I have this joke in my author bio that my first girlfriend was a mermaid. It’s true in a way, she was Marina from Gerry Anderson’s Stingray, and I was seven years old. She was rescued from slavery in Triton’s palace by the heroic Captain Troy Tempest, I lived in that most suburban of places – Surbiton, in Surrey.
I’ve grown up with a fascination of water, rivers, and the sea, and have always felt an affinity with it. If there’s a reason for this, an actual origin, then it is this proclamation which has been hanging on my wall wherever I go. It is signed by King Neptune himself, and he gave it to me when I was three years old.
Back in 1950 my parents were newly weds. My father had recovered from his war injuries as much as he ever would. An opportunity arose and they emigrated to South Africa to start a new life. Ten years later than returned to England on the RMS Pendennis Castle. When we crossed the equator I was baptised by Neptune. It was an event I was too young to remember, but I had my proclamation, which proved it was a Very Important occasion, and also showed it had actually happened. Also, my parents said it had too. And they had been there.
The wording ion my certificate is perhaps unsurprisingly very similar to that used by the Royal Navy during WW2 for their Line Crossing ceremoniess. Sailors have marked crossing the equator like this for hundreds of years, and still do. In 1832 Charles Darwin endured a much rougher ceremony than me on HMS Beagle.
He, like me, is now one of the Sons & Daughters of Neptune. I know if I fall in the sea a passing mermaid might save me, and that’s no bad thing. I love this certificate, the little fish and angular sea horses in the border, the shoals of red fish and dotted shipping lanes, the brave ships running with the trade winds…
I used to lie in bed and look at this Proclamation on the wall and dream. Back then I knew it really meant something. It still does.