Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

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March 19th, 2018

Storytelling Starters ~ Tangled webs

October 19th, 2019

So there I was, starting to think about ‘tangled webs’ as I whisked away the many cobwebs around and between the cacti on our conservatory windowsills. What busy bees those spiders must be, I thought, even as I mixed my metaphor.

Since then, I’ve been thinking more about the complexity and thickness of the webs that life is inclined to weave around us. You don’t notice the weaving when it’s going on and suddenly the webs are all there to be dealt with. For me, the coming days involve such a variety of different ones. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ On the bus

October 12th, 2019

Upstairs on the bus home yesterday, I noted that the two women sitting in front of me were chatting away in a language I didn’t recognise. My immediate reaction was to feel pleased that another language than English was being spoken with no inhibition on a London bus.

But even as I felt that pleasure, I remembered an incident from a few years back when I was attending a Prom concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The concert included a number of different performers, one of whom on this occasion was harpist and singer Cerys Matthews. Introducing items she was about to perform during one of her turns on stage, Cerys said one of them would be a Welsh jig with Welsh words. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ On the bright side

October 5th, 2019

In prospect, a hospital appointment for physiotherapy felt like more than I needed. What a surprise was in store! The session proved an energising mix of exercises, some with simple equipment, some without, and all of it supervised by a very nice young chap who made it all feel straightforward and do-able.

Another treatment session the previous week had felt equally unwanted in prospect. Another journey on the bus, another half-day used up on a hospital visit … but that, too, had proved an absolute pleasure because it turned out to be a foot reflexology session with a really lovely woman who even sent me away with something you might call a smell-stick to help induce a peaceful sleep each night.

How lucky I feel that we have an NHS that has dreamt up such a range of services which it offers for free. How different it would be if I had to walk miles through the heat along dusty roads to a health centre or hospital where there might not even be a doctor, let alone exercise equipment or a smell-stick. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Why books?

September 28th, 2019

Depressing news came this week. Gomer Press is closing its publishing operation so far as general books are concerned. In future, it’s going to concentrate on what can be described as fine books or art books. The news is sad for me personally. Gomer published one of my father’s books, Twice to St David’s, and it has published several of mine  – Open Secret, Elephant Luck and Shemi’s Tall Tales. But there’s a bigger sadness behind the news. Gomer has been Wales’s biggest independent publisher. Closure of its general publishing enterprise raises several important questions. It’s an important cultural outlet. Who will take on the kind of work it has been doing?

But behind that immediate question lies another bigger one. Are books going out of fashion? Is the need for books diminishing? Of course, the internet has changed things. But there are many, many people (including me!) who would insist that books are essential. Books are vital conveyors of ideas, knowledge and story. To hold one in your hand becomes such a deep pleasure that, for anyone who loves books and sees their value, the idea of doing without them is both alarming and shameful.

If I had to try and crystallise why physical books are so important, I think it’s to do with the fact of the actual book being something so immediately available and long-lasting. You can hold it. You can have it by your bedside or on your table. If you choose (which I never do), you can underline things in it or make a note about it on a blank page at the front. You can place it where you please in your big or small collection of books. You don’t have to turn on any machine in order to be able to look it up. A book is right there (although sometimes you do have to search for it before it’s right there). You can riffle through it. You can give it as a present. You can make notes about it in your Book Journal (which I do). Even if you can’t remember who wrote it or its title, you can remember its size and shape and the colour of its cover. You can value it over your whole life. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Oh Moon!

September 21st, 2019

The recent anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon must be the reason why, of late, I’ve made an extra special point of looking up at the moon when it’s full. It brings to mind an array of moon memories.

For instance, I think about the friend in Wales who, long ago, was given the nickname, Moon – partly, no doubt, because his first name begins with M but also, surely, because of the roundness of his face and the companionable way he smiles.

A little moon ditty:

And then again, seeing a full moon in the sky gets me recalling the little verse a friend once taught me. It’s especially good for retelling because of the expressiveness of voice it invites:  Read the rest of this entry »

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 »