Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

“A real gem of a book!”

November 27th, 2016
£8.50 (£10 inc UK p&p)
£8.50 (£10 inc UK p&p)

A Long Run in Short Shorts is the first book published by my own imprint: Storyworks Press. It’s a collection of my own personal tales. Some are short, some very short. Some I’ve told, some I haven’t. But I hope these mini-memoirs show how our personal tales are an essential part of how we create the story of ourselves. 

To buy a copy simply click here on A Long Run in Short Shorts and follow the instructions.

An ideal present, you will also be able to request for copies to be sent direct to family and friends.

Storytelling Starters ~ Miss Ellany (otherwise known as Miscellany)

October 21st, 2017

Miss Ellany (otherwise known as Miscellany) is where my mind is right now. Maybe it’s in consequence of getting to the end of my radiotherapy sessions (just one more to go on Monday). At present, this feels like being let out of school – and it just occurs to me that, of course, next week is half-term. Besides, on Monday it is my birthday.

So it’s time for some fun. For starters, Miss Ellany offers you two of my favourite jokes.

Joke 1:

One day, the elephant met a little mouse on his way through the jungle. The elephant looked down at the mouse and asked the mouse this question: ‘Why am I so big and strong and you’re so small and weak?’ The mouse replied without hesitation: ‘I’ve been poorly.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ The Sands of Time

October 14th, 2017

The first time I had cancer, I was visited by an old friend of Paul’s family, a fine and loveable man who died earlier this year. To the end of his life, he retained his simply expressed but deep sort of wisdom. You could see it in the smile in his eyes. So there was I back then, worrying whether I should be seeking out different sorts of treatment from the one I was being offered. What this friend said in sum was this: ‘Mary, why don’t you allow yourself to be a package that can be looked after and handed along by those who know what to do?’

The second time I had cancer, back in 2010, I received a card with a story enclosed from a storyteller who’d become a good friend some time before during the week-long storytelling course I ran with Shonaleigh for the Festival at the Edge. I came across the card and story again while sorting through papers in my study this week. The story touched an important nerve in my thoughts during this third time of my being treated for cancer.

The story is The Tale of the Sands.  It’s to be found in Tales of the Dervishes by Idries Shah, the author and teacher who devoted his life to key works from the Sufi tradition, conveying and adapting them to the needs of the West. In my own words, The Tale of the Sands says something like this: Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Secret places

October 7th, 2017

Secret places have a strong attraction for many of us. It would be hard to say why. Whatever words are used to explain it, there’s always something that remains inexplicable, mysterious beyond any kind of explanation.

My story this week is about such a place. It’s a fable from China told or retold by T-ao Ch’ien. I’ve loved the story for a very long time and in fact have included it in this blog twice before in 2013 and 2015. But I’ve not previously included a haunting poem that relates to the story. I saw the poem again this week while looking for something else in one of my storytelling notebooks. It felt like re-meeting a very old friend. Written by a poet called Wang Wei who lived from A.D. 699 – 761, it captures both the beauty of the story and, for me, the feeling behind it.

The story:

A fisherman one day was rowing upriver and became so absorbed by the flow of the water that he rowed for a very long time, looking up only when he saw beautiful reflections in the water in the shapes and colours of flowers. When he looked up he saw he was in the middle of a peach blossom forest. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Fruit jelly for tea

September 30th, 2017

Last week in Wales, I made my usual visit to my friend Ella, now in her 101st year. After tea (which included jelly with fruit in it because she knows I love it), our reminiscences turned to the subject of evacuees, children who’d arrived in the area when evacuated out of London for safety during the Second World War.

What stories came out! Ella remembers so much I sometimes catch myself thinking there’s nothing she’s forgotten. Her mind is like a deep map of the area – and it’s a map that not only has historical depth. It includes what’s going on now.

Evacuees now:

Thinking back over tales Ella remembered, it occurs to me that the theme of evacuation is just as important today. Families of Rohingya Muslims flooding out of Myanmar, people fleeing for their lives from war in Syria, children and adults risking their lives in flimsy boats sailing from African shores to the hoped-for better life in Europe: in so many parts of the world, people are daily being displaced from their homes, sometimes to try and save their lives, sometimes because they choose to go when they feel they have no other choice. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Finding a Line

September 23rd, 2017

Finding a line is what I do. But what does focusing on the line leave out? Last week’s story here in this blog was about two girls who were transformed by the King of the Deep into seagulls, eternally destined thereafter to fly between land and sea.

The two birds began to make a little line in my mind. By Thursday, delving into nursery rhymes for a piece I am writing, I found myself considering that clever little verse, so fascinating to children when it’s done with hand actions:

Pete and Repete sat on a wall.
Pete flew off.
Who was left?
Repete.

There are numerous variants of this rhyme. But whatever one is used, one thing is certain. With children, it has to be repeated again and again.  And again. So, my child’s heart still present within me, it was lovely for me yesterday morning when Paul called me to the bedroom window in our house here in Wales. Crows were flying into and over the big old tree in our neighbour’s back yard. Always they arrived in pairs, settling in the tree, then perhaps moving position, then apparently in the shared whim of a moment sailing out into the windy grey air. Paul commented on how they must be enjoying their aerodynamics – or was it aerobatics? Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ The problematic tale

September 16th, 2017

I don’t believe in reincarnation. Not in any specific way. Yet I’m still inclined to proclaim that I’m going to come back as a seagull. I just love the way seagulls ride the air currents. I’m wooed by the haunting sound of their call, how it always speaks of the sea even as it flies over land.

On Thursday in North Pembrokeshire, I was watching the tide rippling onto the foreshore down at the little harbour of Abercastle, (Abercastell in Welsh). The ocean beyond distinctly heaving, I watched a seagull on the wet, stony beach. It stood among the reflections for ages, its eye sometimes turned out to sea, sometimes onto the spot where it stood.

Watching the seagull has brought back to mind a story I once came across in a collection of stories from Wales. It’s a ‘How the Seagull Became’ kind of story. Details in the version I read, including the names given to its characters, have long since gone from my mind. This has never bothered me. Because I feel deeply unhappy with a central aspect of it, it’s not a story I’ve ever felt inclined to retell. Yet – and doesn’t this happen sometimes? – the story still holds me a bit in its thrall. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ A Surfeit of Stories

September 9th, 2017

The life of the storyteller and story-writer has been a fruitful one in my experience of it. At the same time, I have to acknowledge that sometimes there’s a feeling of surfeit. Too many people going by, too much awareness of all the stories they’re part of, too many ifs and buts in every direction. And with all that, not enough time for digesting things and making something of them, not enough real satisfaction.

That’s how I feel right now after two months of hospital appointments when I’ve been one of so many people walking in and out of  the hospital’s foyer or sitting waiting to be seen by a doctor or a nurse. In hospitals, it’s as if the whole world is swishing around you as you try to deal with your own main story yet are aware of being profoundly distracted from what you consider to be your own real life.

That’s how it is. That’s how it’s still going to be for me for a while. Yet over the next fortnight, there’ll be some respite. A fortnight in Wales feels like a blissful prospect providing some welcome fresh air and rest before the three weeks of radiotherapy treatments that will form the last part of the treatment for my breast cancer.

An odd little coincidence

So it feels rather strange that yesterday an odd little coincidence occurred in my life. I love coincidences. They make good stories. I don’t believe they necessarily have profound meaning. The probability factors in the world around us may just as well account for some or all. Yet I do generally think that coincidences have value. The value is simply that they make us notice them. They give us points of meaning and, because human beings appreciate meaning, we realise the value of noticing.

So yesterday I was in Guy’s Hospital yet again for the CT scan which was needed for setting up my radiotherapy arrangements. At the end of the session, I was given the list of dates and times for the fifteen sessions that are to start in three weeks’ time. I looked at the list and then I smiled at the lovely radiographer who’d been seeing to me.

‘I have an extraordinary little story to tell you,’ I said. ‘Seven years ago, I had to have radiotherapy as the final part of the treatment I was given for nasal lymphoma. The last of those radiotherapy sessions happened on October 23rd which is my birthday. So now I’ve just looked at the list you’ve given me for the appointments I have to have this time round. And what do I see? The last date on the list is – guess what? –  October 23rd which is my birthday.’

‘Wow,’ said the radiographer. ‘That’s amazing.’ I agree. It is. But it’s not as amazing as that the sun comes up every morning even when it doesn’t shine through the clouds. Nor is it as amazing as the skill of surgeons and radiographers or the friendship that good friends show. What’s also very fine is a nice cup of tea.

PS: My photo this week is of the South American story-doll I was once given by Kevin Crossley-Holland after I’d edited a paper he’d written for publication by the Society for Storytelling. The doll seems to me to acknowledge not only the multiplicity of the tales which are part of a storytelling life but also the potential burden the storyteller carries in carrying them around.

Storytelling Starters ~ Getting the ending right

September 2nd, 2017

Critic says, ‘How could you ever forget such a crucial part of the story?’

Self replies. ‘I know, I can’t bear it. All I can say is that story’s got two endings and at least I remembered the main one. ’

Critic continues: ‘But that’s really not good enough. If that boy hadn’t asked, your audience would have gone away without ever knowing the other ending.’

Self replies, a bit more assertive now: ‘Perhaps I can be partly forgiven? After all, it was a very big story, it was my first time to tell it and the children were so attentive. It held them for the whole of the hour we had and I probably got carried away by my feeling of pleasure that I was able to bring it together with just enough space for the silence with which I think all stories should end and then a few comments from them.’

Critic persists, a little more leniently now: ‘So how did you feel when that boy so urgently asked what had happened to the two jealous sisters?’ Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s a story No. 2

August 26th, 2017

What’s a story? I asked this question a few weeks ago. Now I’ve returned to it to ask what you might make of the following two items:

Item 1:

There was a bear that he standed on his head.

Item 2:

Mr Hatfull was a taxi driver. One day in Redbridge, he was called to a house to pick up some trays of cream cakes to take them to a party which was due to take place later that day. On his way, Mr Hatfull had just drawn to a halt at some traffic lights that were on red when a very smart-looking man, obviously in a great hurry, ran across to his cab, opened the passenger door, jumped in and sat down Plop! – right on top of the cream cakes.

What’s a story? I guess you might decide that Item 2 is a story while Item 1 is not. But perhaps we have to think again.

About Item 1:

Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Finding a voice

August 19th, 2017

A most poignant story came into my knowledge this week. It has made me realise all over again why storytelling workshops became so important a part of my work and why I’ve always tried to take an open approach to storytelling with children and adults. It’s quite simply the huge importance of giving people a voice.

The story cropped up in a very fine book I finished reading during the week. Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey is a history of several generations of the Fitzwilliam family, the fabulously wealthy owners of Wentworth House in the North East of England, and of the desperately poor mine-workers in the collieries they owned. One of many incidental stories in the book is of the son of a poor young woman by the name of May Bower who lived and worked in Wentworth village. Her son Edgar was believed to have been one of the numerous illegitimate children fathered by Billy Fitzwilliam, the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam.

A man without a voice:

Read the rest of this entry »