Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘All ages’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Chemo dreams

Saturday, June 1st, 2019

One effect of the chemotherapy treatment I’m currently receiving (one treatment every three weeks, six in all and, hooray I’m now half way through) is that, in the early hours of morning, I find myself strangely half-awake, mind wandering wildly through strange images and practical thoughts.

The House of the Wind:

In one of my chemo dreams this week, I was born in The House of the Wind. Throughout the first years of my life, a gentle wind echoed in my inner ear, sussurating like the sound of new leaves unfolding in the trees of spring. Sometimes, a stronger wind became the waves of summer storms riding onto the nearby beaches, the long white hair of their manes endlessly billowing out to sea behind them. Every now and again, the winds became winter gales crashing into my thoughts, demanding expression and action, utterly refusing to be quelled.

So then, so now. But The House of the Wind is not only a place in one of this week’s chemo dreams.  It’s also a place I’ve passed many times, a big old Woollen Mill  not far away from my small Welsh house in the village of Mathri in Pembrokeshire. The mill is called Tregwynt which, translated from Welsh to English, literally means The House of the Wind. It has a long wide area of wooded garden in front which, the last time I passed, was filled with spring flowers.

Tregwynt Woollen Mill:

 Close to the manorhouse of Tregwynt, Melin Tregwynt  is a supreme example of how old tradition – in this case the patterns and making-styles of woollen cloth – can be kept alive and, with work and initiative, transformed into a very successful modern business. Tregwynt Woollen Mill’s cloth can by now be purchased in various forms in all kinds of high-class outlets as well, of course, as online. Cot blankets, cushions, throws, double-bed covers, single-bed covers, coats, dresses, wraps, purses, bags, sandals, slippers: you name it, you’ll find it in the Tregwynt shop only a few miles off the main road from Fishguard where I was born and St David’s where I mainly grew up.

The Art of Storytelling:

What can be done with cloth can also be done – and is being done and must continue to be done – with stories. With hard work and initiative, storytellers keep them going and give them new life. In some of my waking hours this week, I’ve been sorting through old storytelling papers dating back to the early 1980s when I first came to know about storytelling in its more modern forms. Those days turned out to be the early days of the Storytelling Revival. What a lot has happened since then!

PS: The top picture is Tregwynt Woollen Mill. The bottom one is their cloth pattern called Knot Garden. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Frog talk

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

Human minds! You see something, it reminds you of more. Since yesterday, it’s been frogs for me.

The frog in the park:

 

Going for a walk in Brockwell Park, all part of my recovery programme (and thanks to everyone for good wishes) we were greeted near the entrance by a very large wooden frog, arms endearingly outstretched towards us. Of course, this frog  brought back to my mind all kinds of stories (well, it would, wouldn’t it?).

One was of Lil who used to live down the road with her sister Sarah. Lil would call out to you on the street, ‘Ere, Missis Whatsisname?’ Then she’d follow up with something like, ‘Yer got no idea what ’er upstairs as gorn an done now.’ On one occasion she came to my door and quietly murmured, ‘Sarah says as can you come down and get the frog (frog as in frawg) outa the kitchen.’ Of course I went armed with rubber gloves and a bucket. I remember it well.

Then there’s the little frog folk-tale I used to tell.

 

Frog talk:

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Storytelling Starters ~ Recycling

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

It’s my second chemotherapy session on Tuesday. I do not look forward to it or its aftermath. But some nice things keep the spirits raised: kindnesses from friends, the freshly blooming Mary Rose in the garden, the pleasure of the Great Tit at finding our bird feeder tubs have been refilled and, of course, stories.

Where’s the creativity?

Whenever I read about the state of schools across the country – how some teachers are voluntarily buying food or books for children with money from their own pockets or, just as bad or worse,  how so many teachers feel that all emphasis on creativity has been lost as a result of focus on exams – I find myself wanting the children to have more stories. Young people are disillusioned, turned off, self-harming, depressed. I want them to hear stories, do self-motivated work that is based on stories, talk about stories, tell their own stories. Who is a storyteller to say this should happen? Well, all of us storytellers who’ve seen what powerful effects it can have. Particularly this last week, I’ve been recalling the attention and engagement that  hundreds of children have shown to the daftly innovative stories of Shemi Wâd.

The story that follows is one I found in the handwritten book of Shemi stories I was recently lent. The stories in it were written down by Bili John who had himself known Shemi since boyhood. He wrote down the stoies in Welsh.  The one that follows is in my English version.

The big clock and the tricycle:

One day Shemi dug out from his garden a wooden box that contained what looked like the wheels of a clock. Shemi had never seen anything quite like these wheels before. They were very big – as large as saucers – and without more ado, he got ready to use them to make a clock. (more…)

Storytelling Starters: The link

Saturday, April 13th, 2019

Some books sell thousands,  millions, of copies. If you’re the author, it must be wonderful to experience such success. But to me right now, it feels like it’s the personal links that are the most wonderful thing.

My story from yesterday:

In yesterday’s post arrived an envelope containing two hand-written postcards and a photograph. The photo was of two boys, Ethan and Isaac, standing in front of a gravestone. The two boys had written one each of the cards, the writing in both cases carefully done along pencil lines ruled onto the cards.

The boys were writing to tell me how much they’d enjoyed the stories in a book by the name of  Shemi’s Tall Tales which I’d published a few years ago. The stories in the book were all ones originally told by an old North Pembrokeshire character known as Shemi Wâd. All of them are very daft and marvellous tales and in my experience of telling them in schools, they are especially loved by boys.

Two boys and a grandfather: 

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Storytelling Starters ~ Gold

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

When you think about it, it’s sometimes very hard to say what makes a particular topic come to your mind. For instance, I have no idea what started me thinking about nightingales this morning. Not blackbirds but nightingales. Or perhaps instead of nightingales (plural) I should say nightingale (singular). For to my knowledge I’ve only ever encountered one. And it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

My personal experience:

It was on the island of Iona off the north-west coast of Scotland. Paul and I were visiting Oban on the mainland (my maternal grandfather hailed from Oban). In the course of our visit, we took a trip across to Mull and thence on to Iona where we were able to spend a few days staying in a remote little guesthouse where, each night, our host would call upstairs to say that the electricity was about to go off because he was about to turn off the generator. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Cat-you-like

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

Are you familiar with the story of how the cat got its purr? I was reminded of it while thinking about the elegant black, beautiful cat who came up to our room  in my husband’s arms a couple of days ago. Paul had been out on the doorstep, talking with our neighbour. Meantime, our front door was open, the cat emerged as if from nowhere and promptly walked into our house. Paul followed it in, picked it up and brought it up for my admiration.

Wow! The cat was obviously ‘owned’ – if ever a cat can be owned – with a smart collar and bell. He was in the most beautiful condition and at once I was reminded of all our past cats and how I’d like to have a cat again. After the death of Minky, our last lovely cat, we felt we couldn’t replace him with another. Then time went on and, several years later, we remain catless. Perhaps that beautiful black cat will bring about a change here. Who knows?

How the cat got its purr: the story

Meantime, that story of how the cat got its purr has winkled its way back into my mind. The story tells of how one of the animals, perhaps it was cat, somehow got hold of a big beautiful drum. Whoever he was, he loved to play it and when he did so at parties, the other animals were full of envy of the sounds it made. So envious did the other animals become that one of them – was it fox? – wanted to get it for himself. (more…)

Storytelling Starters: On the wing

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Last week I ended with the thought – or is it more of an observation? – that, in storytelling, you as the storyteller are your own prop. This applies whether you’re a professional doing your storytelling from a stage or in a group, with adults or with children, or whether you’re telling your stories informally. What you have in your repertoire is not only your stories but yourself, your voice, actions, sound-effects, expressions.

Promptly last week came a comment from a reader in New Zealand (Pamela, this is you). She and her family had just attended a storytelling session being given by Tanya Batt, a New Zealander whom, as it happens, I remember meeting years ago in North Wales. As well as the stories and how Tanya was dressed, what had made an enormous impact was her great range of sound-effects and actions.

Yes, sound-effects and actions. But there’s something else too which can enormously help a storyteller. It’s developing a range of little add-ins (and I’m calling them add-ins as opposed to add-ons). The sort of add-ins I mean can include all kinds of things that, over time, become a staple, but not inevitable, part of your repertoire. They’re things you can throw in, perhaps in the earlier part of a session when you’re introducing yourself and getting going. Or even later, perhaps between stories or even in the middle of one, a kind of throw-away that can recapture attention. So what do I mean by add-ins? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Props 2: The storyteller

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

So here I am, thinking about props and the usefulness of them. Props attract attention, they hold attention. Interesting objects, puppets, dolls together with fascinating bags and boxes: all can be part of the art of the storyteller. Last week, I wrote about the single object that may set the scene for a story. But a set of objects can also be good as well as fun to put together.

A set of objects sets the scene in a different way. It reflects the fact that there will be different scenes in the story and is very helpful for younger children. Showing the objects one by one before the story begins gives them an initial sense that the story will progress through different scenes. Then showing them again at the end is a great way to remind them of the story. Perhaps you do this as you put the props away in the bag or box from which they’ve emerged. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Going on

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

It’s that time of year. Sorting feels imperative, like it must take priority over everything else. The trouble is that when sorting happens, distraction occurs. You remember household jobs that must be done, friends with whom you must reconnect, enterprises you failed to pursue that now compel your interest all over again.

All these things are happening to me right now. But one aspect of the sorting that is pleasing is being reminded of stories. Sorting folders on my computer has brought me to folktales I love and haven’t told for a while. It’s also brought me to stories I’ve written and kept largely hidden. Re-reading them now – and they’re stories for reading, not telling – has made me think I might like to share them, even try getting them published. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Taking flight

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

To each and every person who reads this blog, best wishes from me and husband Paul for Christmas, New Year and 2019.  Best wishes for stories in your life and in your telling and best wishes for doing such good things as valuing your family and friends, enjoying and protecting the natural world and keeping as busy as you wish to be but not too busy to keep you from times of just being at peace.

To help carry these wishes to you, here below is the lovely swallow I photographed in Corfu earlier this year. Already a friend has kindly improved my nature-knowledge by letting me know that it’s a red-rumped swallow. I like to think it has paused for that moment of peace and will soon again take flight.

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