Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Repertoire’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~Reflections at New Year

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

It would sound such a daftly easy question for a teacher to ask: ‘Children, when is New Year’s Day?’  Except if the children lived in the Gwaun Valley in North Pembrokeshire, they could well suspect they were being tricked. For in the Gwaun Valley, ever since 1582 when the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar, New Year has continued to be remembered on January 13th.

On the way:

So that’s why, at this point of the year, I find myself on my way into memory in the passenger seat of the Morris Minor of my redoubtable Aunty Mali. We’re on the way to celebrate Nos Calan in the warmly welcoming farmhouse of Mr and Mrs Saunders Vaughan in the middle of the Gwaun Valley. I had guessed beforehand that there’d be a sensational welcome. Mrs Saunders Vaughan was a bustling, endlessly talkative woman with a cackling kind of voice. She’d come into Fishguard every week with an enormous basket of eggs for selling to her regular customers, of whom my mother was one. Mr Saunders Vaughan was a quietly spoken and kindly man. Both were immensely hospitable.

Arriving:

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Storytelling Starters ~ Too busy?

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

Yesterday morning I needed to look up a song. Early in January Paul and I have a tryst to meet up with some friends in Llansteffan, a village on a Carmarthenshire estuary where I once stayed for a couple of lovely weeks while doing storytelling work in some nearby schools. I told these friends that when we are there, looking out over the sea or, if the tide is out, the sandflats, I shall sing them a Welsh song that I love which tells the story of someone rowing across the estuary to fetch his loved one.

Reminders:

It was a pleasure to be reminded of the song when I found it. But, my goodness, as I searched for it in my file boxes – now would it be in the box labelled Wales, which is full of Welsh stories and stuff about Welsh places, or in the box labelled Songs, Poems, Sayings? – I had such a weird combination of feelings. Past and future swirled around in my mind. Which items had I previously used in my storytelling work? Which could be good in the future? I felt a bit like Janus, the ancient Roman deity who, as my Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable reminds me, was the guardian of gates and doors and, for this reason, represented with two faces, one in front and one behind. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Lying and Bragging

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

Over the last weeks, a lot of lies have been perpetrated and a lot of bragging has occurred. To a varying extent, perhaps we as the general public accepted it all as part of the process of electioneering. But those of us who are storytellers may have cast on it a more professional eye. After all, some types of storytelling are deliberate glorifications of the art of lying and the best tall tales can make us alternately laugh and groan even as we admire the brilliance of the invention and the art of the wordplay in the telling.

Thinking about lying made me start to wonder whether it’s the particular purpose of the lie that makes the difference. And from some remote part of my memory, this wondering process brought to mind a lie I’ve known about  since childhood. I heard about it from my redoubtable Aunty Mali who has featured in this blog several times before. Clearly she was proud of the lie for she told me about it not just the once but many times over and always with a sense of admiration. The lie had been told by her own mother, evidently a woman of great probity. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ That tree is ours.

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

Making lists, I thought, would be my subject here today. For there have been too many lists in my life of late. Jobs to do round the house. Christmas presents to be bought. People to whom to send emails about my new book, The Uses of ‘a’.

But early this morning, lying in bed awake and feeling overwhelmed by my lists, my mind turned instead to trees. I think this was due to a visit yesterday from storyteller friend, Helen East. As we sat in the kitchen drinking Lemon and Ginger tea, Helen began talking about  the time that she’d spent in Kerala a few years ago. Then she told us a Kerala story, a terrific story about the kindness of a tree. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Busy

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

As my website reports, they’re here. They arrived on Thursday. Five cardboard boxfuls of them were pushed into the house. Held  on to a  heavy palette by thick plastic which had to be cut away with a big pair of scissors before any box could be opened to reveal my new book, The Uses of ‘a’ … and other stories. The first person to see them, along with Paul and me, was storyteller Meg Philp who lives in Australia and was staying with us at the time.

The book contains 24 stories. These range in subject from a refugee desperately searching for her children to a wandering minstrel on his way to praise a prince to a young woman in the throes of deciding whether or not to make a Christmas cake (spoiler alert: she does!). These stories were written over the last few years whenever one came into my head. I really enjoyed the writing of them and then eventually realising that I had what I could call a collection. I hope you might like to purchase a copy. See the end of this blog for how to order.

A special pleasure of deciding to self-publish a book is getting it designed. What an art that is! The size of the book, the design of the cover, the choice of font and all the little details such as, in this case, the two little birds that appear to be flying away at the end of each story. My thanks again to my very special book designer, Olwen Fowler, who was the designer of my previous book, A Long Run in Short Shorts. (more…)

Deleafing

Saturday, November 16th, 2019

How strange it felt to be writing this week’s blog with a pen on a piece of paper. Normally, I’d have been typing it straight into my computer, first as an ordinary Word document which, after being corrected and adjusted, would then get transferred into Blog format.

But, silly me, I managed to leave my computer behind in Wales when we set out back to London earlier this week. Even now, it must be languishing in the sitting room there, wondering where on earth I am. At the same time as feeling quite sorry for it, I also think it was probably good for me to have had to write my thoughts by hand before borrowing Paul’s computer to type them up.

Good because, before typewriters and computers came into my life, handwriting was what there was and I used to enjoy it, still do on those ever rarer occasions when I actually put pen to paper. At primary school we were well-trained. Marion Richardson style, we’d be rounding our ‘a’ shapes, looping the upper end of every ‘h’, all of us creating the very recognisable handwriting of the Welsh primary classroom. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Loud listening

Saturday, November 9th, 2019

I love rugby. (I’m Welsh after all.) So of course I watched the final of the Rugby World Cup, England vs. South Africa. In his comments on TV immediately after his team won, Siya Kolisi, the black captain of the South African team, said he hoped their win would help bring his country together.

I felt very moved, first by the unboastful way he spoke, then by all the memories that began flooding into my mind, particularly memories from my five-week storytelling trip to South Africa in 1992 not long after Nelson Mandela was released from prison. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Blade and bell

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

A week ago, Paul and I went to a Memorial Service for a great and important person – the world-renowned tenor, Kenneth Bowen. We’d got to know him because of my Aunty Mali (yes, the redoubtable one). Kenneth used sometimes to go to call on her when he visited Fishguard, where he’d spent many family holidays in his youth. One huge love they had in common: music. And one aspect of music in particular: voice.

Qualities of voice

At the Memorial Service, each of Kenneth’s two grandsons sang. I was immediately reminded of the qualities of Kenneth’s voice.  How it could command attention. What an edge it had. (I think this is what singers know as blade.) But also what tenderness it could have, what beauty, what resonance, as if it was holding you within its embrace. (And this, I think, is what singers call bell.) (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Autumn leaves

Saturday, October 26th, 2019

You know what it’s like! You’ve got to make a decision but so many options are swirling round in your mind you find it impossible to choose. Well, it’s just like that this week. As I sit down to write this blog, too many different options present themselves. For one thing, I want to write about the gorgeous colours of Autumn leaves I just saw when taking a walk round my local streets.

Choices: a journey

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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…)