Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Personal experience’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Feeling blessed

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

I don’t recommend it as a course to pursue – unless you need it. But being given a new hip offers much for which to be grateful. First is the new ease of movement that begins to arrive even as the hip beds in. Even before that and afterwards too is the support and affection expressed by friends.

I got back home from the Princess Grace Hospital at lunchtime yesterday feeling well and truly blessed. A remarkable surgeon, kindly nurses, a most supportive young physiotherapist whose advice and instructions continue to ring in my ears, friends who have sent flowers, cards and emails and an incalculably kind and lovely husband who even now has brought me a gorgeous cup of coffee: I feel most blessed.

And, of course, my stay in hospital has stirred the possibilities of story or two in my mind. One will have to be a story of the middle-aged man who each morning before mid-day arrived in the grassy area outside the church that I could see from my hospital window and sat down on one of the wooden benches.

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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 ~ 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~ 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 ~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

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Storytelling Starters ~ Hand

Saturday, April 11th, 2020

In these strange times, books can offer some more than usual solace. A good friend of mine and I are the only members of what I might call a Book Pair. It’s not a club, it’s just us two. But it operates just like a book group. We choose a book, we read it and then we talk about it. In our case, the talk takes place on the phone because we live in different towns. And it’s a real delight, the pleasure of it for me increased because as a translator by profession and well renowned too  – Margaret Costa is her name and she translates from Spanish and Portuguese – my friend really cares about books. Instead of gliding over them as so many people do, she is delightfully observant about them.

The most recent book we decided upon to be read by us both was one by Thomas Hardy. We had already re-read and discussed several of the well-known books by him. Now we chose The Hand of Ethelberta. It’s not a book of Hardy’s that’s often mentioned and she’d not read it before. I had – and for one obvious reason. Ethelberta in the novel becomes a professional storyteller. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ In our street

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

Sometimes you definitely need a cup of tea, or maybe if things are bad it has to be a glass of whiskey. Then there are also the times when you need a joke. Let me rephrase that because the same thing may not apply to you. Perhaps it’s just me. But sometimes, just as I sometimes need strawberries, I really do need a good joke. Here’s a daft one I put in my store a long time ago. It always cheers me up.

Coming home after work one day, a Council worker was going along the path to his front door when his friend who lived opposite saw him stop and stamp on a snail.

‘Hey?’ said the friend. ‘What you doin’ that for, stomping on a harmless thing like that?’

‘Come off it,’ said the Council worker. ‘It’s been followin’ me all day!’

Preferably you have to hear that joke in a South Wales accent. It’s one of a number of lovely ones I’ve been told over the years. Maybe I’ll remember another next week! (more…)