Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Personal experience’ Category

Lovable people

Saturday, September 18th, 2021

In the middle of Thursday night when I couldn’t sleep, I got out of bed and went downstairs, made a cup of tea and repaired to the jigsaw we’re currently working on. It’s set out on the kitchen table and the picture is that famous one by the American artist, Edward Hopper – Night Hawks and on Thursday night this felt very appropriate except that, unlike in the painting, I was the only person in this immediate vicinity who was awake. Paul as normal was fast asleep.

Whatever is it that accounts for a bad night? Some people I know have lots of them. I generally don’t. But when I do – and, alas, I think they’ve become more frequent both with chemotherapy treatment and getting older – my mind fills up with all kinds of stuff.  Things I might write, jobs I might do, people I must phone … the list becomes quite endless because on these occasions my mind also begins filling with memories. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Life’s gifts

Saturday, September 4th, 2021

Isn’t it strange how, from time to time, something very appropriate but not expected turns up out of the blue – as if to sympathise with a need you’re feeling? Well, this morning that’s what happened. Somehow or other – had I been moving notebooks around some days ago and thus changing the arrangement of things on a shelf? – a very attractive-looking notebook was suddenly visible, sitting on its own on a shelf in the big cupboard in my workroom. I picked it up and saw that on it was a label I’d put there – Tobago 2005.

Well, I’ve only been to Tobago the once and of course it was to spend a week storytelling at the invitation of the great Grace Hallworth whose funeral took place this week. I wasn’t able to go to her funeral (the stomach cancer is still causing trouble) but Paul did go and, indeed, did a reading at it of a tribute that he and I had put together. Meantime, I stayed at home in bed, revisiting my thoughts and memories of her.

One of the memories that came to mind was her account of a time when, at home alone in the house that she and her husband Trevor kept in Tobago, there was a knock at the door. When she went to the door, it was no friend but a man with a machete. Grace, redoubtable as always, shouted at him and chased him through the garden and not only out on to the road but down the road as well. He’s lucky he was able to get away from the beating and the telling-off that, had she caught him, I feel sure she would have delivered. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Finding the way

Saturday, August 28th, 2021

OK, I have to admit it. Finding my way around my own blog is not necessarily easy. Every now and again, I forget the procedures. I may even temporarily forget my own proposed theme. So what is to be done?

Well, I generally end up trusting to some kind of habit and in the end it usually works out OK.

And when it doesn’t on some particular occasion,  my first resort and last one too always has to be Paul.  But what if his help was not available on a particular occasion?

Let me admit it.  I’d be strapped, completely lost. Which just goes to show how vulnerable I am and, no doubt, thousands like me. But there we are, as we say in Wales. I could quite easily get to the point where I’d feel at a loss on a long-distance country walk. Wherever next? But perhaps there’s something good about such a quandary too. It’s maybe where your wits have to come in to support what you formerly regarded as your knowledge. Its certainly when you have to resort to those wits, and putting  this particular walk in some kind of context, remember how you found your way  before.

Well, it’s not always easy.  And in the event, finding your way probably turns out to be a very good challenge. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Coming round the mountain

Saturday, August 21st, 2021

According to the definition given in my Chambers English Dictionary, a hotchpotch (sometimes spelt ‘hodgepodge’) is ‘a confused mass of ingredients shaken or mixed together in the same pot.’ And now that I come to think about it, I feel of a mind to say that, particularly in my present circumstances, the same definition could quite often be used for the contents of my mind.

Not too often, I do hope. But certainly it’s not so surprising in the aftermath of the dose of chemotherapy treatment I received at the beginning of the week.  My current treatment is meant to deal with the fifth occurrence of cancer that I’ve experienced. It’s going to go on until Christmas and this dose has pretty much knocked me out. By now, however, as well as the sense of being quite wrecked, the feelings incurred are giving me a renewed sense of sympathy with all the people in this country, let alone across the world, whose minds and bodies are being similarly affected right now by cancer and by its treatment.

At the same time, it has to be said, what illness and its treatment can also give you is a bit of time out. Time when you’re not quite able to do what you normally do, or not as much. And time when you’re not necessarily reflecting on your past in any organised way. But time, when you’re having to rest, when things can be allowed to drift in and out of your mind. Sometimes it’s surprising where that process can take you such as right back into childhood or teenage experience. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Important moments

Saturday, July 24th, 2021

Looking forward to the Lions v Springboks match in Cape Town today made me think of an important moment for me. It happened in a storytelling workshop I was running in South Africa. The occasion was organised by a wonderful man called Alan Kenyon, alas  now no longer alive.

In one part of the workshop, I asked people to get into twos and share their experience of first leaving home. I was with a young black man who gave me a moving account of leaving his village to go away for the very first time. He described walking along the path that left the village, then stopping and looking back.

Another thing I remember of that same young man is that he also looked up at me and said: ‘This is the first time I have ever looked a white woman in the eyes.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Jigsaw living

Saturday, July 10th, 2021

Jigsaws can be fun. I like them. Paul likes them. Every now and again we have a spate of jigsaw-doing. These last few days we’ve been occupied with a new 1,000-piece one. At various points, one or other or both of us will sit there for an hour or two. Sometimes, we just wander by and try filling in a piece or two. I wonder who first created the idea of the jigsaw. I must try finding out.

Of course, I’ve also now started thinking about the jigsaw as a metaphor, an image for the way we humans go about things and the peculiar miscellany of tasks we sometimes find ourselves tackling. At various points, perhaps, we’re planning to go on a little trip. So we try jigsawing together into one weekend or one week or a fortnight all the various thoughts we had prior to setting out about the places we’d like to visit, the kinds of things we’d like to do. Lying on a beach, going out for a nice meal, visiting that relative or old friend who lives in the area, reading that good book we’ve already begun, taking some excellent photos, having a long walk or several – oh, the candidates are almost endless. How on earth can we put together the mental jigsaw picture that will incorporate them all?

And of course, the weekend trip away is just one challenge. What about every day? I know that during the last few days, I’ve had numerous plans in mind. Pick up the plastic bags full of previously-loved clothes (horrid phrase) that are currently lurking in the sitting room and take them down to the charity shop as previously determined. Get out the small step ladder and feather duster and whisk away the cobwebs that have formed high up in the conservatory ceiling. Be in touch with the numerous kind people who’ve recently asked me to let them know the plans for my forthcoming chemotherapy treatment. Oh the list is virtually endless. And in its way the list is also a bit of a puzzle because, to be manageable on any one occasion, it has to alternate strenuous tasks with easier ones, simple tidying with heavy lifting etc. etc.

Oh the jigsaws of many kinds that we’re all engaged in a lot of the time! They are puzzles in the sense that, for me at any rate, they have to balance the hard work with the cups of coffee, the yukky stuff with the lighter tasks. And meantime, if possible, I always have to try and avoid becoming distracted. For instance, I know that, lurking in one or two of the parts of the house that need attending to, there are cardboard boxes that will undoubtedly turn out to contain fascinating – and hence distracting – old letters and old photos.

Ah well! When I get overwhelmed by the difficult tasks, I must remember. Laid out on the kitchen table (and currently preventing the eating of meals there) is that delightful Cloudberries jigsaw. Skyline is its name and the picture is a harbour with a multiplicity of towers and spires and sails.  It’s attractive. This morning, however, it won’t get much, or indeed any, attention. There are far too many other things to do. A planned phone conversation with the friend I call my Book Pair to talk about Shadows on the Rock, the Willa Cather book we’ve both been reading. An overdue phone chat with my sister. Changing the sheets on the bed. Checking my emails. Making a shopping list. And, oh yes, actually getting dressed since, right at the moment, I’m still in my dressing gown. Happy days! It’s the jigsaw of life.

PS: My top picture is of Skyline – work in progress. Below is a piece of life-jigsaw, taken about ten years ago and sent to us this week by the good American friend who made it, a video of us singing one of the most loved Welsh folk songs, Ar Lan y Môr (Beside the Sea). Please excuse the warm up bit we haven’t managed to edit out!

Storytelling Starters ~ Detritus

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

According to my much-used Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (turned to far more often than the two-volume Shorter Oxford) detritus is ‘a mass of substance gradually worn off solid bodies: an aggregate of loosened fragments, esp. of rock’. Well, maybe. But I think of it as mess, an aggregate  of stuff that has been left behind. Like after some kind of open-air gathering, or even an indoor party, there’s always a lot of detritus. Paper napkins, straws, uneaten crusts, cup-cake holders … you know the kind of stuff.

But it’s not exactly detritus that is bothering me now. What’s on my mind is, for instance, the two bulging plastic bags I spotted last night underneath a settee in the sitting room. While watching the 7 o’clock news on TV, my eyes lit upon them. What on earth is in those two bags?  Why are they there? It’s not that I’d not noticed them before. My eyes had lit upon them several times. But I hadn’t previously investigated. Now I took a look. Ah yes, a melee of items of no-longer-wanted clothing. Now I remembered. Weren’t these bagged and ready for going to the charity shop? So why, oh why, are they still here? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Lifting the Sky

Saturday, June 26th, 2021

Sometimes getting a shock can make you do silly things. But another thing it can do is initiate immediate recollections of how important some people have been in your life.

Quite early yesterday morning,  Paul came downstairs with news he’d just picked up on his mobile phone that a friend of ours in Canada had died. We’d never been able to spend long periods of time with her. But she was a very loving and loveable person. She was the wife of a composer who’d been important to me in my work life.

So suddenly and with such a sense of shock does a vital piece of your life return to you, huge both in memory and feeling. Lori Davies was herself a distinguished nurse.   I came to know her some 20 years ago. She was married to Victor Davies, the renowned Canadian composer who had been commissioned to write music for a story I was telling at that time. The story was a very old Salish myth that, in our joint endeavours, became known as Lifting the Sky. The music Victor composed for the story was first performed in public by the North American Welsh Choir, who had commissioned it, with me telling the story. The performance was the  major part of a storytelling evening I was giving in Shelton, Washington in May  2001. (more…)

Storytelling Starters – Plenitude

Saturday, June 19th, 2021

On Thursday morning this week, that word ‘plenitude’ suddenly appeared in my mind. I thought about it. One thing that occurred to me was that there was certainly a plenitude of things I could do.  I could write to all the friends who have sent cards or emails to me to wish me well through this current ‘cancer journey’. And I note that that’s what people are calling it these days: cancer journey. It’s a description that certainly does begin to cover all the toings and froings to the Cancer Centre at the hospital as well as the emotional journey through the ups and downs of what is happening (in my case for the fifth time, each time a different cancer).

Or, I thought, I could make some Welsh cakes. These deliciousnesses are things I’ve enjoyed since childhood and they certainly give me that feeling of plenitude. My mother kept the ones she made in a particular tin in a drawer in the kitchen which would be frequently raided by us children and, I must add, by our father. They’ve continued to feature in my life. Recently, Welsh cakes have gone down well with a neighbour across the road who, much younger than me, is also being treated for cancer right now. Then again, one afternoon earlier this week, Welsh cakes felt like the ideal ‘something’ to take to a gentleman friend who’d invited Paul and me to tea. But quite apart from taking Welsh cakes elsewhere, they’re immensely popular with Paul. And with me too. The making is easy. The eating is forever satisfying. (more…)

Blackbirds and Bees

Saturday, June 12th, 2021

Being called a Queen Bee was definitely not a compliment when I was a child. It was said in a decidedly sarcastic tone. Busy bee – as in ‘What a busy bee you’ve been!’ – was OK. But Queen Bee was a definite put-down. How things change! By now, any comparison at all with bees would be regarded by me as quite a compliment. For bees are certainly very busy creatures and, as I observed on a walk in Brockwell Park this week, they appear extremely focused on their tasks.

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