Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

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March 19th, 2018

Storytelling Starters ~ Wales and Whales

September 14th, 2019

It was a storytelling project in Outer London. The theme was local legends. A girl in one of the groups put up her hand and asked if we knew about the elephants under the line of local hills.

Suggestive shapes:

Often it’s the shape of hills that gives rise to legends about them. Above a small place called Wolfscastle in the middle of Pembrokeshire are two high rocks that, as children, we knew as The Lion and the Lamb. By today, these rocks have eroded so that I wouldn’t be able to say which looks more like a wolf, which more like a lamb. Even as a child I wasn’t sure. But I could imagine very clearly that one was attacking the other. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Going home

September 7th, 2019

You visit your friends next door or go to your local shops. You go to the cinema or to collect the children from school. And then what do you do? You go home. It’s easy, it’s familiar, it’s something you do all the time.

Going home:

Then again, some activities you do on a regular basis can also feel like going home – activities such as visiting your local library, sitting down at your piano or sewing machine or updating the diary you keep. Regular activities give such a feeling of comfort and purpose. They too feel like going home.

But going home may not always be easy. It can entail something demanding such as driving to the other side of the country. Or getting on a boat or plane and travelling to another part of the world. For going home can also mean returning to the place where you grew up and that place may no longer be near or comfortable.

And lots of us need to do it, namely go back on a regular or irregular basis to the place of our origin. In busy, multicultural London, I often wonder what diverse and far-flung countries were the starting-points, the homes, of people I see round me in the streets. I wonder about their feelings and experience when they do return home, what scents they smell, what landscapes they see, what foods they eat.

Alas, it’s not necessarily an available option. A recent issue of Golwg, the Welsh weekly magazine I take, contained a moving portrayal of a young refugee who now lives in Wales (and is learning both Welsh and English). In it, he talked about how he cannot go home. He is Syrian. His home is no longer a safe place to be. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Hair

August 31st, 2019

If you cut your hair, I’ll cut you out of my will.’ I was often in receipt of this threat or promise while I was a child. It was my Aunty Mali who’d say it. Not really an aunt but a family friend, she became a powerful influence in my life. Eventually I made a big storytelling piece about her called Travels with My Welsh Aunt.

Aunty Mali:

A music teacher and always smart (handbag and hat when she went out), Aunty Mali herself had long hair which in the day would be wound into a bun. But each night before getting into bed (and this I know from all the times I stayed with her), she’d comb out her hair with much care and ceremony and then (it’s something I’ll never forget) she’d carefully remove any hairs that had got into the brush, twist them together into a piece of tissue paper and then place the twist of tissue-paper in the waste-bin. ‘Your hairs are like your thoughts,’ she’d say. ‘You must look after them with care and never throw them to the winds.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Head gear

August 24th, 2019

On Thursday or Friday every week but sometimes not till Saturday morning, the question arrives in my head. What to write in this week’s blog? Often the answer seems to be there already as if I’d already been considering the question. Sometimes I haven’t got a clue. Like this week. Yesterday I didn’t have a clue. I just had to trust that something would come to mind.

Why bother?

A friend asked the other day: ‘Why do you bother?’ My only answer can be ‘because I like doing it.’ My sense of the weekly obligation requires me to think over whatever may be in my mind. Recent events.  Topics that, however briefly, have grabbed my interest.  Stuff I’ve been reading. Things that have been said to me directly or things I’ve overheard.

From all these various tributaries to what must pass as my river of thought, something has to  materialise to provide the spur to a blog. But in a way that’s just like storytelling. I’m sure all storytellers would say the same. Countless times on your way to do a session or sessions, you’ll have known pretty much what stories you’re likely to tell. You’ll have thought about them in preparation, identifying themes and finding links. But there’s also the more immediate links that, in the event, prove invaluable. These may come from what happens on the way to the venue or from recent encounters or from things people have said. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Taking time

August 17th, 2019

How weird! I was walking along towards the main road. Near the corner of my street was an apple core. It drew my attention because it was sitting on top of a food waste box. ‘How weird!’ was my immediate thought. ‘Why did whoever left that apple core not open the food waste box and put the apple core inside?’

‘Well,’ I answer now as I write, ‘perhaps whoever had eaten the apple (and even the core looked nice and juicy) had not wanted to see what was inside the food waste box. A small dead bird? A seething mess of rotting stuff?  Or perhaps the person who’d eaten the apple was in such a hurry that he or she, adult or child, didn’t even want to pause as long as it would take to open the box.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Stories: Why bother?

August 10th, 2019

A tiny pink bird has migrated to my desk from the cupboard in my study where I keep my notebooks, stationery and some storytelling stuff. It perches on a small chrome clip and the other day, I persuaded it to come across to my desk to keep me company. Perhaps I thought it might decorate a present I was planning to give to someone or other. By now it looks likely to stay.

But I like it. I like the birds in my life. Since installing a bird-feeder in our garden, we regularly see a troupe of goldfinches arriving – often eight or ten of them. Not surprisingly, these have attracted a bustling gang of pigeons that gather below the feeder to hoover up the scraps of fatball and grain that drop onto the grass when the little birds feed. Plus a lovely pair of robins arrive quite often, moving quietly round the garden’s edges before visiting the area below the bird-feeder. The bossy green parakeets are not so welcome. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Picking yourself up

August 3rd, 2019

Remember that moralising tale? A young woman is on her way to market. Over her arm is a basket of eggs, in her head is a whirligig of plans. She’ll sell the eggs for a very good price (they’re beautifully big and brown and farm fresh). Then she will have money. MONEY! And with that money, she’ll be able to do so much. Like choose the best cake in the cake-shop window and eat it sitting in the sun. Or buy a new pair of sandals –  and if not sandals because they’d cost too much, certainly new ribbons for her hair. Oh, so many things she could do. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Remembering

July 27th, 2019

 ‘Tennyson is crossing the desert!’ A few days ago, that was the strapline on one of the emails in my Inbox. It was followed a day or so later by ‘Tennyson has crossed the desert!’

Such a headline does make you think. For me, it brought to mind a grand-looking poetic figure, bearded and with hair reaching down to his collar: what could he be doing walking the desert? And on his own? Perhaps dreaming up new poems along the lines of The Lady of Shalott or Enoch Arden?

Tennyson, the cuckoo

Well, no! The Tennyson that had succeeded in crossing the desert was not the Victorian poet-laureate but a cuckoo, one of this year’s tranche of cuckoos named and sponsored under the auspices of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), its movements tracked as it flies alone across the vast distances that bring it into Central Africa and then back again to the UK where, of course, we think of it as ‘our cuckoo’ even though it’s in the UK for only a few weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Forgetting

July 20th, 2019

Forgetting is the other side of remembering. It has its value. Not remembering unpleasant things can be very health-giving, something which eventually allows unhappy events, emotions or people to slip away.  Sometimes the forgetting happens of itself. Sometimes the techniques for forgetting have to be learned.

The pain of forgetting:

But it’s that involuntary forgetting that can be so annoying. Perhaps it’s the same in many different circumstances or professions. You need to remember. You simply can’t bring whatever it is to mind. You set about trying to find the book or paper or person that may be able to supply the missing piece of information. And when you can’t find it? It’s a pain. Especially, say I, when you’re a storyteller. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ The Call of Stories

July 13th, 2019

Being on cancer treatment makes for a kind of half-life. Getting to the hospital, sitting through the chemo transfusion (typically for me about eight hours from sitting down to getting out), feeling strange for several days afterwards with not much else going on because of the after- effects. Sometimes getting up much earlier than usual, sometimes very much later and rarely going out in the evenings because of generally feeling knackered.

Brightening things up:

But always there are kind contacts from friends and neighbours, phone calls and cards with enquiries as to how it’s all going and many messages of goodwill. In the odd way that illness produces, there’s even the brightening of relationships with some long-term neighbours in the street. Never before on particular talking terms,  having learned what’s going on, they now always enquire how things are going.

Meantime, you’re looking for more ways to make life feel brighter. Crosswords and word wheels are good, but I find they can only last a relatively short time. Reading is a must but you need other things too.

Missing the storytelling:

And I miss the storytelling. I ask myself if it will ever come back. Programmes of stories begin to form in my mind, stories for children, stories for adults, ideas of stories I’d like to tell and how I’d like to tell them. Short ones, long ones, quirky ones, ones that have happened in my own real life: they present themselves to my attention, swirling out from choppy seas or clouds of mist and wanting to get acknowledged. Writing them down is one thing. Telling them is quite another. I hope I’ll get or make the chance to be telling them again.

Read the rest of this entry »