Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Still a few available!

March 19th, 2018

 

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.

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.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Storytelling Starters – Plenitude

June 19th, 2021

On Thursday morning this week, that word ‘plenitude’ suddenly appeared in my mind. I thought about it. One thing that occurred to me was that there was certainly a plenitude of things I could do.  I could write to all the friends who have sent cards or emails to me to wish me well through this current ‘cancer journey’. And I note that that’s what people are calling it these days: cancer journey. It’s a description that certainly does begin to cover all the toings and froings to the Cancer Centre at the hospital as well as the emotional journey through the ups and downs of what is happening (in my case for the fifth time, each time a different cancer).

Or, I thought, I could make some Welsh cakes. These deliciousnesses are things I’ve enjoyed since childhood and they certainly give me that feeling of plenitude. My mother kept the ones she made in a particular tin in a drawer in the kitchen which would be frequently raided by us children and, I must add, by our father. They’ve continued to feature in my life. Recently, Welsh cakes have gone down well with a neighbour across the road who, much younger than me, is also being treated for cancer right now. Then again, one afternoon earlier this week, Welsh cakes felt like the ideal ‘something’ to take to a gentleman friend who’d invited Paul and me to tea. But quite apart from taking Welsh cakes elsewhere, they’re immensely popular with Paul. And with me too. The making is easy. The eating is forever satisfying. Read the rest of this entry »

Blackbirds and Bees

June 12th, 2021

Being called a Queen Bee was definitely not a compliment when I was a child. It was said in a decidedly sarcastic tone. Busy bee – as in ‘What a busy bee you’ve been!’ – was OK. But Queen Bee was a definite put-down. How things change! By now, any comparison at all with bees would be regarded by me as quite a compliment. For bees are certainly very busy creatures and, as I observed on a walk in Brockwell Park this week, they appear extremely focused on their tasks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Doing Something

June 5th, 2021

Last week I was carefully putting my eggs in the basket called Doing Nothing. By this week these eggs, one by one, are being carefully moved into the basket called Doing Something. I still am not persuaded that Doing Something is invariably better than Doing Nothing. But if the Something is identified as reading to children then I’m all for it. Besides, I’m very glad to see that, as recorded in a piece in the Guardian this week, so is famous footballer and generally good person, Marcus Rashford.

Furthermore, reading to children is usually a habit that gets passed on. Happily, I read in an email I received this week that the three year old son of one of my God-Daughters, is currently absorbed in a book – The Big-wide-mouthed-toad-frog – that I edited and gave his mother 30  years ago when she herself was a child. Thus do good story-books get passed on and loved all over again. Indeed, I recall that some of the story-books I loved the most as a child were ones that, in the process of being passed on, had become far less than pristine in their appearance. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Doing nothing

May 29th, 2021

Ever happen to you? Outside it’s a perfectly decent day. You could be going out to do the food shopping or just to enjoy a nice walk. Or you could stay inside and put on the washing (plenty waiting to get done) or get on with some house-cleaning (once again, plenty). Taking yet another tack, you could get started on Sapphira and the Slave Girl, the next book by Willa Cather that you’ll be discussing with the friend with whom you have your Book Pair (a version of a book group but with only the two of you).

Or you could be making the phone call you’ve promised to make to a friend to report on yesterday’s session with a hospital consultant where you discussed next steps in the plan for dealing with your recently identified cancer (more on that anon, no doubt). Instead you are being perfectly idle. Much earlier on, you went down for breakfast (no lack of appetite here) and since then your lovely husband has brought you the very welcome cup of coffee and excellent biscuit that you’ve since consumed. Otherwise you’ve done nothing useful. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Remembering – Cofio

May 22nd, 2021

One of the magazines I get sent in the post because I’m a subscriber is Golwg, a Welsh magazine which arrives once a fortnight.

Opening the current Golwg  gave me a start of surprise and recognition. For there, fifty years after his death and accompanied by a lovely photo of him, is a piece about one of the most well-known and admired of Welsh poets of the 20th century, Waldo Williams. Thanks to my redoubtable Aunty Mali whom I’ve mentioned in this blog numerous times before, I met Waldo Williams on several occasions. His home was just a few miles from Fishguard where Aunty Mali and my family lived, she at No 1 Vergam Terrace, us at No 16. From time to time when Waldo came to tea with her, it would be my job to bring over to him from the table the platters of sandwiches and cake on offer so he could choose what he’d like.

Waldo Williams was a Quaker and a passionate pacifist. He refused to pay taxes that would be used for military purposes and in 1960 his non-payment of taxes got him sent to prison for six weeks. A second prison sentence followed the next year. Professionally, he was a school teacher working with young children. He published only one book of poems for adults, Dail Pren (Tree Leaves). He published another for children, Cerddi’r Plant (Poems for the Children). He had a lovely smile and a great sense of humour and evidently he was gifted in that very Welsh art of making up verses on the spot.

As important to me as meeting Waldo Williams in person in my young teenage years were the one or two of his poems I came to know well. In Wales we’re keen on poems and in school we’d be encouraged to learn and recite them. One of the ones I loved is one by Waldo Williams:  Cofio, which in English means Remembering. The poem is only six verses long, each verse consisting of only four lines. But short as it is, it’s wonderful. Did I ever learn it well  enough to recite it by heart at a Noson Lawen, the social evenings that regularly happened where we lived? Certainly, I’d read the poem to myself from time to time and I still love it today. The imagery of it, the theme, the rhythm: all are wonderfully resonant. Here’s the first verse of it:

Un funud fach cyn elo’r haul o’r wybren,
Un funud fwyn cyn delo’r hwyr i’w hynt,
I gofio am y pethau anghofiedig
Ar goll yn awr yn llwch yr amser gynt.

One small moment before the sun leaves the firmament,
One dear moment before evening comes to its end,
To remember the unremembered things
Lost now in the dust of times that have gone.

Dear Aunty Mali, she introduced me to any number of fine people and I feel grateful to her for that as well as so much else. In this year of celebrating fifty years since Waldo Williams’ death, I’m proud that she gave me the memory of helping to serve him his tea.

PS: The top photo is Waldo Williams (by Dafydd Williams, Rhuthun) exactly as I remember him; the bottom photo is of the wonderful Ceanothus Pershore Zanzibar now in full bloom in our garden in London.

Storytelling Starters – Back and fore

May 15th, 2021

Maybe it always happens when you go away from home. Even as you reach the place where you were headed, you’re paying attention to new things, features of your new environment that are different from what you experience at home.

One thing I’ve been much aware of this Spring in Mathri, the village where we have our Welsh home, is the multitude of cowslips in the verges and hedges of roads leading into and out of the village. OK, cowslips will never cease to be among my favourite countryside flowers. But each time I see them en masse at this time of the year, I feel excited and privileged all over again. I’m tempted to describe them as very modest creatures, they seem to blend themselves in to the hedgerows and fields. I feel grateful to be here at the right time to see them. The bluebells and garlic have a fine show too in the woodland ways close to the sea.

Another thing I’ve been much aware of since arriving here in Mathri this Spring is the birdsong. There’s what I want to describe as a flight of very tall trees in the churchyard at the top of the village. Walking past them in the early evening a day or two ago, there issued from them such a chorus of sound that it felt like the birds had decided to give the village a special concert. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Just a day trip?

May 8th, 2021

Two particular thoughts came into, and lingered, in my mind during my day yesterday. One is the huge importance of enabling children from big urban areas to visit the countryside and the sea. The other is to see the importance of doing that very same thing yourself.

Yesterday, Paul and I drove north up the coast road from Fishguard to Aberaeron. It is an extraordinary little town on the edge of the sea just south of Aberystwyth. The most striking thing about it is that all the houses are kept beautifully painted in  notable colours.  There are strict civic rules for effecting and maintaining the policy. The result is very pleasing.

But if  you’d thought that in such a seaside place you might walk along the sea shore on sand, the Aberaeron sea front is not so pleasing. That’s due to all the rocks in the sand. Also wooden groynes, the barriers installed to protect the shore, separate the beach into a series of small sections. However, there’s an excellent footpath which starts at Aberaeron’s attractive little harbour and then proceeds along the front. This provides an excellent way of looking out at the sea while also enjoying the experience of passing so many other people enjoying the sea air, including all the delighted children bouncing along.

After being in Aberaeron – and we were there to meet up with my lovely brother who lives just north of Aberaeron in Aberystwyth – I started getting memories from the past experiences which have provided me with evidence of the huge value and importance of the seaside, especially for town children. Some of these memories come from an experience of joining my friend, the wonderful artist and art teacher Catrin Webster, when she’d arranged for children from Birmingham to come to the West Wales coast to spend some days by the sea. Notably, I remember seeing one of the girls in the group throwing open her arms in absolute delight when she caught her first sight of the sea. Another actually ran into the sea in her clothes in her eager pleasure at encountering it. By the end of just one day, you knew that a whole new world had opened up for those Birmingham children.

Just bringing back to mind that particular group of Birmingham children hauls back a posse of other memorable details, some from that same trip, more from other similar ventures that I’ve been part of over the years. From the Birmingham trip, I remember one of the girls in the group pointing excitedly out of the train window as we passed a field of sheep and exclaiming, ‘Look! Animals!’ On another venture, a week in North Wales for city children, I remember one of the boys, he was nine or ten years old, being afraid to walk across a grassy field. Of course he’d seen grass before. No, it was the expanse of the field that intimidated him.

What’s new can terrify. What’s new can thrill. But what’s vitally important in these particular times is that all children should be given experience of the natural world with its particular beauties and, maybe, terrors. How can children grow up to see the importance of the environment and why we have to protect and maintain it if they don’t get personal experience of it? It’s vital.

P.S. My top picture shows Aberaeron harbour at low tide; the second is one of the strikingly painted houses we saw yesterday.

Storytelling Starters ~ A Morning Walk in Pembrokeshire

May 1st, 2021

Yesterday morning, waking early in Wales, the light is so lovely that I’m prompted to get quickly out of bed, throw on some clothes, go down the stairs, unlock the front door and enter the world outside. It’s a beautiful morning, cold but bright. No-one else is about.

Now a short early morning walk begins as I go up the small hill beside Mathri village green, the green to my left and Mathri church on the right. When I get to the road at the top of the green, I turn right to walk along in the general direction of the sea. The road takes me past what used to be the village shop. It’s been closed and empty for a long time now. I used to see that lying sadly in the window was a poster for one of my storytelling shows, an evening of Shemi’s Tall Tales. This time, I noticed it was no longer there. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ In transit

April 24th, 2021

Brixton bluebells

In transit is where many people are. At any one time, huge numbers of us humans will be on the move – in planes or trains, buses or cars or, indeed, on foot. Each time Paul and I go to Wales, that physical process of being in transit takes six or seven hours depending on the traffic and whether we stop for coffee or a snack on the way.
But at least when we go to Wales these days, it’s because we want to go. Rarely do we absolutely have to make the journey. Yes, we absolutely had to go in order to be there when my mother or, years later, my father were in the last stages of their lives. Then it was a question of needing to be with them and to support or look after them. Nowadays I’d say that it’s for our own pleasure that we go except that, especially in my case, there is also a sense of need that drives me. It’s need for the North Pembrokeshire air, the sea and the beaches and the countryside. And, of course, for the many old friends who live there. Added to that in my case is the need to reconnect with my Welshness. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Cats or birds

April 17th, 2021

Birds were tweeting to me today. After being somewhat sidelined in my last few blogs, it seemed they were finally wanting to take precedence. However, cats got in first, I suppose, because of a visit I had to make to our dentist a few days ago. The dentist’s surgery happens to be just round the corner from the flat where we used to live in Pimlico although when we first started going there, it was down in Victoria. Its current location proves richly stirring of memory each time I have to visit (and I’m currently in the middle of a string of sessions). This is because the street where the surgery is now located was where the lady lived that gave us our first cat. We called her – the cat not the lady – Hannah-Jane. She was very much beloved and she became the first in the much-honoured line of cats that have been ours. Read the rest of this entry »