Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Dealing with Stories’ Category

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 ~ Impact

Saturday, August 29th, 2020

Stories create bonds. Children and grandparents, children and parents, adults and their parents: you name the relationship, it probably always benefits from stories.

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about a good friend here in Pembrokeshire (where I still am). Her husband, Eddie, is a hilarious storyteller with whoever is his audience. I’ve written about him before in this blog. But Eddie’s wife, Liz, is a great storyteller too, particularly with her grandchildren. I’ve never actually seen her with them. I just know from the way she talks about them and what she reports of how they respond. They ask her for a story and, hey presto, she’s telling one to them. The stories forge themselves in her mind and come out of her mouth and she delights in the process. It’s evident that those grandchildren of hers love the experience too for, very often when I see her, she talks about it – and not only because she knows that I’ve worked as a storyteller and love stories too. I think she talks about it because it’s such a satisfying process for her and she gains from the doing of it as much as do they. (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 ~ 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 ~ Looking and Seeing

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

‘This is the first time I’ve ever looked a white person in the eyes.’ It was a young black guy that said this to me and him saying it has stayed with me ever since, both in the fact of what he said and that he felt able to say it. I felt proud that the situation we were in – an adult storytelling workshop in Cape Town in South Africa – had made it both possible and comfortable for him to say such a thing.

I’d been asked to run that workshop by Alan Kenyon, a wonderful man who believed in stories and their power to enable things to be said and heard that need saying and hearing. Sadly Alan passed away a few years ago. He was a science teacher-trainer whom I’d originally met when he turned up at a storytelling course I’d been asked to run in an Adult Education venue in South London where I’d never previously worked.  No-one other than Alan turned up, a disconcerting circumstance which had the wonderful consequence that I was able to begin getting to know him there and then. At that time, he was in London for a while to try and learn how to use storytelling as part of the teaching of science and maths. After he’d returned to his work in South Africa, this interest of his eventually led him to put together the storytelling trip to South Africa which he asked me to come and do. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Tiger-Mouse Tales etc.

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

Quite a lot of years ago, I wrote a set of children’s stories. I called them The Tiger-Mouse Tales. Each of three main characters had its own story. The tiger-mouse was an enchanting creature that could turn itself into a tiger when it wanted or needed to do so or, equally, turn back to a mouse. The blue flamingo was a beautiful bird, tall, quiet and very serene. The sea-ling was an academic busy-body of a bird, very talkative and with plenty to say. He looked like he wore a black gown as my headmaster father used to do in school.

These three creatures, the tiger-mouse, the blue flamingo and the sea-ling, had literally appeared to me in a dream. It was because I was so fascinated by them that I wrote that set of stories about them, printed them out and gave copies to various children I knew. But I never did anything else with them.

This week, the stories have returned to my mind. They did so because, the other day, my cousin on my mother’s side of the family asked me about the grandfather we have in common. Neither of us had consciously ever met him. But I was delighted to tell her what I knew of him from my mother for he always sounded to me like a delightful man. He was Scottish, he grew up in Oban on the West coast of Scotland and, like his father before him, he became a journalist renowned for the speed and clarity of his shorthand. The long latter part of his working life was spent working on the Pembrokeshire newspaper, the Western Telegraph. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Lockdown lifters

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

I’ve been missing my Pembrokeshire sea. I’m going to be missing it more and more. Each time I read in my newspaper about how long Lockdown is likely to last, the predicted length gets longer and longer. It’s vitally necessary but oh dear! Today, looking for distraction in my file-box of Songs, Poems and Sayings, I came across this lovely short poem by the American poet, Carl Sandburg:

The sea-wash never ends
The sea-wash repeats, repeats
Only the old strong songs
Is that all
The sea-wash repeats, repeats

(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 ~ 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…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Busy

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

As my website reports, they’re here. They arrived on Thursday. Five cardboard boxfuls of them were pushed into the house. Held  on to a  heavy palette by thick plastic which had to be cut away with a big pair of scissors before any box could be opened to reveal my new book, The Uses of ‘a’ … and other stories. The first person to see them, along with Paul and me, was storyteller Meg Philp who lives in Australia and was staying with us at the time.

The book contains 24 stories. These range in subject from a refugee desperately searching for her children to a wandering minstrel on his way to praise a prince to a young woman in the throes of deciding whether or not to make a Christmas cake (spoiler alert: she does!). These stories were written over the last few years whenever one came into my head. I really enjoyed the writing of them and then eventually realising that I had what I could call a collection. I hope you might like to purchase a copy. See the end of this blog for how to order.

A special pleasure of deciding to self-publish a book is getting it designed. What an art that is! The size of the book, the design of the cover, the choice of font and all the little details such as, in this case, the two little birds that appear to be flying away at the end of each story. My thanks again to my very special book designer, Olwen Fowler, who was the designer of my previous book, A Long Run in Short Shorts. (more…)