Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Remembering’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Beware the storyteller

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

P1000220This week in Wales, we’ve had visitors, two friends from New Zealand. Showing them the delights of North Pembrokeshire, I’ve felt very conscious of the myriad  stories that come to my mind – stories from growing up here and from many years since, stories from my father who loved retelling the local legends, stories from the Sloop Inn in Porthgain where storytelling at the locals’ table is as important as the ale (-well, just about). 

Memory Walks:

Last week I talked about Memory Walks. What I didn’t say then is that they’re something Paul and I quite often do after a walk we’ve taken. Sometimes we make a written note of our respective memories, sometimes we just say them to each other. Over time, the doing of this is a wonderful way to increase the noticing that makes walks so worthwhile. This week, one thing we’ve especially appreciated is the stunning fulsomeness of the foxgloves, standing upright like sentinels on all the local hedges. Another was seeing Storm, the dog who regularly makes his own way through the woods to our local beach. A few times lately, we haven’t seen him (he’s getting old). This time, we were so happy to see him again, the dog that befriends all and sundry to the extent that he wears a medallion which says something like, ‘I am not lost. Do not take me home with you.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Looking up

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

P1070076Here’s a story I remember with laughter and delight every time I think about Laugharne, the place where the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas lived and wrote and also where the novelist and story-writer Richard Hughes had his writing-room high up in the castle walls. This story was created orally by a small group of 11-year old children.

The story:

Merlin was watching over the wall of his castle. Beside him was his favourite seagull. As he looked down, Merlin saw a family of parents and children, obviously tourists, walking along the foreshore of the estuary below. All were munching – crisps from crisp bags, chocolate from wrappers. Then as they passed, one by one they dropped their plastic wrappers onto the ground. Merlin was horrified. When the family had gone by, he sent his favourite seagull down onto the shore to bring him something else that was messing it up. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Train-world dreaming

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

R01Yesterday I spent a good part of the day on a train coming down to Wales. The reason for my trip? I’ve been invited to a 100th birthday celebration lunch. The person who has reached such a wonderful age lived with her family at the end of my street when I was growing up. Her husband ran the chemist’s shop on the corner. We children played with her children.

On the train, I was reminded of a piece of writing I did recently – not about birthdays but about being on trains. I don’t know if you find the same kind of thing when you’re on a train (and I think it’s not the same on buses or planes or in cars). My mind goes into itself. Often I find myself thinking about a story and that’s what I wrote about. I’d be fascinated to know if any of you who may read this blog have the same kind of experience.

Train-world dreaming: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Over the hills and far away

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

P1000693You could play it as a game. ‘Associations’ you might call it. For instance, let’s start with the word ‘cloud’. Playing ‘Associations’, I might come up with the fact that I once knew a girl called Cloud. (‘What a beautiful name,’ I used to think.) Then again, each day when I open up my computer, on comes one of those irritating dialogue boxes: KnowHow Cloud. (‘Have you logged in to Cloud?’ it persists in asking.) Or am I remembering the Afrikaans saying I quoted here a few weeks ago: ‘And all the time we are being carried like great clouds across the sky.’

I don’t know what associations you’d put forward. Maybe you have none for Cloud. But as a storyteller, I do think it’s useful sometimes to stop and wonder. ‘ Why? What associations do I have with that story? Why do I like it so much? What is it about it that attracts me? Why am I so compelled to tell it?’

Following suit, I must ask myself why, towards the end of this week, I remembered a little story about a cloud I was once told? And why did I start thinking about it? Was it simply because I was walking down the street wondering what I’d write about today and happened to notice a distinctly shaped cloud in the sky? More than likely. Dense grey skies have been over our heads so often here in London lately (and here, thinking about what it may be like elsewhere, I must send special greetings to the growing number of readers of this blog who live far, far away, in Australia, New Zealand, India, Brazil). When the sky is one dense grey mass, there are none of those separate clouds where you might see particular colours and shapes. ‘Look, do you see the dog in the sky?’ ‘And what about that great bird on the wing!’ Or could that cloud be a boy?

The Boy Who Became A Cloud (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Uses of Ambiguity

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

P1070080In the depths of the ocean lived a king. (What was his name? I don’t remember.)

The king longed for company. He lived all alone. (Had he ever had a wife or children?)

One evening as he rode out on one of his tides, the king became aware of sweet sounds of music and, looking up at a house by the sea, he saw two lovely young women sitting in the firelight playing their harps. 

A longing grew in the heart of the king until one late evening on a high Autumn tide, he rode out of the sea on his finest white horse, rushed to the girls’ house and snatched them away together with the harps they were playing. (Were the girls alone when he did that? What were they called?)

When the king of the ocean had brought the two girls into his palace beneath the waves, they first felt fear, then became very sad. They missed their home. They missed the bright light of day. The king of the ocean would ask them to play him their music, but the music they made for him lacked any joy.  

After much sadness and pleading, the king of the sea knew this couldn’t continue. He must show pity. He must listen to the two young women he’d seized and return them to their home on land. But when his white horses brought them in from the sea, just as they stepped onto the land, they changed. (Did the king of the sea command that to happen? Or did the pity that the girls felt for him play a part?)

As they stepped out of the sea, the two lovely girls became transformed.  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Encapsulating honeysuckle

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

P1070435I wish I could encapsulate the honeysuckle growing in the next street from me and somehow include it in this blog so you could smell it as you read. Maybe some day that’ll become possible. Meantime Iron-Age forts have been on my mind.

Why Iron-Age forts? Because next Monday I’m doing some storytelling training for guides at Castell Henllys, the Iron-Age fort in North Pembrokeshire. It’s the only such place which today has roundhouses on the exact site of the ones that were there back then.

The length of time:

What strikes me, thinking about that long-ago time is the very length of the time from then to now. And how can you possibly get that across? Almost as hard as electronically encapsulating the honeysuckle, the challenge reminds me of how I once had to try to make a class of 10-year old Stevenage children conscious of Ancient Egypt at the same time as taking into account their other current project – Ourselves Now.

Miraculously – for the results were fantastic – I got the idea of giving the children some sense of the passage of time by coming up with memories from each year of their lives and then creating hieroglyphs to represent them like the hieroglyphs from Ancient Egypt they’d already been learning about. This led on to them making memory charts and this then led to them telling their personal stories and deciding (this was entirely their own idea!) to punctuate each of the 10 years for which they had stories with the sound of a gong.

What the Iron-Age had: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Harbingers of Spring

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

P1070285In folklore, bears are the harbingers of Spring and last weekend, visiting friends in Berlin, I saw a good many of them. Like the painted elephants that appeared all over London in the summer of 2010, these were extremely colourful creatures. Unlike the London elephants, which disappeared at the end of the summer when they were auctioned off for charity, the Berlin bears are there to stay. The bear. after all, is one of the symbols of the city and they are among its new emanations.

Bear stories

Covered in slogans or embellished with pictures, upside down or arms raised in a wave, the Berlin bears kept reminding me of bear stories. One I recalled while walking around is a foundation myth of the Modoc Indians of California. A very touching story, it tells how the little daughter of the Great Spirit is peeping out of the mountain in which they live when a great wind catches at her hair and blows her out of the mountain. After sliding down the snowy side of the mountain, the little girl ends up being found and raised by a mother bear. When she is grown, she marries one of the mother bear’s sons. Their children become the Modoc people.

But alas, when stories are prompted, it’s not always a matter of remembering them fully.  One of the curses of the storyteller is sometimes being plagued by half-remembered things, flotsam from stories that, once encountered, are no longer there in your mind. Back in London, I’ve had to try and catch up. One question that was bugging me had been prompted by my favourite among the Berlin bears, the blue one painted with signs of the cosmos. Wasn’t there a constellation or two that represents bears? And the answer, of course, is yes. It’s a story that occurs in Greek mythology. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Proof of power

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

What makes children sit up and listen?

What makes children remember what they’re told?

What makes children respond and comment without being obliged to do so?

Well, storytelling does. The trouble is, if you’re reading this blog, you probably already know the truth of that. It’s how to spread the awareness that is the problem.

All day this last Wednesday came evidence of how children can listen and be gripped. The supply of questions and comments was fulsome and never chaotic (evidence of a good school, I’d say). But the most extraordinary thing was how, all day, children were remembering stories I’d told them before. From Reception to Year 6, there was enormous keenness not just to identify what stories they’d heard but exactly what happened in them.  They also remembered my props. And it wasn’t just one or two children that were doing this, just about all of the children were bursting to say what they remembered.  Only the Nursery children didn’t – but then, they were new to the school.

The school was St Stephen’s in Shepherd’s Bush. I’d been there three times before. In the course of this week’s visit, one girl in one session put her hand up looking troubled. ‘I can’t remember these stories,’ she said. It obviously really bothered her that she didn’t, as if she was feeling really hurt that she’d missed out on something everyone else had experienced. We thought perhaps she’d been off school when I’d come before and she seemed content with that thought. But seeing her face, I realised the power of a communal event in which everybody can share and experience enjoyment. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Repertoire Refreshment 3: The Quest

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

So here’s the third of my blogs about that beautiful story from the Arabian Nights which I’m preparing for telling in a fortnight’s time.  The first blog gave a brief idea of the story as I’d remembered it over a number of years. The second itemised the three treasures in the story that I’d completely forgotten about. Now here’s the main body of the story.  I’ve simmered it down to its bare bones. That’s how I work when I’m starting from a written story. Visualisation must do the rest. Here goes.

The set-up:

P1070107Farizad and her two brothers, Farid and Faruz, live in the beautiful garden which was created by the gardener and his wife who were their parents.

Now the parents have died.

One day an old woman comes to the garden and says to Farizad: This garden is beautiful but it would be perfect with 3 rare treasures – the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree and the Golden Water. Farizad asks where these can be found? In the mountains on the road into India.

Farizad says she must go and find them. Farid and Faruz say, ‘No, we’ll go.’ But then they agree that one brother must stay to look after Farizad.

Quest of Brother No. 1 (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ We’ve all got them!

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Last week, I was so chilled out – or rather, so warm and relaxed – on holiday on the island of Lanzarote, that I felt I had nothing to say. By today, I’m positively burning to go on about the value of personal links. After all, we’ve all got them in one form or another.

Good days, personal links:

MJ as child cropOne of our best days on Lanzarote involved a visit to an astonishing Cactus Garden. Another was a pilgrimage to the house of José Saramago, the Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize Winner who spent the last 18 years of his life on the island. Both days arose because of personal links, the first because, back here in London, my husband has an amazing collection of cactuses, the second because a very good friend of mine was Saramago’s English translator and, because of her, we have read his books.

Personal links create that extra degree of interest which can make you bother to take journeys, actual and symbolic. I became doubly aware of the truth of that this week when my main task and pleasure has lain in preparing the talk I’m to give next Monday to the Historical Society in St David’s. The society was founded by my father and the link with him is one reason for my sense of anticipation.

Shemi the storyteller (more…)