Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Adults’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~Reflections at New Year

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

It would sound such a daftly easy question for a teacher to ask: ‘Children, when is New Year’s Day?’  Except if the children lived in the Gwaun Valley in North Pembrokeshire, they could well suspect they were being tricked. For in the Gwaun Valley, ever since 1582 when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar, New Year has continued to be remembered on January 13th.

On the way:

So that’s why, at this point of the year, I find myself on my way into memory in the passenger seat of the Morris Minor of my redoubtable Aunty Mali. We’re on the way to celebrate Nos Calan in the warmly welcoming farmhouse of Mr and Mrs Saunders Vaughan in the middle of the Gwaun Valley. I had guessed beforehand that there’d be a sensational welcome. Mrs Saunders Vaughan was a bustling, endlessly talkative woman with a cackling kind of voice. She’d come into Fishguard every week with an enormous basket of eggs for selling to her regular customers, of whom my mother was one. Mr Saunders Vaughan was a quietly spoken and kindly man. Both were immensely hospitable.

Arriving:

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Storytelling Starters ~ Country life

Saturday, January 4th, 2020

One of the great pleasures of being back in Pembrokeshire is catching up with friends. Liz and Eddie are busy people. Eddie works on a local farm, Liz has been working at a local doctor’s surgery but  also does lots of caring for grandchildren in her family. Both have lots of stories. From time to time, Liz writes down one or other of hers and sends it off to a magazine. Eddie loves to tell his stories. They are about hilarious episodes in his own life.

Eddie Story No. 1:

For instance, one time when Eddie was a boy growing up in a long line of brothers in a little cottage by the sea, the night for the bath-tub came round. All the brothers were lined up, clothes off, waiting their turn to go into the tub when the parents realised that one of the boys in the line wasn’t even one of theirs. It didn’t matter. By then, he was already in the tub. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Too busy?

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

Yesterday morning I needed to look up a song. Early in January Paul and I have a tryst to meet up with some friends in Llansteffan, a village on a Carmarthenshire estuary where I once stayed for a couple of lovely weeks while doing storytelling work in some nearby schools. I told these friends that when we are there, looking out over the sea or, if the tide is out, the sandflats, I shall sing them a Welsh song that I love which tells the story of someone rowing across the estuary to fetch his loved one.

Reminders:

It was a pleasure to be reminded of the song when I found it. But, my goodness, as I searched for it in my file boxes – now would it be in the box labelled Wales, which is full of Welsh stories and stuff about Welsh places, or in the box labelled Songs, Poems, Sayings? – I had such a weird combination of feelings. Past and future swirled around in my mind. Which items had I previously used in my storytelling work? Which could be good in the future? I felt a bit like Janus, the ancient Roman deity who, as my Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable reminds me, was the guardian of gates and doors and, for this reason, represented with two faces, one in front and one behind. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Lying and Bragging

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

Over the last weeks, a lot of lies have been perpetrated and a lot of bragging has occurred. To a varying extent, perhaps we as the general public accepted it all as part of the process of electioneering. But those of us who are storytellers may have cast on it a more professional eye. After all, some types of storytelling are deliberate glorifications of the art of lying and the best tall tales can make us alternately laugh and groan even as we admire the brilliance of the invention and the art of the wordplay in the telling.

Thinking about lying made me start to wonder whether it’s the particular purpose of the lie that makes the difference. And from some remote part of my memory, this wondering process brought to mind a lie I’ve known about  since childhood. I heard about it from my redoubtable Aunty Mali who has featured in this blog several times before. Clearly she was proud of the lie for she told me about it not just the once but many times over and always with a sense of admiration. The lie had been told by her own mother, evidently a woman of great probity. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ That tree is ours.

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

Making lists, I thought, would be my subject here today. For there have been too many lists in my life of late. Jobs to do round the house. Christmas presents to be bought. People to whom to send emails about my new book, The Uses of ‘a’.

But early this morning, lying in bed awake and feeling overwhelmed by my lists, my mind turned instead to trees. I think this was due to a visit yesterday from storyteller friend, Helen East. As we sat in the kitchen drinking Lemon and Ginger tea, Helen began talking about  the time that she’d spent in Kerala a few years ago. Then she told us a Kerala story, a terrific story about the kindness of a tree. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Loud listening

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

I love rugby. (I’m Welsh after all.) So of course I watched the final of the Rugby World Cup, England vs. South Africa. In his comments on TV immediately after his team won, Siya Kolisi, the black captain of the South African team, said he hoped their win would help bring his country together.

I felt very moved, first by the unboastful way he spoke, then by all the memories that began flooding into my mind, particularly memories from my five-week storytelling trip to South Africa in 1992 not long after Nelson Mandela was released from prison. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Blade and bell

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

A week ago, Paul and I went to a Memorial Service for a great and important person – the world-renowned tenor, Kenneth Bowen. We’d got to know him because of my Aunty Mali (yes, the redoubtable one). Kenneth used sometimes to go to call on her when he visited Fishguard, where he’d spent many family holidays in his youth. One huge love they had in common: music. And one aspect of music in particular: voice.

Qualities of voice

At the Memorial Service, each of Kenneth’s two grandsons sang. I was immediately reminded of the qualities of Kenneth’s voice.  How it could command attention. What an edge it had. (I think this is what singers know as blade.) But also what tenderness it could have, what beauty, what resonance, as if it was holding you within its embrace. (And this, I think, is what singers call bell.) (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Autumn leaves

Saturday, October 26th, 2019

You know what it’s like! You’ve got to make a decision but so many options are swirling round in your mind you find it impossible to choose. Well, it’s just like that this week. As I sit down to write this blog, too many different options present themselves. For one thing, I want to write about the gorgeous colours of Autumn leaves I just saw when taking a walk round my local streets.

Choices: a journey

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Storytelling Starters ~ Tangled webs

Saturday, 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. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ On the bus

Saturday, 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. (more…)