Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Themes’ Category

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 ~ 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 ~ 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…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Wales and Whales

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

It was a storytelling project in Outer London. The theme was local legends. A girl in one of the groups put up her hand and asked if we knew about the elephants under the line of local hills.

Suggestive shapes:

Often it’s the shape of hills that gives rise to legends about them. Above a small place called Wolfscastle in the middle of Pembrokeshire are two high rocks that, as children, we knew as The Lion and the Lamb. By today, these rocks have eroded so that I wouldn’t be able to say which looks more like a wolf, which more like a lamb. Even as a child I wasn’t sure. But I could imagine very clearly that one was attacking the other. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Head gear

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

On Thursday or Friday every week but sometimes not till Saturday morning, the question arrives in my head. What to write in this week’s blog? Often the answer seems to be there already as if I’d already been considering the question. Sometimes I haven’t got a clue. Like this week. Yesterday I didn’t have a clue. I just had to trust that something would come to mind.

Why bother?

A friend asked the other day: ‘Why do you bother?’ My only answer can be ‘because I like doing it.’ My sense of the weekly obligation requires me to think over whatever may be in my mind. Recent events.  Topics that, however briefly, have grabbed my interest.  Stuff I’ve been reading. Things that have been said to me directly or things I’ve overheard.

From all these various tributaries to what must pass as my river of thought, something has to  materialise to provide the spur to a blog. But in a way that’s just like storytelling. I’m sure all storytellers would say the same. Countless times on your way to do a session or sessions, you’ll have known pretty much what stories you’re likely to tell. You’ll have thought about them in preparation, identifying themes and finding links. But there’s also the more immediate links that, in the event, prove invaluable. These may come from what happens on the way to the venue or from recent encounters or from things people have said. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Forgetting

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Forgetting is the other side of remembering. It has its value. Not remembering unpleasant things can be very health-giving, something which eventually allows unhappy events, emotions or people to slip away.  Sometimes the forgetting happens of itself. Sometimes the techniques for forgetting have to be learned.

The pain of forgetting:

But it’s that involuntary forgetting that can be so annoying. Perhaps it’s the same in many different circumstances or professions. You need to remember. You simply can’t bring whatever it is to mind. You set about trying to find the book or paper or person that may be able to supply the missing piece of information. And when you can’t find it? It’s a pain. Especially, say I, when you’re a storyteller. (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:

(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…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Cat-you-like

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

Are you familiar with the story of how the cat got its purr? I was reminded of it while thinking about the elegant black, beautiful cat who came up to our room  in my husband’s arms a couple of days ago. Paul had been out on the doorstep, talking with our neighbour. Meantime, our front door was open, the cat emerged as if from nowhere and promptly walked into our house. Paul followed it in, picked it up and brought it up for my admiration.

Wow! The cat was obviously ‘owned’ – if ever a cat can be owned – with a smart collar and bell. He was in the most beautiful condition and at once I was reminded of all our past cats and how I’d like to have a cat again. After the death of Minky, our last lovely cat, we felt we couldn’t replace him with another. Then time went on and, several years later, we remain catless. Perhaps that beautiful black cat will bring about a change here. Who knows?

How the cat got its purr: the story

Meantime, that story of how the cat got its purr has winkled its way back into my mind. The story tells of how one of the animals, perhaps it was cat, somehow got hold of a big beautiful drum. Whoever he was, he loved to play it and when he did so at parties, the other animals were full of envy of the sounds it made. So envious did the other animals become that one of them – was it fox? – wanted to get it for himself. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Props 1: inviting response

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Last week brought lovely comments on my thoughts about audience. So this week – and over one or two following weeks as well – I’ve decided to write about props. It’s a subject that interests me a lot. Why use a prop or props? Do they help or hinder a storytelling or indeed the storyteller? How many props might one use in a session and how is best to deploy them? And where might one obtain them?

Props stimulate questions:

Placed on a theatre stage, props can intrigue the audience. Props arouse subliminal questions. Why is that object there? Who is going to use it and when and why? But storytelling is generally less theatrical. So why would a storyteller make use of a prop or props? An immediate answer has to do with the very nature of a prop. A stick, a stone, a badge, a flower: a prop is some kind of object that has been selected with a view to intriguing or informing the audience. Perhaps it is itself going to be the subject of a story. Perhaps its colour or shape is going to be significant. Perhaps it’s a matter of who owned it, where it came from. Props stimulate questions. (more…)