Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Personal experience’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Tangled webs

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

So there I was, starting to think about ‘tangled webs’ as I whisked away the many cobwebs around and between the cacti on our conservatory windowsills. What busy bees those spiders must be, I thought, even as I mixed my metaphor.

Since then, I’ve been thinking more about the complexity and thickness of the webs that life is inclined to weave around us. You don’t notice the weaving when it’s going on and suddenly the webs are all there to be dealt with. For me, the coming days involve such a variety of different ones. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ On the bus

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

Upstairs on the bus home yesterday, I noted that the two women sitting in front of me were chatting away in a language I didn’t recognise. My immediate reaction was to feel pleased that another language than English was being spoken with no inhibition on a London bus.

But even as I felt that pleasure, I remembered an incident from a few years back when I was attending a Prom concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The concert included a number of different performers, one of whom on this occasion was harpist and singer Cerys Matthews. Introducing items she was about to perform during one of her turns on stage, Cerys said one of them would be a Welsh jig with Welsh words. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Why books?

Saturday, September 28th, 2019

Depressing news came this week. Gomer Press is closing its publishing operation so far as general books are concerned. In future, it’s going to concentrate on what can be described as fine books or art books. The news is sad for me personally. Gomer published one of my father’s books, Twice to St David’s, and it has published several of mine  – Open Secret, Elephant Luck and Shemi’s Tall Tales. But there’s a bigger sadness behind the news. Gomer has been Wales’s biggest independent publisher. Closure of its general publishing enterprise raises several important questions. It’s an important cultural outlet. Who will take on the kind of work it has been doing?

But behind that immediate question lies another bigger one. Are books going out of fashion? Is the need for books diminishing? Of course, the internet has changed things. But there are many, many people (including me!) who would insist that books are essential. Books are vital conveyors of ideas, knowledge and story. To hold one in your hand becomes such a deep pleasure that, for anyone who loves books and sees their value, the idea of doing without them is both alarming and shameful.

If I had to try and crystallise why physical books are so important, I think it’s to do with the fact of the actual book being something so immediately available and long-lasting. You can hold it. You can have it by your bedside or on your table. If you choose (which I never do), you can underline things in it or make a note about it on a blank page at the front. You can place it where you please in your big or small collection of books. You don’t have to turn on any machine in order to be able to look it up. A book is right there (although sometimes you do have to search for it before it’s right there). You can riffle through it. You can give it as a present. You can make notes about it in your Book Journal (which I do). Even if you can’t remember who wrote it or its title, you can remember its size and shape and the colour of its cover. You can value it over your whole life. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Oh Moon!

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

The recent anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon must be the reason why, of late, I’ve made an extra special point of looking up at the moon when it’s full. It brings to mind an array of moon memories.

For instance, I think about the friend in Wales who, long ago, was given the nickname, Moon – partly, no doubt, because his first name begins with M but also, surely, because of the roundness of his face and the companionable way he smiles.

A little moon ditty:

And then again, seeing a full moon in the sky gets me recalling the little verse a friend once taught me. It’s especially good for retelling because of the expressiveness of voice it invites:  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Wales and Whales

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

It was a storytelling project in Outer London. The theme was local legends. A girl in one of the groups put up her hand and asked if we knew about the elephants under the line of local hills.

Suggestive shapes:

Often it’s the shape of hills that gives rise to legends about them. Above a small place called Wolfscastle in the middle of Pembrokeshire are two high rocks that, as children, we knew as The Lion and the Lamb. By today, these rocks have eroded so that I wouldn’t be able to say which looks more like a wolf, which more like a lamb. Even as a child I wasn’t sure. But I could imagine very clearly that one was attacking the other. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Hair

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

If you cut your hair, I’ll cut you out of my will.’ I was often in receipt of this threat or promise while I was a child. It was my Aunty Mali who’d say it. Not really an aunt but a family friend, she became a powerful influence in my life. Eventually I made a big storytelling piece about her called Travels with My Welsh Aunt.

Aunty Mali:

A music teacher and always smart (handbag and hat when she went out), Aunty Mali herself had long hair which in the day would be wound into a bun. But each night before getting into bed (and this I know from all the times I stayed with her), she’d comb out her hair with much care and ceremony and then (it’s something I’ll never forget) she’d carefully remove any hairs that had got into the brush, twist them together into a piece of tissue paper and then place the twist of tissue-paper in the waste-bin. ‘Your hairs are like your thoughts,’ she’d say. ‘You must look after them with care and never throw them to the winds.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Head gear

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

On Thursday or Friday every week but sometimes not till Saturday morning, the question arrives in my head. What to write in this week’s blog? Often the answer seems to be there already as if I’d already been considering the question. Sometimes I haven’t got a clue. Like this week. Yesterday I didn’t have a clue. I just had to trust that something would come to mind.

Why bother?

A friend asked the other day: ‘Why do you bother?’ My only answer can be ‘because I like doing it.’ My sense of the weekly obligation requires me to think over whatever may be in my mind. Recent events.  Topics that, however briefly, have grabbed my interest.  Stuff I’ve been reading. Things that have been said to me directly or things I’ve overheard.

From all these various tributaries to what must pass as my river of thought, something has to  materialise to provide the spur to a blog. But in a way that’s just like storytelling. I’m sure all storytellers would say the same. Countless times on your way to do a session or sessions, you’ll have known pretty much what stories you’re likely to tell. You’ll have thought about them in preparation, identifying themes and finding links. But there’s also the more immediate links that, in the event, prove invaluable. These may come from what happens on the way to the venue or from recent encounters or from things people have said. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Taking time

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

How weird! I was walking along towards the main road. Near the corner of my street was an apple core. It drew my attention because it was sitting on top of a food waste box. ‘How weird!’ was my immediate thought. ‘Why did whoever left that apple core not open the food waste box and put the apple core inside?’

‘Well,’ I answer now as I write, ‘perhaps whoever had eaten the apple (and even the core looked nice and juicy) had not wanted to see what was inside the food waste box. A small dead bird? A seething mess of rotting stuff?  Or perhaps the person who’d eaten the apple was in such a hurry that he or she, adult or child, didn’t even want to pause as long as it would take to open the box.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Stories: Why bother?

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

A tiny pink bird has migrated to my desk from the cupboard in my study where I keep my notebooks, stationery and some storytelling stuff. It perches on a small chrome clip and the other day, I persuaded it to come across to my desk to keep me company. Perhaps I thought it might decorate a present I was planning to give to someone or other. By now it looks likely to stay.

But I like it. I like the birds in my life. Since installing a bird-feeder in our garden, we regularly see a troupe of goldfinches arriving – often eight or ten of them. Not surprisingly, these have attracted a bustling gang of pigeons that gather below the feeder to hoover up the scraps of fatball and grain that drop onto the grass when the little birds feed. Plus a lovely pair of robins arrive quite often, moving quietly round the garden’s edges before visiting the area below the bird-feeder. The bossy green parakeets are not so welcome. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Remembering

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

 ‘Tennyson is crossing the desert!’ A few days ago, that was the strapline on one of the emails in my Inbox. It was followed a day or so later by ‘Tennyson has crossed the desert!’

Such a headline does make you think. For me, it brought to mind a grand-looking poetic figure, bearded and with hair reaching down to his collar: what could he be doing walking the desert? And on his own? Perhaps dreaming up new poems along the lines of The Lady of Shalott or Enoch Arden?

Tennyson, the cuckoo

Well, no! The Tennyson that had succeeded in crossing the desert was not the Victorian poet-laureate but a cuckoo, one of this year’s tranche of cuckoos named and sponsored under the auspices of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), its movements tracked as it flies alone across the vast distances that bring it into Central Africa and then back again to the UK where, of course, we think of it as ‘our cuckoo’ even though it’s in the UK for only a few weeks. (more…)