Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Personal experience’ Category

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…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Call of Stories

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

Being on cancer treatment makes for a kind of half-life. Getting to the hospital, sitting through the chemo transfusion (typically for me about eight hours from sitting down to getting out), feeling strange for several days afterwards with not much else going on because of the after- effects. Sometimes getting up much earlier than usual, sometimes very much later and rarely going out in the evenings because of generally feeling knackered.

Brightening things up:

But always there are kind contacts from friends and neighbours, phone calls and cards with enquiries as to how it’s all going and many messages of goodwill. In the odd way that illness produces, there’s even the brightening of relationships with some long-term neighbours in the street. Never before on particular talking terms,  having learned what’s going on, they now always enquire how things are going.

Meantime, you’re looking for more ways to make life feel brighter. Crosswords and word wheels are good, but I find they can only last a relatively short time. Reading is a must but you need other things too.

Missing the storytelling:

And I miss the storytelling. I ask myself if it will ever come back. Programmes of stories begin to form in my mind, stories for children, stories for adults, ideas of stories I’d like to tell and how I’d like to tell them. Short ones, long ones, quirky ones, ones that have happened in my own real life: they present themselves to my attention, swirling out from choppy seas or clouds of mist and wanting to get acknowledged. Writing them down is one thing. Telling them is quite another. I hope I’ll get or make the chance to be telling them again.

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Storytelling Starters ~ From nature and awareness

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

What a beautiful singer! Watching the Cardiff Singer of the World competition on TV on Thursday evening this week, Mingjie Lei was obviously going to be the clear winner of the Song Prize. He sang in such an unforced way, giving time and space and feeling to the words and emotions of his songs. His performances put me in mind of the kind of storytelling I like best.

The storytelling I like best can’t be described as entirely natural. And yet natural it is. For wherever it has reached, it has resulted from a combination of awareness and study but also continues to derive from a natural love of the medium.

A Natural Art:

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Storytelling Starters ~ The human touch

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Remembering stories can be a comfort when you’re poorly. And, dear readers, have I felt poorly since the third of my third chemo treatments. Still, I’m halfway through bar the shouting and that’s something worth holding onto.

A story that came to my mind when I couldn’t get back to sleep very early one morning this week is one that needs the best part of an hour for the telling and it’s one that I love. It comes from the Arabian Nights. Here it is in brief.

A story with a human touch:

The third of the three children of a king is a girl. With her brothers she has grown up in the home of the king’s gardener not knowing who she is by birth. The children’s mother was imprisoned long ago because of lies that were told against her, the gardener is poor but loving and the three children he took on as his own are leading a sheltered life not knowing who they really are. An important feature of that life is the gardener’s beautiful garden. It is a place of peace and refuge. Why should anything change? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Frog talk

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

Human minds! You see something, it reminds you of more. Since yesterday, it’s been frogs for me.

The frog in the park:

 

Going for a walk in Brockwell Park, all part of my recovery programme (and thanks to everyone for good wishes) we were greeted near the entrance by a very large wooden frog, arms endearingly outstretched towards us. Of course, this frog  brought back to my mind all kinds of stories (well, it would, wouldn’t it?).

One was of Lil who used to live down the road with her sister Sarah. Lil would call out to you on the street, ‘Ere, Missis Whatsisname?’ Then she’d follow up with something like, ‘Yer got no idea what ’er upstairs as gorn an done now.’ On one occasion she came to my door and quietly murmured, ‘Sarah says as can you come down and get the frog (frog as in frawg) outa the kitchen.’ Of course I went armed with rubber gloves and a bucket. I remember it well.

Then there’s the little frog folk-tale I used to tell.

 

Frog talk:

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Storytelling Starters ~ Recycling

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

It’s my second chemotherapy session on Tuesday. I do not look forward to it or its aftermath. But some nice things keep the spirits raised: kindnesses from friends, the freshly blooming Mary Rose in the garden, the pleasure of the Great Tit at finding our bird feeder tubs have been refilled and, of course, stories.

Where’s the creativity?

Whenever I read about the state of schools across the country – how some teachers are voluntarily buying food or books for children with money from their own pockets or, just as bad or worse,  how so many teachers feel that all emphasis on creativity has been lost as a result of focus on exams – I find myself wanting the children to have more stories. Young people are disillusioned, turned off, self-harming, depressed. I want them to hear stories, do self-motivated work that is based on stories, talk about stories, tell their own stories. Who is a storyteller to say this should happen? Well, all of us storytellers who’ve seen what powerful effects it can have. Particularly this last week, I’ve been recalling the attention and engagement that  hundreds of children have shown to the daftly innovative stories of Shemi Wâd.

The story that follows is one I found in the handwritten book of Shemi stories I was recently lent. The stories in it were written down by Bili John who had himself known Shemi since boyhood. He wrote down the stoies in Welsh.  The one that follows is in my English version.

The big clock and the tricycle:

One day Shemi dug out from his garden a wooden box that contained what looked like the wheels of a clock. Shemi had never seen anything quite like these wheels before. They were very big – as large as saucers – and without more ado, he got ready to use them to make a clock. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Dream and Reality

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

It was raining. I was lying on my bed thinking about what I’d write in this blog this week. My mind (or whatever passes for it these days) was wandering about, touching on all kinds of things that happened this week. One was the visit of a friend, a local historian, who came to show and lend me two old manuscript books full of stuff about Shemi, that 19th century storyteller I was writing about last week. This reminded me of my father many years ago telling me about a handwritten exercise book full of Shemi stories that he’d been shown and then, suddenly addressing himself to the ether, asking: ‘I wonder where that book is now.’ Strange to think the book he was speaking about may now be in my house.

Yet another was the beautiful butterfly that had somehow got into my bedroom. I’d finally managed to urge it out of the window with the deft use of a sheet of newspaper. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Gold

Saturday, April 6th, 2019

When you think about it, it’s sometimes very hard to say what makes a particular topic come to your mind. For instance, I have no idea what started me thinking about nightingales this morning. Not blackbirds but nightingales. Or perhaps instead of nightingales (plural) I should say nightingale (singular). For to my knowledge I’ve only ever encountered one. And it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

My personal experience:

It was on the island of Iona off the north-west coast of Scotland. Paul and I were visiting Oban on the mainland (my maternal grandfather hailed from Oban). In the course of our visit, we took a trip across to Mull and thence on to Iona where we were able to spend a few days staying in a remote little guesthouse where, each night, our host would call upstairs to say that the electricity was about to go off because he was about to turn off the generator. (more…)