Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Age Range’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ High and low

Saturday, April 4th, 2020

It’s felt like a very strange week. Highlights include standing outside on Thursday at 8 p.m. clapping for the NHS and its workers. Most people on our street were joining in and it  felt like a real togetherness, a solidarity of gratitude. For me personally, the gratitude is enormous. After four cancers in my adult life, I’m still here.

Blue skies up above today and for several previous lovely days have felt feel like they’re assuring us that Spring is really on the way if not already here. As well as the cowslips in my garden (one of my most-loved flowers), there’s a large patch of the bluest grape hyacinths and the primroses are doing well. Things can’t be bad.

Friends who’ve rung up to keep in touch during this awful lockdown period have felt like they in themselves are much-needed evidence of the continuance of life and love and the enormous value of contact.

But the most exciting single event of the week – and this because of the memories it’s bringing back – was having my attention drawn to a gorgeous review of my new book, The Uses of ‘a’, in Facts and Fiction magazine. I saw with amazement that this review had been written by John Pole, a fine songwriter, storyteller and Punch and Judy artist who used to come along to my storytelling courses years ago. We’ve not been in touch for a very long time. Now I hope the contact can be renewed. I’ll be ringing him up shortly. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ In our street

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

Sometimes you definitely need a cup of tea, or maybe if things are bad it has to be a glass of whiskey. Then there are also the times when you need a joke. Let me rephrase that because the same thing may not apply to you. Perhaps it’s just me. But sometimes, just as I sometimes need strawberries, I really do need a good joke. Here’s a daft one I put in my store a long time ago. It always cheers me up.

Coming home after work one day, a Council worker was going along the path to his front door when his friend who lived opposite saw him stop and stamp on a snail.

‘Hey?’ said the friend. ‘What you doin’ that for, stomping on a harmless thing like that?’

‘Come off it,’ said the Council worker. ‘It’s been followin’ me all day!’

Preferably you have to hear that joke in a South Wales accent. It’s one of a number of lovely ones I’ve been told over the years. Maybe I’ll remember another next week! (more…)

Storytelling Starters: Calling …

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Thoughts on Friday, 20th March:

My desk says: ‘Tidy me!’

My house calls: ‘Spring clean me!’

My garden pleads: ‘Attend to me.’

My poorly left leg sighs: ‘Massage me.’

My books to review for School Librarian yell: ‘Start reading us now before it’s too late.’

My newly written stories for children screech: ‘Why haven’t you started trying to get a publisher? Don’t you think we’re good enough?’

My unwritten blog for tomorrow nags: ‘You haven’t even started thinking about me yet.’

Meantime, my poor husband sits tucked up in bed with a bit of a fever

And outside, the world feels strangely quiet like it’s waiting for something to happen.

However, news has arrived that a neighbourhood group has formed to give help to whoever needs it.

Kindnesses make the world feel better. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Expectations

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

Mary, Mary, Quite contrary, How does your garden grow?With silver bells and cockleshells as in the nursery rhyme?

Well, my expectations for this week had been of a blissfully peaceful holiday week in Wales with trips to beaches, lots of reading and plenty of time to recover from the battering my wits and my body have taken from trying to deal with all the niggly health issues that have kept coming up.

Contrary to expectations:

Instead? The warning sign on the car kept coming back after it had apparently been dealt with in London and, in Pembrokeshire, led to the determination from the kindly, straight-talking Reg at the Volvo garage in Haverfordwest that, truth to tell, the car should be regarded as a write-off and he’d buy it off us for £300 and use it for spare parts.

This was more than a disappointment. We loved our old car and had been reassured in our garage in London that the small bump we’d experienced a few weeks ago had not left any problem. And now? If we’d couldn’t use the car to get back to London – and Reg was saying that tootling around locally would be OK but not to take it on the M4 – how would we make the trip with all our luggage at the end of our peaceful week? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Marking the day

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

At least it’s not raining on this extra Leap Day – at least not yet. Tomorrow is St David’s Day and, in memory, that was always a day of celebration when, at school, we girls all wore a daffodil pinned to our jackets and the boys wore leeks (which they’d diligently chew almost to nothing over the course of the day).

To celebrate St David’s Day every year in St David’s, an Eisteddfod is held in the City Hall. Eistedd in Welsh means sitting and fod (mutated here from bod) means being. So yesterday, two days in advance of the day itself, there we were, Paul and me, sitting in St David’s City Hall as two of the hall-full of people ready to participate in a whole day of competitions of many kinds, among them reciting and dancing and singing alone or in groups. Paul and I won a number of prizes – alas, no firsts – and so came home with a handful of little prize-bags made from the beautiful woollen cloth donated by Tregwynt Woollen Mill.

The tradition:

Evidently, the first known Eisteddfod took place in Cardigan in 1176 under the aegis of the Lord Rhys. It’s a tradition that has persisted all over Wales, though not necessarily on St David’s Day. For many, many youngsters it becomes the route to a future in musical performance or, since prose and poetry competitions are usually included – literary success. Bryn Terfel is just one of the many performers who rose to success in this way. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Tough stuff

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Today’s blog is about two books, each of which tells its tale of life in a down-to-earth way. No avoiding, no hiding.

Book One: The Street

What’s the book for our next Book Group? The Street by Ann Petry  was the answer when I asked because, alas, I’d missed our Book Group’s last meeting.  So I checked the online catalogue of the London Library, to which I belong Not there. I went to Waterstones and looked on the shelves. Not there. Then I asked a member of staff who consulted their online catalogue and shook her head. ‘Not there.’ So I turned away from the counter and there it was, in a little pile on a table.

I’ve begun the book and already I know it’s going to be worth reading. It begins with a young black woman in America looking for an apartment to rent so she can get herself and her little boy Bub away from her husband Jim. She finds a place she can just about afford. It’s not clean. It will be stiflingly hot in summer and, right from the start, she will have to learn to guard herself from the leering eyes of the landlord.

That’s as far as I’ve got but I’m very much looking forward to the rest. Written by a black American woman, it was first published way back in 1946 and is now, but only very recently, available again, republished by Virago. Tough stuff but worth it! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s new?

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

The Three Bears is so familiar to me as a children’s story that I felt quite delighted when I was recently asked to do a staff training workshop at a London nursery called Les Trois Oursons. It made me think about children’s stories as they are told in languages other than English.

On Thursday when I went to do the training, I found myself surrounded by a wide diversity of Nursery staff including French, Ghanaian and Chinese. We had a grand time (and, for me, it felt like getting back to normal, this being the first such workshop I’d done for a while following  my period of ill-health).  First, I got us doing a number of simple rhymes and chants together, foremost among them Little Bear on the Long Road and Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle. Then I told the folk story of The Tiger and the Mouse and got the workshopees (new word?) retelling it to each other in whatever language they liked.

After that, one of the things  I appreciated most was the comments that were made about storytelling as the people in the workshop had experienced it (or not) when they were children. For one Chinese woman, there’d been no storytelling at all and no story books either. But for several who’d grown up in West Africa, there’d been the regular experience of gathering in the open air and at night to listen to stories being told, usually with great drama. (more…)

Storyworks Blog ~ Conditions of life

Saturday, February 8th, 2020

It’s odd how, from time to time, literature and life come closer together than you expect. I’ve just been reading a fine and thought-provoking book which the Book Group to which I belong had chosen as our next book.  Go, Went, Gone is by a German writer, Jenny Erpenbeck. It has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, it’s about immigration and it has made me think a lot about the lives of people in a foreign land, separated from their families and full of hope for a better life.

Go, Went, Gone and its themes were still strongly in my mind when Paul and I organised for a house-cleaner to pay a three-hour visit to our house. My recent ill-health meant that the visit was much-needed and now here she was, a shy, delightful young woman who turned out to be an excellently thorough cleaner. In the course of conversation with her, I asked her where she was from. Her reply was Eritrea. I also learned a bit about her husband. And where is he? In Sweden. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What next?

Saturday, February 1st, 2020

Pinch, punch, first of the month – and no return!

It’s what we used to say when kids, the first two words accompanied by the corresponding actions of pinching and punching (but not too hard!). The final words, ‘and no return’, were the warning to the person you were speaking to. They had to be taken seriously: your friend mustn’t do the rhyme back. At their peril!

Oh, the things we said as children. ‘Daresie’ was another – except how on earth do you write that word down?

Daresie, daresy? It was the challenge. Dare you to jump in that pond (where there might be monsters lurking in the depths waiting to come up and bite you). Dare you to jump off the quay (even though the tide is too low and you might find yourself bashing the bottom). Dare you to go and tell teacher what that naughty boy just said. Dare you to give him a kiss. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Power of Place

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

From time to time over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking, writing and singing about Llansteffan, the estuary village on the coast of Carmarthenshire. This morning, as Llansteffan popped into  my mind yet again, a new thought came with it. What about thinking back on your life not in terms of what you were doing there or who else was present, but simply by place?

If you did this, you’d be focusing less on yourself, more on the places where you’d spent time. What did those places look like? What was the atmosphere? The weather? Focusing less on yourself, you’d be concentrating more on the places themselves. Landscape, atmosphere, weather, any other people that are there and their ways of talking: you could almost try leaving yourself out of the picture altogether. This way, you might find greater richness in your memories than you’d expected. Come to think of it, it might work in a similar way to the piece of advice given to me once by my sister-in-law. She is a superb photographer. And her advice? Always look round the edges of the scene in your viewfinder when you’re about to take a photo. (more…)