Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Age Range’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Thanks to my Lucky Star

Saturday, 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. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Powerful stuff

Saturday, 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

Saturday, 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. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Any old bones?

Saturday, September 12th, 2020

The rag-and-bone man regularly came round the streets of Fishguard where I grew up. We kids would be playing Jacks on the front doorstep or What’s the Time, Mister Wolf? round on Victoria Avenue and we’d hear the rumble of his cart, look up and see his tired-looking horse and hear his echoing cry as he went on up the street. ‘Any old rags?’

The rag-and-bone man was a small, thin man as if he was nothing but bones himself. I suppose he did collect bones as well as rags. But I have no memory of that. However, I do have a special memory of bones from later, probably my young twenties, when Paul and I were in Corfu, staying in a house we’d rented out in the sticks. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Hip-hop

Saturday, September 5th, 2020

In my life, there’s been the Hippy-Hippy-Shake: a dance we did all the time in our teens. Then there were  hipster jeans and there were hippies who sat round smoking pot. But today the mere thought of hips brings back to mind the hip operation I’m to have a week on Monday. Am I apprehensive? Yes – even though everyone who’s had one tells me it’ll be fine and afterwards I’ll be running around like a new young thing.

Right now though, as I think about this blog, it’s not just the hip op that comes into my mind. Probably that’s because the apprehensive condition of my mind has started it running onto anything and everything that could include hips.  So for instance in comes that well-known folk song that I  well remember from when Common Ground (Helen East, Kevin Graal and Rick Wilson) used to sing it in storytelling sessions. In it the lonely old woman is sitting alone at her spinning wheel as into the room, body part by body part, come all the body bits that make up the Strange Visitor. First comes the great big feet, then the pair of thin thin legs followed by the great big muscly body which in my imagination now includes great big hips. And as all the body parts accumulate, the old woman asks the strange visitor why. Why have you come here? FOR YOU is the threatening answer. But of course this particular old woman is not to be overwhelmed. Up she gets and grabs a stick and beats the strange visitor out of the room even while, as at the start of the song, she goes on wishing for company. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Time travel

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

This morning I finished reading Virginia Woolf’s extraordinary novel, Orlando. This was my second reading of it. The first was years ago, goodness knows how many. In various different ways, it’s a book about malleability. Orlando begins as a boy and then becomes a girl and it seems that he lives in many different eras from the Elizabethan onwards. At the end of the book, he is driving a car down Park Lane. Or is ‘he’ a ‘she’ by then? In a very real way, it doesn’t matter. The book encourages us to know that, since we as human beings possess this extraordinary thing called imagination, we can travel both in time and space. And, what’s more, through reading and living, meeting people from different cultures and experiencing the world through different media such as radio and TV and the internet, we also travel within ourselves. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ B is for Brush and also for Bee

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Why a brush should ever be seen as daft (as in ‘daft as a brush’) is beyond me – though I do think Boris Johnson’s hair is daft and he is certainly as daft as a brush.

I also think that daft is a very enjoyable word. There are some things it describes better than any other word could. As an example, here’s a joke that was told to me once on a Rosslare street by a man who’d just walked down the hill to where I was standing looking round for a good pub to go to. Without a pause, he came straight up to me, shook hands firmly as if he’d been waiting for someone to greet and then immediately said, ‘Well, I’ve got a story to tell you.’ He started his story without so much as a pause.

‘Once’ he said, ‘there were two friends and they stole a calendar from a shop. As bad luck would have it, they were spotted doing it and they were apprehended and taken to court. “Stole a calendar, did you?” said the judge to the two men. “Well, that’s bad, very bad. I’m going to give you six months each.” (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Sorting not sinking

Saturday, August 8th, 2020

You’re doing it too? I’m talking about sorting. Sorting with a capital S. For it’s my impression that it’s become one of the major occupations of Lockdown. Always there are plenty of things to get sorted. Clothes, books, papers, drawers, cupboards, foodstuffs … you name it, it needs doing before you sink beneath the mess of it all.

When I was sorting the piles of notebooks in the big cupboard in my study, out came two hardback notebooks labelled Coincidence. One notebook was full, the other half full and the first entry in the full one was 1st November 2007. This first entry gave an account of a series of events concerning a woman I’d interviewed for The Sunday Times for a special supplement on mental illness. The account recorded how I’d met her a number of times and, observing that she was becoming ill, had talked about her (anonymously of course) to a psychiatrist called Dr Anthony Clare who was also on my list of interviewees. When I asked Dr Clare if he thought there was anything I could do to help this woman, he advised that I tried to persuade her to go to the Maudsley Hospital. Later I learned that she did take up on my suggestion. And who was on duty at the Hospital when she turned up there? Dr  Clare of course. And for me what proved extraordinary was that he recognised her from the account of her I’d given him. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ And in Bangalore!

Saturday, July 25th, 2020

I first heard from Swati Kakodkar, a storyteller in Bangalore in India, some five years ago when she wrote to me about storytelling. While we’ve had some good face-time I have often thought how much I would like to be able to meet her in person. Maybe one day that chance will arise! Meantime, to complete (for now!) my little series on storytelling spreaders, here’s some of what Swati has achieved.

As well as being the busy mother of a son and cooking for the family, Swati is a management professional who has worked in the areas of Brand Building and Corporate Communication. She is also a certified storyteller who holds a Diploma in Storytelling from Kathalaya Academy of Storytelling in India, an institution affiliated both to the University of Sweden and the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh. In 2013, Swati founded Story ki Bory, into which she has poured all her varied experience. When I asked Swati the meaning of Story ki Bory, she answered that ‘bory’ means ‘sack’ in Hindi. So Story ki Bory means a sackful of stories. But the vision behind it is wider than any sackful. As Swati describes it,  the vision is ‘to make a definite difference and create a positive change through the transforming energy of stories and storytelling’.

Here are some of the different parts of Swati’s Story ki Bory project. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ How the world goes on

Saturday, July 11th, 2020

How the world rocks – and so often not in good ways. This week, I’d meant to write more about Storytelling Spreaders. And I will come back to that, I promise. But for now my intentions have been changed by an email I and many others have received from an old friend in St David’s. Christopher Taylor has had a bookshop there for many years. It’s on the little sloping street known as  The Pebbles on the way down to the Cathedral from the centre of the city (for, despite its smallness of size, St David’s has a Cathedral and as a result is officially recognised as a city). But even as I write, this bookshop is being cleared out and closed. Its lease has been ended by the owner of the property. What a tragedy for St David’s and for visitors to the Cathedral. For with the closure of the bookshop  goes something very valued as a source of literature on the history and importance of St David’s as well as a source for learning about what’s going on in the Cathedral and the area in terms of current  events. Also, very importantly, the bookshop has been a place for talk for local people and visitors, somewhere to find out things about the area in an informal way. (more…)