Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ What we’ve been missing

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Disgruntled is how I feel. Not about any particular person or situation. Just disgruntled – and all the more so as Lockdown trundles towards an end. On Wednesday this week, as if to emphasise what we’ve been missing, Paul and I were royally entertained to lunch by some friends, one of whom is a most fantastic cook. Thankfully Wednesday’s weather  came up trumps for, of course, we needed to sit outside for this lunch. So sit outside we did, enjoying the food, the talk, the garden and the company of two affectionate dogs. It was altogether a pleasure.

So why, you may ask, did it produce that subsequent feeling of disgruntlement (if disgruntlement is a word)? Well, only because the occasion itself was a reminder of the social life of which Lockdown has generally been depriving us. For life before Lockdown was peopled by friends. By now, we’ve probably all become acclimatised to doing without the social pleasures that friends bring. But as I was reminded of how much we’ve been missing, it did make me feel a bit sad. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Birdsong and bark

Saturday, March 20th, 2021

My mother loved birds. One day many years ago when I was still a schoolgirl, she saw a hoopoe in our garden. So excited was she by the sight of it – for a hoopoe is a very distinctive bird and a rare visitor in this country – that she immediately telephoned Mr Griffiths, the Chemistry teacher over at school who was renowned as a bird-watcher. Evidently, upon receiving her telephone call, Griff Chem as he was generally known rushed across to our house at once and together he and my mother admired the hoopoe through our kitchen window.

As for me, I know shamefully little about birds in general. But I can say that, for quite a few days now, I’ve been enraptured by the song of the blackbird who has taken up residence somewhere in the gardens at the back of our house. What gorgeous sounds he makes and how long the song continues! Each time I hear it I know that the world of nature is full of wonders and that this blackbird’s song is surely one of them. Maybe it’s a common-or-garden bird (for indeed it’s just out there in the garden). But its song feels like just as much of a blessing as that of the nightingale that Paul and I used regularly to hear from our bedroom during a holiday we once had on the isle of Iona. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Flags or shirts?

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

It’s lovely to have a day that’s not pre-determined, a day when anything might happen. But there can also be enormous pleasure in a day where you know exactly what you’re going to do. So today I know that, barring the sky falling in or some other equally unforeseen event, I shall be sitting down in front of the TV at 2.15.

That’s when the 6 Nations Rugby programme begins today and I have to be watching because Wales is playing and by my presence in front of the TV, I feel I’ll be contributing towards the hwyl, the spirit that I think makes all the difference. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A day with a view

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

‘Your language is dead.’ The voice rang out from immediately above where Paul and I were seated at a late night Prom concert in the Royal Albert Hall. It did so in response to the singer and Radio 6 presenter Cerys Matthews introducing the next piece she was about to sing by its Welsh name. Wisely, she made no response to the rudeness but simply continued with her performance. Born of patent ignorance, I see the rudeness as a form of racism and I’ve never forgotten it.

I expect it will come into my mind again at some point this next Monday. For Monday will be March 1st and March 1st is St David’s Day, the day for the celebration of Wales’s patron saint. On the day, were it not for Lockdown, there would undoubtedly be celebrations of St David all over Wales (and elsewhere too) in services and performances in schools and community venues. On the day also, despite Lockdown, many children and adults will undoubtedly wear either a daffodil or a leek. In the school I went to – which as it happens was in St David’s – the girls wore daffodils and the boys wore leeks, chewing them almost to nothing in the course of the day and glorying in the resultingly oniony smell on their breath. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Into the bin

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

Old bag. Old hat. Old news. Old times. Old paperwork. It’s the paperwork that’s been especially on my mind this week. Slowly the papers are being sorted and wherever possible they’re getting into my wastepaper basket. For the most recent big decision made in this house has been to clear the decks, sort the papers and throw away as much as we possibly can. The storytelling gear? Well, perhaps that’s going to have to wait.

But yesterday afternoon, I sat on the little settee in my study going through a large pile of files from the past about storytelling bookings. Name and address of the venue, a note of whoever made the booking, details of how many sessions there’d be, who’d be attending the sessions and what ages they’d be, any special advice on themes for the stories, notes on how to get to the venue and what the payment would be: in quite a lot of instances, all this info is followed by my subsequent remarks on how the sessions went, interesting things said by pupils or staff and anything of especial interest that arose about the stories I’d chosen to tell. (more…)

Storyworks Blog: Back in time

Saturday, January 2nd, 2021

Overweight but very well corseted, my Aunty Mali carried herself with distinction. Grey hair pulled into a bun, invariably smartly dressed and shod, she was well-known to many people in Wales and highly regarded as a conductor and leader of the Welsh hymn-singing festivals known as Cymanfa Ganu. She is particularly present in my mind at Christmas and New Year. Christmas Day she’d come to spend with my family and, at New Year, on several occasions she took me to the very special New Year celebrations out in the Gwaun Valley. We’d go there in Aunty Mali’s Morris Minor. It wasn’t a long journey. But for me as a child it was like going to another country.

In the Gwaun Valley in North Pembrokeshire, New Year was traditionally celebrated – and so far as I know still is – not on the commonly recognised New Year’s Eve but on January 13th, the New Year’s Eve of the old calendar. This has been so ever since the calendar changed back in 1752.  It has given me one of the memories I most treasure. (more…)

A fond childhood memory revisited

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

As the needle hovered above the disc on the record player, I felt almost fearful with expectation. When the needle was lowered and out came the first words of A Child’s Christmas in Wales, I felt as if what I was hearing had been created especially for me. It felt as if every word had been written with intention and love to convey what it is to be Welsh and to be in Wales at Christmas time.

The ritual listening to A Child’s Christmas in Wales took place each and every Christmas when I was a child of an appropriate age to listen to it.  The lead-up was always the same. Upon leaving the house where my family lived at No. 16 Vergam Terrace in Fishguard, I’d turn left and cross the road to the first house on the other side, No 1. At the front door, I’d reach up, lift the heavy brass knocker, knock three times and wait for the sounds of Aunty Mali coming to the door, pushing the draft excluder out of the way with her foot, opening the door and greeting me with her resonant ‘Hello!’

Inside the house, the fire would be roaring in the living-room grate. Already set out on the table would be cups, saucers and plates and, in a prominent position, the big, square gramophone with, beside it, a small pile of LPs in their brown paper sleeves. I knew what I was going to hear. I was going to hear the resonant voice of the famous Welsh actor Emlyn Williams, reading Dylan Thomas’s wonderful evocation of being a child in Wales at Christmas time. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ All Gold

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Remember the children’s question-and-answer rhyme?

Question: What’s in there?
Answer: Gold and money
Question: Where’s my share?
Answer: Mousie ran away with it.
Question: Where’s the mousie?

And so it goes on. Except that this particular mousie is, in memory, on my bed in my father’s house in St David’s. Paul and I wake up to see it, waving at us from the top of a ruck in the duvet. ‘There’s a mouse in my bed!’ I call out loudly in a voice deliberately mocked-up so as not to alarm my father. He arrives at the bedroom door, takes one look at the situation and says, ‘I’ll leave this to you.’ Paul and I consult, reach out a Harrods plastic bag from the cupboard, shape it into a kind of tunnel, put it on the floor near the dressing table where the mouse is now hiding and make ‘Whoosh! Whoosh’ noises in its direction. And suddenly, Whoosh, the mouse runs into the bag. We take it downstairs and release it into the garden. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~You can do it

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

The article was about the artist Tracey Emin and the cancer that has invaded various parts of her body. I felt so angry on her behalf. Cancer can be a fearsome illness. Yet regarding it as an enemy is not helpful. In my experience, it’s something that has to be accepted, not welcomed but in some way understood even as it is striven against.

The fact that Tracey Emin is an artist somehow makes it feel more cruel. She is an artist. She is creative, productive, she has worked hard. How dare illness threaten such a person? Of course my own strong feeling is completely illogical. Cancer is no respecter of persons or achievement. Indeed, an artist’s creativity may be his or her own best weapon in the campaign to deal with it. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Dream and Imagination

Saturday, September 26th, 2020

Long ago, the top room of our house became known as the Dream Room. Lodger after lodger who lived there – and our lodgers were mostly good friends in need of a place to live for a while –  reported on the extraordinary dreams they had there. Perhaps it was something to do with the shape of the room, the sloping ceilings and the little casement window looking out over the garden.

Or perhaps it was the sense of being high up, far away from the business of the house down below. Or perhaps it was a sense of security in which you could float away into the colours of dreams without worrying whether you’d ever get back.

It has been one of the pleasures of living in this tall terrace house that when you’re at the top of it, you are far away from the life at the bottom, the cooking and eating and sweeping and talking. I probably haven’t ever spent enough time up there to really relish the sense of security it gives. But I’m pleased  to have been able to extend the space to others. (more…)