Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Storytelling Starters~ Journeying

Saturday, June 13th, 2020

Aren’t there some lines of poetry which tell us that life is a journey that we must follow to the end? Certainly the metaphor of life as a journey has been travelling through my brain over these last hours. What put it there is that yesterday, thank goodness, saw the last of the actual journeys I’ve been taking to Guy’s Hospital for a course of post-cancer treatment with a drug called Avastin. 18 treatments, 3 weeks between each: this treatment took 54 weeks in all.

So barring the scan to come, that’s the end of that particular cancer journey. But it has obviously put the whole idea of journeys so firmly into my mind that last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I went travelling in my mind. The place I went to was the town of Fishguard where I grew up. I found myself thinking about the names of houses on whose front doors I used to knock when I was a growing-up girl. Journey’s End was one of the names. Every year I’d be knocking on it because every year at Sunday School we’d be given our collecting boxes to go out collecting money in aid of Methodist missionaries working overseas in countries such as India and China.

Who the missionaries were and what exactly they were doing I really had very little idea. All I know is that, on the whole, the people on whose doors I knocked were very kind, men putting their hands in their pockets, women going back inside to fetch their purse. Journey’s End, Dun Roamin, Sea Breeze: a majority of the houses had a name as well as a number. Our house was Number 16. But it was also Llwynon which means Ash Grove.

Going back to journeys, I’ve always liked them, especially the journeys by train. Even now as I think about trains, two very rough-looking men step into my mind as they got into the carriage at Milan Railway Station where Paul and I were sitting waiting to start on our way back to London after a holiday in Italy. These two men turned out to be very friendly brick-makers from Southern Italy on their way back to where they were working, namely Buxton (pronounced by them as Bwxton in true Derbyshire style). My first reaction was alarm when they got into our carriage in Milan. ‘Oh dear,’ thought I, ‘Are we safe?’ But it was these two lovely men who, because the carriage was so full, would get up from their seats in turn through the night so as to give me enough room to lie down and sleep. And when morning came, it was one of them that reached down his bag from the luggage rack above his head and got out a huge loaf of bread and a long, sharp knife and cut slices of bread and then salami that he immediately passed to us on the end of his knife.

Journeys bring memories. Memories are the stuff of so much life. I probably won’t be thinking too often or in too much detail about my 18 trips to Guy’s Hospital. But I’ll certainly be experiencing the pleasure and gratitude of getting to the end of that cancer journey. Besides, I’m still looking forward more than I can say to getting on the way to Pembrokeshire as soon as this Lockdown has ended.

PS: My first photo today is of a jigsaw of one of my favourite Pembrokeshire places, a lovely and not much frequented beach called Pwll Strodyr.

My second photo was taken on the Luing Ferry in the West of Scotland. How free those journeys can make you feel!

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 ~ A Fly in the Ointment

Saturday, May 30th, 2020

A couple of days ago, I was in the kitchen clearing up. Suddenly I heard a voice from Paul’s study, a woman’s voice saying: ‘This is Early Years TV. I am Kathie Brodie and today I am joined by storyteller Mary Medlicott.’

‘No,’ I thought as I paused to check my sense of reality, ‘I’m not on TV. I’m here in my kitchen.’ When I told Paul about this odd event, he said his computer had been on and it was probably a fly landing someplace on his touch-screen that had brought up the item with Kathie which he keeps in one of the storage boxes on his computer desktop.   Weird!

Perhaps it was the fly that did something else too. Over these last few days, I’ve been reflecting on my reactions to the continuance of  Lockdown. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~What’s inside

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

One morning this week, there was a ring on the doorbell. The postman was there with a package. Larger  than A3, addressed to me in handwriting, what could it be? Inside was a violet-coloured, white-dotted plastic envelope with a long letter and an accompanying wadge of papers that, as I scanned through them, was like walking into a long-distant part of the past, namely those early teenage years when ones friends are the dearest, funniest, liveliest ever.

Dear, smiling friend Pam from my early teenage years had been sorting papers. Among them she’d found the ones she’d put into that plastic envelope. They included a photo of the gang we were part of, a copy of the programme for the production of Alice in Wonderland when I’d been Alice in our first year in Secondary School plus various other memory-jogging items together with, most importantly, that long letter from her: it was all such a surprise and pleasure. (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 ~ High and low

Saturday, April 4th, 2020

It’s felt like a very strange week. Highlights include standing outside on Thursday at 8 p.m. clapping for the NHS and its workers. Most people on our street were joining in and it  felt like a real togetherness, a solidarity of gratitude. For me personally, the gratitude is enormous. After four cancers in my adult life, I’m still here.

Blue skies up above today and for several previous lovely days have felt feel like they’re assuring us that Spring is really on the way if not already here. As well as the cowslips in my garden (one of my most-loved flowers), there’s a large patch of the bluest grape hyacinths and the primroses are doing well. Things can’t be bad.

Friends who’ve rung up to keep in touch during this awful lockdown period have felt like they in themselves are much-needed evidence of the continuance of life and love and the enormous value of contact.

But the most exciting single event of the week – and this because of the memories it’s bringing back – was having my attention drawn to a gorgeous review of my new book, The Uses of ‘a’, in Facts and Fiction magazine. I saw with amazement that this review had been written by John Pole, a fine songwriter, storyteller and Punch and Judy artist who used to come along to my storytelling courses years ago. We’ve not been in touch for a very long time. Now I hope the contact can be renewed. I’ll be ringing him up shortly. (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 ~ What’s new?

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

The Three Bears is so familiar to me as a children’s story that I felt quite delighted when I was recently asked to do a staff training workshop at a London nursery called Les Trois Oursons. It made me think about children’s stories as they are told in languages other than English.

On Thursday when I went to do the training, I found myself surrounded by a wide diversity of Nursery staff including French, Ghanaian and Chinese. We had a grand time (and, for me, it felt like getting back to normal, this being the first such workshop I’d done for a while following  my period of ill-health).  First, I got us doing a number of simple rhymes and chants together, foremost among them Little Bear on the Long Road and Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle. Then I told the folk story of The Tiger and the Mouse and got the workshopees (new word?) retelling it to each other in whatever language they liked.

After that, one of the things  I appreciated most was the comments that were made about storytelling as the people in the workshop had experienced it (or not) when they were children. For one Chinese woman, there’d been no storytelling at all and no story books either. But for several who’d grown up in West Africa, there’d been the regular experience of gathering in the open air and at night to listen to stories being told, usually with great drama. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What next?

Saturday, February 1st, 2020

Pinch, punch, first of the month – and no return!

It’s what we used to say when kids, the first two words accompanied by the corresponding actions of pinching and punching (but not too hard!). The final words, ‘and no return’, were the warning to the person you were speaking to. They had to be taken seriously: your friend mustn’t do the rhyme back. At their peril!

Oh, the things we said as children. ‘Daresie’ was another – except how on earth do you write that word down?

Daresie, daresy? It was the challenge. Dare you to jump in that pond (where there might be monsters lurking in the depths waiting to come up and bite you). Dare you to jump off the quay (even though the tide is too low and you might find yourself bashing the bottom). Dare you to go and tell teacher what that naughty boy just said. Dare you to give him a kiss. (more…)