Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Festive clearance

March 19th, 2018

 

With a highly unusual festive season looming under lock-down here’s a key to unlock it a bit.  I’ve still got a few copies left of my collection of short fiction The Uses of ‘a’ – and other stories. Also of A Long Run in Short Shorts , a collection of my own personal tales.

My hope is to sell them off in a little festive clearance sale.

If you’ve already read them, you might like to consider giving them as lock-down stocking fillers to family or friends.  If they’re new to you, here’s an opportunity to enjoy for yourself books which drew some lovely comments and reviews.

 

On The Uses of ‘a’ – and other stories:

‘The whole collection has kaleidoscopic variety and tremendous energy.’ John Pole, singer-songwriter, in Facts and Fiction magazine.

‘Your stories are so beautifully written and so deliciously enigmatic and so wise too.’ Margaret Jull Costa, translator of Javier Marías and José Saramago.

On A Long Run in Short Shorts:

‘A delight. It reflects a mind that’s observant, inquisitive and alert to new discoveries, and a vivid, warm personality grateful for those small, simple pleasures that brighten our — if we know how to appreciate them.” ~ Valerie Grove, journalist and author.

‘I’m savouring each story – just like unwrapping another Christmas chocolate – I’ll just have one more’. Hilary Minns, University of Warwick.

Each book now costs  £6 (down from £9.50 and £8.50 respectively) or you can get both for £11. If you would like copies, please go to www.paypal.me/StoryworksPress and add £1.80 p&p for the UK – it’s the same for one or both books.

Just email memary.medlicott@storyworks.org.uk , to tell me if you’d like dedications.

Crisis , the charity for homeless people, will receive £1.00 for every copy sold.

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Storytelling Starters ~ On an ordinary Sunday evening

November 28th, 2020

Yesterday a printed letter from Lambeth Council was pushed through our letterbox. Addressed to Dear Resident, it described itself as written ‘in the wake of the shocking incident in your neighbourhood early on Sunday evening’.

The letter rang a loud bell for Paul and me.  Last Sunday evening, we went for an early evening walk up to the Brixton Windmill. On the way back our walk took us in part through the nearby estate where we noticed a group of policemen standing outside one of the houses. We briefly wondered whether to ask them why they were there. We didn’t. But evidently, as we now realise, their presence was directly connected to ‘the shocking incident’ that had taken place.

From the letter, we now know that in that place early on Sunday evening, ‘a man in his 20s suffered fatal stab wounds.’ What I felt on learning this is sorrow for anyone who was closely connected with him; family or friends will have been deeply shocked and grieved. I also feel sad in a different way for whoever carried out the stabbing and the consequences of it. By now, whoever it was will almost certainly have been identified and apprehended.  In consequence, they will surely be realising the extent to which they’ve spoiled their own life. Or perhaps that realisation is  yet to dawn upon them.

The letter we got from Lambeth Council was about the Council’s services in giving emotional and mental support to the local community in the wake of the stabbing. It’s reassuring that such services exist and that, as in this case, the community was being directly informed about them. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Lucky!

November 21st, 2020

I just need to say it. I’m lucky. OK, I can’t go to my beloved Pembrokeshire right now because of Lockdown. And yes the new hip I was recently given still hurts from time to time. I’m not seeing friends and, as for so many of us, that feels like an awful deprivation. I can’t go for long walks like I’ve always loved to do.

But for all the things that are wrong, I have to be glad of so many things that are right, including house and garden, nice neighbours, good friends, a phone and enough to eat.

But there’s another thing too that makes me feel lucky. Let me tell you what. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ All Gold

November 14th, 2020

Remember the children’s question-and-answer rhyme?

Question: What’s in there?
Answer: Gold and money
Question: Where’s my share?
Answer: Mousie ran away with it.
Question: Where’s the mousie?

And so it goes on. Except that this particular mousie is, in memory, on my bed in my father’s house in St David’s. Paul and I wake up to see it, waving at us from the top of a ruck in the duvet. ‘There’s a mouse in my bed!’ I call out loudly in a voice deliberately mocked-up so as not to alarm my father. He arrives at the bedroom door, takes one look at the situation and says, ‘I’ll leave this to you.’ Paul and I consult, reach out a Harrods plastic bag from the cupboard, shape it into a kind of tunnel, put it on the floor near the dressing table where the mouse is now hiding and make ‘Whoosh! Whoosh’ noises in its direction. And suddenly, Whoosh, the mouse runs into the bag. We take it downstairs and release it into the garden. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Doing nothing

November 7th, 2020

I’m normally pretty good at occupying myself. Almost always there’s something to be written, a story or an article, a piece in my journal or my blog piece for the upcoming Saturday. Or there’s a phone call to make, perhaps to catch up with a friend or to make some kind of appointment, for example with the dentist. Certainly there’s always a book to be read. It might be one which my Book Pair and I have decided to read or the book for my next Book Group discussion. Or as in the case right now, it’s one of several other books I’ve myself determined to read simply because they’re by the same author as something else I’ve recently appreciated. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~You can do it

October 31st, 2020

The article was about the artist Tracey Emin and the cancer that has invaded various parts of her body. I felt so angry on her behalf. Cancer can be a fearsome illness. Yet regarding it as an enemy is not helpful. In my experience, it’s something that has to be accepted, not welcomed but in some way understood even as it is striven against.

The fact that Tracey Emin is an artist somehow makes it feel more cruel. She is an artist. She is creative, productive, she has worked hard. How dare illness threaten such a person? Of course my own strong feeling is completely illogical. Cancer is no respecter of persons or achievement. Indeed, an artist’s creativity may be his or her own best weapon in the campaign to deal with it. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ a Marcus Rashford for storytelling?

October 24th, 2020

My friend and fellow storyteller, Karen Tovell, sent me a story the other day. At first, the story worried me. I found it depressing. But after a while, I began to see its potential. Here’s the story.

Two young women are sharing a hospital room. One is confined to bed. She can’t get up. She’s not allowed to do so. The other young woman is able to move about. Quite often she goes to the window and, to the pleasure of the other, she describes what she can see outside. The old man inching his way down the street on his stick, the little child bounding along, the young teenage boy who is obviously practising funny steps: it’s all most entertaining and invigorating to the young woman who is confined to her bed. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ In threes or in bucketfuls?

October 17th, 2020

Troubles arrive in threes: that was certainly the belief of us children when I was growing up in the far west of Wales. My father always disagreed. ‘No,’ he’d say, ‘troubles come in bucketfuls.’ I must say that by now I think he was right. Whether it’s bucketfuls or bunches, troubles do appear  to like travelling in company.

So yesterday was the day for the laying of new lino in our shower-room. Trouble number one quickly arrived,  though not for Paul and me, when the head workman arrived reporting that he’d had a puncture on the way – and that in a brand new tyre. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Thanks to my Lucky Star

October 10th, 2020

Apart from the positive pleasure that is brought by the diminution of pain, I can report that one of the joys of getting a new hip (left hip in my case) is that the process of recovery gives lots of time for reading. Of course, you also have to do your exercises. And it’s lovely to have more time than usual for talking with friends on the phone. But those things still leave plenty of space for reading. You can’t be doing much cooking. You certainly can’t do much house-cleaning. So, apart from taking naps (which in my case seems unavoidable), there’s plenty of time left for books

Last night, I finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. What a wonderful book! It is set on a marsh. The sea is nearby. The girl who is the main character is called Kya and until she meets a boy called Tate who also spends a lot of his time on the marsh, Kya is on her own. Her mother has gone, her siblings have gone. But the delight of the book is that Kya is immersed in the life of the marsh. By the end of the book, she will have learned to read and write and she’ll be writing books about the creatures, plants and birds of the marsh.

Meantime, the delight for the reader is to share her active joy in the life around her and the sky above. Added to all of this pleasure that represents the central interest of the book, there’s a dead body. A young man has fallen to his death from a tower nearby. Did he jump? Was he pushed? The element of mystery adds a whodunit element. But it’s one that never detracts from the central pleasures which include the befriending of Kya by Tate and, throughout, the different moods of the sky and the creatures of the marsh. The life of the marshland is increased by the presence of an old man known as Jumpin’, one of those characters you don’t want to forget even when he has died. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Powerful stuff

October 3rd, 2020

Mr Laurie Machel was a very elderly man who lived in an old-fashioned block of flats on the South Lambeth Road. The flats are still there and when I go past them in the car nowadays, he often pops into my mind. As I recall, I’d been put in touch with him by Age Concern and I visited him numerous times. He was a practical man. Indeed, one reason he’s often come back to my mind of late – for it’s years ago that I knew him – has been as a result of my recent hip operation. The operation has meant that I’m using crutches to get about. So I’ve had to be thinking about handy ways to transport objects  I need from one place to another in the house. Mr Laurie Machel used to do it by tying the things he needed directly onto his zimmer frame or putting them into cloth bags which he’d hang on the bars. Alas, a pair of crutches is not nearly so viable as an object transporter.

One extraordinary thing about Mr Laurie Machel was that as a very young man before the First World War, he’d had to travel to Japan.  This journey had come about because, having left school at the earliest possible moment to work in a garage in Stockwell, he’d one day had the experience of meeting a Japanese prince who turned up at his garage to try and find someone to come to Japan to look after his racing car collection. Mr Machel got the job. The prince’s cars never got to go anywhere: there was nowhere for them to go. But nonetheless the prince wanted them kept in tip-top condition.

Mr Machel told me that being in Japan at that time long ago was like being in a kindergarten. Japan had not yet joined the modern world. Everything was tiny, small and neat. And as things turned out, Mr Machel was not able to spend much time there. The world was on the verge of World War One and as war came closer, he had to travel back to England. How he’d got to Japan in the first place had involved travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which was quite an experience in itself.  Now, if I remember rightly, his return to England was on board a tanker.

Other than because of his clever way of transporting items around his flat, I have no idea why Mr Machel came back to my mind this week. Nor do I know why, also this week, my memory has been frequented by a young black man who was one of the people in a storytelling workshop I was asked to give in Cape Town during a storytelling trip I once made to South Africa. The trip had been organised by Alan Kenyon, a marvellous teacher-trainer in the sciences field who had a passion for stories and storytelling. Sadly, Alan has now passed away. I’d first got to know him when, on a long sabbatical visit to London, he’d attended a number of the storytelling workshops I used to run at the Drill Hall with storyteller friend Karen Tovell.  (And, oddly, just this week I had another cause to remember those workshops when I received an out-of-the-blue email from another person who used to attend them many years ago.)

The events that Alan Kenyon organised for me to run in Cape Town were fantastic affairs, wonderfully multi-racial at a time when, with Nelson Mandela newly at the country’s helm, such things had become both possible and valued. The young black man I’ve mentioned above happened to become the other person in a pair with me during one of the storytelling exercises in one of the workshops that Alan organised. The exercise was to do with stories of change. I’d asked people to recall to each other in pairs any story of notable change that had occurred in their lives. The change recalled by the young man who found himself working with me was the very first occasion when he’d gone away from the village where he’d grown up. His story was very moving. As he finished it, , he looked directly at me and said, ‘This is the first time I have looked a white woman in the eyes.’

Powerful stuff. But then storytelling can be just that. Powerful stuff.

PS: Sunflowers have nothing at all to do with the subjects in my blog this week. But sunflowers are marvellous things and the ones in my photos are particularly marvellous to me because they grew in our garden.

Storytelling Starters ~ Dream and Imagination

September 26th, 2020

Long ago, the top room of our house became known as the Dream Room. Lodger after lodger who lived there – and our lodgers were mostly good friends in need of a place to live for a while –  reported on the extraordinary dreams they had there. Perhaps it was something to do with the shape of the room, the sloping ceilings and the little casement window looking out over the garden.

Or perhaps it was the sense of being high up, far away from the business of the house down below. Or perhaps it was a sense of security in which you could float away into the colours of dreams without worrying whether you’d ever get back.

It has been one of the pleasures of living in this tall terrace house that when you’re at the top of it, you are far away from the life at the bottom, the cooking and eating and sweeping and talking. I probably haven’t ever spent enough time up there to really relish the sense of security it gives. But I’m pleased  to have been able to extend the space to others. Read the rest of this entry »