Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Personal Tales’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ On an ordinary Sunday evening

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Yesterday a printed letter from Lambeth Council was pushed through our letterbox. Addressed to Dear Resident, it described itself as written ‘in the wake of the shocking incident in your neighbourhood early on Sunday evening’.

The letter rang a loud bell for Paul and me.  Last Sunday evening, we went for an early evening walk up to the Brixton Windmill. On the way back our walk took us in part through the nearby estate where we noticed a group of policemen standing outside one of the houses. We briefly wondered whether to ask them why they were there. We didn’t. But evidently, as we now realise, their presence was directly connected to ‘the shocking incident’ that had taken place.

From the letter, we now know that in that place early on Sunday evening, ‘a man in his 20s suffered fatal stab wounds.’ What I felt on learning this is sorrow for anyone who was closely connected with him; family or friends will have been deeply shocked and grieved. I also feel sad in a different way for whoever carried out the stabbing and the consequences of it. By now, whoever it was will almost certainly have been identified and apprehended.  In consequence, they will surely be realising the extent to which they’ve spoiled their own life. Or perhaps that realisation is  yet to dawn upon them.

The letter we got from Lambeth Council was about the Council’s services in giving emotional and mental support to the local community in the wake of the stabbing. It’s reassuring that such services exist and that, as in this case, the community was being directly informed about them. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ All Gold

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Remember the children’s question-and-answer rhyme?

Question: What’s in there?
Answer: Gold and money
Question: Where’s my share?
Answer: Mousie ran away with it.
Question: Where’s the mousie?

And so it goes on. Except that this particular mousie is, in memory, on my bed in my father’s house in St David’s. Paul and I wake up to see it, waving at us from the top of a ruck in the duvet. ‘There’s a mouse in my bed!’ I call out loudly in a voice deliberately mocked-up so as not to alarm my father. He arrives at the bedroom door, takes one look at the situation and says, ‘I’ll leave this to you.’ Paul and I consult, reach out a Harrods plastic bag from the cupboard, shape it into a kind of tunnel, put it on the floor near the dressing table where the mouse is now hiding and make ‘Whoosh! Whoosh’ noises in its direction. And suddenly, Whoosh, the mouse runs into the bag. We take it downstairs and release it into the garden. (more…)

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 ~ 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 ~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 ~ 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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