A long time ago when I was smarter than I am now I wrote a piece for a collection of pirate stories. The pirate ship hauled a mermaid up in their nets who promptly started singing, sent the pirates into a daze, and took over the ship. In the end they were saved by the captain’s daughter. The story was called Fish Soup and the climax involved a hot bath and some garlic and the mermaid getting eaten by the pirates. The editor of the collection loved the piece but wanted one small change. The mermaid had to escape. The shabby end to this anecdote is that desperate for the modest fee and a little bit of kudos, after throwing my toys out of the pram I caved in and in the published version the mermaid disappears over ths side and swims off into the blue depths taking the whole point of the story with her. I swore I’d never do it again.
And I don’t think I have – despite some close calls in telly-land. Yesterday I got a note from BBC radio via my producer. The commissioners like the outline I’ve submitted but feel ‘strongly’ that it needs one small change. The trouble is that at the moment it feels as if this small change turns it into an entirely different play. I’ve said I need a couple of days to think this through. Which was smart because if I say no it’s likely to cost me the commission and I need the money more now than I did then for little luxuries like rent and food. Needless to say, the mermaid’s back and watching closely.