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In July 2020 the 'Watford Writers' group ran a 'Flash Fiction' competition in conjunction with Bushey Museum - we supplied them with some 12 images of paintings from our collection and their task was to write a story or poem inspired by one of the images, in no more than 350 words. Joint 1st Place was awarded to:

  • 'Another Life: A Fairytale' by Lesley Kerr [Inspired by 'Merman Reaching up' by Myrtle Florence Broome, 1888 - 1978]
  • 'Framed' by Brian Bold [Inspired by 'Domestic Scene' by William A Sims, Active 1911]

The pictures and their stories are below.

You can see more on the Watford Writers website about the Winners and the Highly Commended here. And you can see all 21 entries on their website, for the first 18 entries click here and for the other entries 3 click here.

'Another Life: A Fairytale' by Lesley Kerr
Merman reaching up by Myrtle Broome
'Merman Reaching up' by Myrtle Florence Broome, 1888 - 1978

Throughout history Merfolk have used the precious minutes between a person drowning and death to harvest the souls of the undrowned to make brides. Once such Nereid bride was the mother of Prince Frederick who was recovered from a yachting accident and now ruled Oceaniania with his father, the King.

Frederick should have felt excited about his own upcoming nuptials, but his wish was for a love match, not an arranged one. His future bride was extraordinarily beautiful and lay in the depths of the castle waiting to be transformed.

And yet……he couldn’t help feeling that she had not finished her time on Earth. The feeling persisted and on the night before the wedding he stole away to take a final look at her before her transition.

He could see that her tail was now formed, a magnificent green and gold swooping away from her torso. He put his hand on her chest and could feel a faint heartbeat and moving downward to her stomach, he was surprised by a faint kick.

He withdrew his hand swiftly realising what her unfinished business was, knowing then that he could not marry her. He wanted an heir of his own.

Picking her up he swam silently through the waters until he rested on a rock away from the castle.

He blew gently into her mouth until he could feel the rise and fall of her chest. He swam upwards, her tail dissolving as he rose.

She struggled in his arms as her lungs filled again with air. “Don’t panic!” he tried to convey with his eyes, “and you will be fine!”

Nearing the surface, he could see an outline of a life craft and released her to the hands reaching downward. Pulling her back to life.


On the small rescue boat, the girl retched in response to the heavy thuds on her back.

She tried to speak but no words would come. Frantically she turned her head as the boat started to move and below the waves, she could just make out a shape of a half-man, watching and waiting.

'Framed' by Brian Bold
Domestic scene by William A Sims
'Domestic scene' by William A Sims, active 1911

This is my last chance to tell Mum if I am going to. But how to start?

We aren’t close despite having tea together every day. She says I’m moody because I stay in my room reading. Better to be doing something than sitting opposite her in silence.

She wasn’t always so aloof. When I was young, she read to me every night and cuddled me before bed. Everything changed when Dad left. I remember the night, the screaming, the crash of crockery, the slamming of the street door.

The French au pair was gorgeous, much younger than Mum and always full of fun. I must never mention her name now, though I write to her secretly

My friends tell me it’s typical for middle-aged men to stray when marriage becomes routine.

Mum could get another partner if she made the effort. But she hardly goes out, except to her art class, and then spends most of her time in the garden painting flower pictures. They are good and she has several in the Bushey Art Exhibition that opens tomorrow. That’s why I need to speak now.

Can I risk today’s teacups with my news? Mum is sitting across the table fiddling with her saucer.

“Mum, I need to tell you something.”

She glares at me. “You’re not going to tell me you’re pregnant are you?”

“No, of course not, I just wanted to warn you that I have a picture in the exhibition.”

“When did you ever paint?”

“The picture is of me not by me.” I swallow hard. “Peter, your art teacher painted it.”

Mum is gripping her cup. She’s glaring at me. “Did you give him a photograph?”

“No, I posed for him. He wanted to paint more than a portrait. So I’m warning you my nude picture is in the exhibition.”

The teacup misses me, smashing on the wall behind. I run to my bedroom, collect my case and climb out of the window down the rope I’ve tied to the bed. Peter is meeting me by Bushey church. My new life begins today.