to wobble, “ohh-arghhhh!” I screamed out, my sister nodded in a nice touch kind of way – I began to pull myself under the water in between shrieks, poking my head up in intervals as if I was battling with a creature that was biting at my ankles, attempting to drag me into the watery depths…my hand came up in a final push of determined life…this was like a film scene, this thing would win awards…is anyone filming this?! My mandatory after-float was also something straight from a blockbuster classic, I was motionless – head in the water, totally without life…hold on…hold on…argh! That was all I could take, so in one motion I rolled over and forced my head above the water to take a gasp of precious air. Phew, better. My sister began to applaud frenetically, paying homage to my masterpiece – I smiled broadly as I began my doggy paddle back to safety…but only briefly – the current was far too strong, and pushed with great force against my weak strokes – my automatic reaction was to attempt to place my feet on the ground for safety – but my short little stumps didn’t reach…that’s when the river pushed me away with brute force and I was gone for good…the last thing I saw before I fell to the depths was my sister’s grin…I suppose she thought this was an encore. 

Drowning GIF

There were swirls of greenish blue bubbles all around me as the water pressured my desperate limbs down and rendered me obsolete. I could hear muffled screams from the surface, but they were far in the distance. I swallowed gulp after gulp of river liquid as I tried (in vain) to draw some oxygen from my uncompromising environment. No luck. 

Just as I had given up, a powerful arm shot through the water and grabbed at my neck – what now?! Shark? Mermaid? Monster? Shark mermaid monster?! WHAT?!  I swallowed one last gulp and…

Waking Up GIF

As I burst awake I couldn’t help but spit and splutter everywhere, I went to sit up – but was pushed back down, this was followed by something slobbering on my lips – URGHHHHH! I shook around and waggled my feeble arms in a show of disagreement, I could barely see anything due to the thing that was blocking out most of the light…I squinted…squinted again…squinted once more…what was that? Who is…what?!

The creature jabbered wildly in some strange alien language, as I coughed up the river I had swallowed, but it eventually moved back to a place which I could make it out..oh God…the creature…the mermaid…the thing that had just saved my life, was one of those sunbather ladies I had tried not to look at on my way in. Now she wouldn’t stop talking, and kept trying to get into my eye line every single time I attempted to look away (out of taught politeness)…honestly, my neck moved around so much it began to ache. I began to cry probably and after what seemed like forever my family came sauntering over in a disturbingly nonchalant way…

The mermaid explained what had happened to my Dad, who laughed and patted me on the back after seeing I was still alive (so no problem.)

Once we got back to the house, I slowly began to recover from my initial trauma…my breathing became normal, and after a little while I stopped my uncontrollable shivering…but I wasn’t in the clear yet…this was just the start. “John was kissing the lady, hahaha! John and the French lady sitting in the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!” my sister jeered…

Mean Mug GIF

My Mam and Dad’s jokes were of a nature I didn’t comprehend till thinking back to it almost ten years later…it was all – “OOOH! Nice one John! Ladykiller!” etc, etc…I may not have had a clue what they were on about, but I knew it was probably offensive and started wailing anyway, begging them to stop with the bad jokes. They didn’t. 

Mind, with all that said…who one the game? Exactly – almost dying – that’s dedication for ya!

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67 thoughts on “Mermaid (France)

  1. hahaha! This is too funny! We used to play this game in the yard where one kid was “the lion” and the rest were “sheep” – we would baa and roar with so much drama one day, someone pulled over on the side of the road in front of my house and asked my Dad if they should call 911 and if his children (who sounded like they were in agonizing pain) were OK. lol. The games we play as children.

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  2. I feel bad to say this is great, but, this is great! Ha. It reminded me of my childhood holidays to Whitby, me and my brother did the same thing, pretend to drown and float back up to the water like a corpse… I don’t recall almost actually drowning though, but you are a born entertainer after all! x

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  3. Too funny. I recall the first time I saw and understood the meaning of “letting it all hang out” – the Munich Englischer Garten, where the river running through it is known as the ice bath. Having grown up in quite a sheltered society, I was quite horrified and literally did not know where to put my eyes. I was with my gang of lads, who complained that it’s always the old or ugly ones – whom you don’t want to look at – that bare it all. I was about to disagree when lo, right across the river bank from where we sat, was a naked geriatric with his legs splayed wide, slowly lowering himself into the ice bath, and confirming very publicly how cold the water really was…

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  4. John, you fancy a repeat of this trip? The 2014 version would be thrilling. I suspect that your mermaid was Dutch or German. She might still sunbathe there. Wouldn’t that be fun to check out her lack of any tan lines 18 years later?

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  5. I HAVE ALMOST DROWNED SO MANY TIMES IN A KIDDIE POOL.
    (Can you believe THAT?!) But it wasn’t my fault, I thought that you become mermaids when you drown. 😀
    Anyway, I also get told off (with appropriate acting) for if I act stupidly in a pool as well… after at least a year from the holiday it happened on. 😥
    CAN’T THERE BE ANY FREEDOM?!

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  6. Ahhaha John you were attracting the ladies at such an early age! Loved this “mermaid monster” story. I don’t think that I’d be able to handle the nakedness either. I’ve seen quite my share of large wrinkly asses at the hospital, but seeing that all out on the beach is another thing entirely.

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    • hahaha! Hmmm that’s exactly what they all say, the story crops up from time to time when we are all together, of course. Hats off to you, you’ve probably seen more than your fair share, it’s a shock everytime though ~ and for some reason the natural cringe reaction is frowned upon. Who knew? !

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      • Hahahah exactly. When I’m faced with them though I generally avert my eyes, get some eye contact and flash them a big smile. A prime example was the other day when I walked into the room and I saw a hairy vagina. You just look the person in the face and ask them, “Is there anything else I can get for you?”

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  7. Can I just say, in the nicest way possible, I was a little sad there were no real mermaids in this story. (I’m a little obsessed with mermaids!) I’m feeling a little let down, but only a little though because you tell awesome stories! I’m so sorry you had to go through that terrifying ordeal–the unwanted nudity and almost drowning! We used to play “drowning” when we were kids too though, glad to hear we weren’t the only crazy ones out there. haha!
    And thanks for sharing one from the vault, I enjoyed hearing it!

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    • Oh maaaaaan, my sincerest apologies, haha! I like mermaids too, I prefer to just think she was actually a mermaid…it’s more fun to live in a fantasy world I find.

      I wrote this with you in mind, well you got me thinking when you asked about childhood memories, this is one that embarrasses me rather than others so I thought it was safe!

      Pleased it wasn’t just our family being weird and crazy!

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      • Maybe she was so magical that she could hide her fin from people if she wanted! I’ll go read this again with that in mind. 🙂
        And I am honored you took my suggestion! Thank you for sharing a small part of your childhood with the world!

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  8. At least someone noticed you, mermaid or not. In my near drowning experience, when I finally saved myself, I was simply incensed that my mother and others standing right by me hadn’t even noticed I was in trouble. 😀

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  9. Excellently written! My favourite line is “(out of taught politeness)”. But to be honest I don’t think I failed to enjoy a single part. I actually experienced something like this but from a different angle when I was a teen… I was on holiday in Greece with the family and in the hotel pool – playing games and inevitably throwing a ball of some shape around. There was this boy in the corner with bright red hair quietly floating on his front for a minute or so with his face underwater and then he would take a breath and do it again (I think he was trying to beat his record, or at least that’s what I would have been doing!). This went on for a while until a woman who was equally ginger and of fairly large proportions screamed at the top of her lungs in dulcet Irish tones “OH MY GOD, SEAMUS!!!!” And proceeded to run toward the pool like a hall-of-mirrors Baywatch parody and dive almost on top of the boys head and yanked him up by a combination of ears and goggles strap all the while doing that weird combination of screaming and shouting and practically deafening poor Seamus asked what he had been doing and if he was alright to which the little boy, looking rather shocked at this intrusion to his previously tranquil time in the pool, said after about 15 seconds “I was Looking for sharks mammy”… Not anymore he wasn’t! She pulled him out of the pool and marched him up to the hotel informing him that it was “time for a nap”. That awkward silence hung around for a good 20 seconds before everything returned to normal… I never saw Seamus again though….

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  10. Excellently written! My favourite line is “(out of taught politeness)”. But to be honest I don’t think I failed to enjoy a single part. I actually experienced something like this but from a different angle when I was a teen… I was on holiday in Greece with the family and in the hotel pool – playing games and inevitably throwing a ball of some shape around. There was this boy in the corner with bright red hair quietly floating on his front for a minute or so with his face underwater and then he would take a breath and do it again (I think he was trying to beat his record, or at least that’s what I would have been doing!). This went on for a while until a woman who was equally ginger and of fairly large proportions screamed at the top of her lungs in dulcet Irish tones “OH MY GOD, SEAMUS!!!!” And proceeded to run toward the pool like a hall-of-mirrors Baywatch parody and dive almost on top of the boys head and yanked him up by a combination of ears and goggles strap all the while doing that weird combination of screaming and shouting and practically deafening poor Seamus asked what he had been doing and if he was alright to which the little boy, looking rather shocked at this intrusion to his previously tranquil time in the pool, said after about 15 seconds “I was Looking for sharks mammy”… Not anymore he wasn’t! She pulled him out of the pool and marched him up to the hotel informing him that it was “time for a nap”. That awkward silence hung around for a good 20 seconds before everything returned to normal… I never saw Seamus again though….

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  11. Ooh, equal parts funny and suspenseful! I could never play that game though, all I can do in any body of water is just stand around and splash haha. Thanks for stopping by my blog and liking my post! 🙂

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  12. Pretend to drown…fun for the whole family! God damn, dude, that was horrifying and funny at the same time. This is one of many reasons I don’t have kids.

    And yeah, you won that game that day!

    — M

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