Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

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…)

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 ~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:

(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…)