Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Personal experience’ 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 ~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 ~ 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…)

Storytelling Starters: Calling …

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Thoughts on Friday, 20th March:

My desk says: ‘Tidy me!’

My house calls: ‘Spring clean me!’

My garden pleads: ‘Attend to me.’

My poorly left leg sighs: ‘Massage me.’

My books to review for School Librarian yell: ‘Start reading us now before it’s too late.’

My newly written stories for children screech: ‘Why haven’t you started trying to get a publisher? Don’t you think we’re good enough?’

My unwritten blog for tomorrow nags: ‘You haven’t even started thinking about me yet.’

Meantime, my poor husband sits tucked up in bed with a bit of a fever

And outside, the world feels strangely quiet like it’s waiting for something to happen.

However, news has arrived that a neighbourhood group has formed to give help to whoever needs it.

Kindnesses make the world feel better. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Expectations

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

Mary, Mary, Quite contrary, How does your garden grow?With silver bells and cockleshells as in the nursery rhyme?

Well, my expectations for this week had been of a blissfully peaceful holiday week in Wales with trips to beaches, lots of reading and plenty of time to recover from the battering my wits and my body have taken from trying to deal with all the niggly health issues that have kept coming up.

Contrary to expectations:

Instead? The warning sign on the car kept coming back after it had apparently been dealt with in London and, in Pembrokeshire, led to the determination from the kindly, straight-talking Reg at the Volvo garage in Haverfordwest that, truth to tell, the car should be regarded as a write-off and he’d buy it off us for £300 and use it for spare parts.

This was more than a disappointment. We loved our old car and had been reassured in our garage in London that the small bump we’d experienced a few weeks ago had not left any problem. And now? If we’d couldn’t use the car to get back to London – and Reg was saying that tootling around locally would be OK but not to take it on the M4 – how would we make the trip with all our luggage at the end of our peaceful week? (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…)