Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

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Storytelling Starters ~ The Blessings of Memory

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

I can’t remember now what prompted the idea. But a few days ago, Paul and I got the idea that we might both write about our fathers. He’d write about his, I’d write about mine and, since we were each very fond of the other’s, each of us would write a bit about that one too.

Of course this determination has set me off down memory lane, remembering all kinds of little incidents involving my father, the many stories he himself would tell and also his characteristic ways. These were very comparable to those described of the typical Irish storyteller in Frank Delaney’s lovely novel, Ireland. In other words, my father would always to be found sitting in his usual chair, waving his pipe around as he apparently casually asked you a question which he obviously intended to answer himself.

One of the stories my father loved to tell – and it often comes back to my mind – was one that happened during the Second World War. He was being invalided out of Italy and was very bored on the tanker on which he was being transported. As he would tell it, he was desperate to find a book to read – any book. By his account, he searched the whole of the ship, including the captain’s cabin. Nothing. Then one day, idling around on the deck, he noticed an iron ring sticking up out of the planks. Wondering why it was there, he bent down and pulled it.  Under the trapdoor which came up was a small hideaway space and in that space there were two books. One was a book by Erich Maria Remarque. The other was Great Expectations. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Blessing of Friends

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

Ten days out of hospital and still rather confined to base,  I’m reflecting on the blessing of having friends. Here’s a list of some of the things I feel:

Friends bring company and, almost invariably as part of that company, there’s laughter and gossip.

Friends bring cake and when you’re constantly feeling a bit peckish like me over the last ten days, different sorts of cake are very, very nice. 

Friends bring variety and variety is certainly the spice of life when you’re not able to get out and about. Being indoors and not terribly mobile can get incredibly boring. Friends alter the feel of things at once.

Friends bring remembrances of times past… ‘When we all went to that play …’ or ‘Do you remember when you had that party ?’

Friends bring news – news of what they themselves have been doing or places they’re about to be going to visit. In this way they make the world feel wider again. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Occupying the mind

Saturday, March 9th, 2019

On Monday about 5 p.m., I got back from St Thomas’s Hospital after my hysterectomy op.  Since then, I’ve spent quite a lot of time asleep. But as the need for sleep has lessened, I’ve also spent a lot of time going back into my past, especially into childhood.  I think of it as a kind of ‘jumping off’ – including into my childhood years and all the different ways my friends and I used to spend our time.

Playing jacks, for instance. The front porch of our terraced house, No 16  Vergam Terrace, Fishguard, was ideal for this. Whether with friends or on my own, endless hours of throwing and catching the jacks never seemed to hurt our hands.

Salesmanship:

Then again, the short gap between the front window ledge of our house and the railings on the pavement wall provided an excellent opportunity for salesmanship. A board could be leaned between the railings and the front window ledge and on this board could be arranged all kinds of choice items gleaned from the house to tempt passers-by into buying. The selling was not for self gain but in aid of some charity, usually Dr Barnardo’s. When the moneys collected were sent off, the cash having been exchanged for a postal order, I’d receive a little certificate from the charity which I’d take down to Mr Thomas the Chemist’s Shop at the end of our street where Mr Thomas would sellotape it onto the front door.

Other games:

Another vital function of the front window sill was to give place to sit for the serious business of Collecting Car Numbers (something that, the way my friends and I used to do it, would be a lot harder today).  First, you’d write out all the numbers up to 999 in a notebook. Then you’d sit on the front window sill, pencil in hand, and wait to spot the number plate of any passing car. Needless to say, there weren’t that many passing cars and, in those long-gone days, number plates were much simpler. Spot the number – we didn’t care about letters – and it would be crossed off your list. Slow business!

Other childhood games were played in the side street round the corner from Mr Thomas the Chemist’s shop. Gather a group together and you’d likely be playing Mr Wolf in which one person took the part of Mr Wolf and, from his or her position on one side of the street, would call to all the rest of us a colour. If you were wearing something of that colour, you had to start across the street and beware of Mr Wolf jumping out to catch you. If you got all the way across without being caught, you could be Mr Wolf.

But if there wasn’t a group of us kids to be gathered, the side wall of Mr Thomas’s Chemist’s Shop offered the opportunity for endless batting of balls against the wall.

Halcyon days:

Oh those halcyon days! There was very little traffic, we all felt safe in our own company and if we were wanted back home, we could easily be fetched. But because we were an adventurous lot, we’d also go off to other places – up to Lota Park to play on the swings, the slide and the roundabout, or down to the quarry to look for frog spawn or, in our cycling days, riding along the long empty road to Windy Hall.

I’m so grateful for that time. It suited my spirit for, as I recognise it now, I’ve always needed to go ‘jumping off’. This last week, sitting or lying in bed, the ‘jumping off’ has had to be of the mental sort but it’ s been no less enjoyable for that.

See you next week, by which time I hope to be back on my feet.

PS: The two photos are of me looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth and, of course, at rather younger ages than the childhood years of outside games and adventures. The little child in the bottom photo is my brother, seven years younger than me.

Give me the strength!

Saturday, March 2nd, 2019

When in doubt, think of Aunty Mali. That’s what I’m telling myself today. I’m feeling less than myself. But Aunty Mali was a strong and determined woman, meticulous in her ways of doing things. You could have called her a fusspot. My foster-sons, then aged eight and nine, used simply to say she was ‘extra’.

Aunty Mali aimed for excellence in all things, whether it was in her method of storing a pair of leather gloves (blow into the glove after taking it off, then stretch out each finger and lay it flat) or in the way a person should walk onto a stage (neither in a show-off way nor with overdone modesty).

She came into my family’s life when we moved into Vergam Terrace in Fishguard, number 16. She lived in number one in the big, imposing house that had since become the first in the terrace. Her house was full of magic and mystery with a great number  chests of drawers that were full of things that I, as a child, was desperate to look at and handle, including delicate pieces of lace, each wrapped in its own piece of tissue paper with a note as to where and when it had been acquired.

Aunty Mali had taken us over when we moved into her street. Unmarried herself, she must soon have seen us as a family  she could adopt.  I used to go over the road to stay the night or the weekend with her. She took me away on many trips in her Morris Minor, introducing me to all kinds of people I remember to this day.

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A room with a view – again

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

Hello – Paul here. As she predicted last week, Mary’s in hospital getting over a hefty operation and she’s asked me to guest write this week’s blog.

The first storm is passed – a long and complex operation followed by two nights in post-op intensive recovery care attended throughout by the most wonderful degree of focused, dedicated and cheerful nursing. The surgeons have expressed themselves so far satisfied and Mary is ensconced back in the Gynaecology Ward feeling, to be frank, pretty horrible.

The picture is what she can see from her bed. And the picture – appropriately I think for a Storytelling blog – prompts a story which is too circular to be left untold.

Nearly forty years ago when I was working as David Steel’s Press Officer I would come out onto the Terrace of the Houses of Parliament at 11 am – often with Lobby Correspondent friends – to wave to Mary across the Thames in the very same ward on the eighth floor of St Thomas’ Hospital where she was being treated for cancer #1. And then I’d walk over Westminster Bridge with coffee for her and she was able to follow my progress and I could see her at her window. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ It never rains but it pours!

Saturday, February 9th, 2019

That’s what we used to say: it never rains but it pours. And boy was it raining (literally) as I started thinking about this blog yesterday.

The window-pane disaster:

A week ago as described in last week’s blog, I heard that extraordinary crash of sound which, second time of going round the house, led to me seeing the smashed window pane in our bedroom. No sign of a dead bird inside or out. But it must have been a bird that did it. I don’t imagine that, despite its extraordinary speed of running up and down the drainpipe from ground to roof, our bonkers squirrel could have got there.

Fortunately Paul taped up the window most effectively and by Monday lunchtime that particular trouble was ended. The window had been re-glazed by a lovely young guy from Eastern Europe. (more…)

Checking in

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Greetings from Toronto! More next week when I hope to show some fine photos.

Storytelling Starters ~ Fallen leaves

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

The leaves of the lime tree are falling. They pile up over the back of the garden. They’re a pain. Leaves on the street make lovely patterns of shape and colour. It’s a treat to look down at them as I pass. I’m hoping we’ll see more leaves in Canada. (We’re off there tomorrow.) Or will the Canadian leaves have fallen already, overwhelmed by the onset of winter?

Meantime, Autumn leaves in London have created an earworm in my head. It’s the first couple of lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ beautiful poem (see it all at the end of the blog):

Margaret are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving

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Storytelling Starters ~ Journey of a story

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

This week’s blog aims to tell the story of a story. Or should I say, one of the stories of what must be by now a very old story in which it has acquired countless new stories of how it’s travelled through our world. Mine is only one of them.

The story begins:

Innumerable years ago, the Snohomish people of North-West America would tell the story of pushing up the sky. In the beginning, they’d say, the sky was too low. People were unhappy with it. They felt oppressed. They felt there was insufficient space to do things, create things, scarcely enough room to breathe. Besides, sometimes there’d be someone who would go missing by getting lost in the sky – a boy climbing a tree, maybe, or someone exploring a hill. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Remembering

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Storytellers know that our personal stories are part of our bedrock as individuals. Not everyone we encounter may recognise it, but we all have them. One of the times they’re most in evidence is at funerals.  Here is where they are shared – stories of our personal connection with the one who has died, stories about that person one has heard and remembered, stories which that person used to tell and, of course, stories of particular incidents involving that person of which one was part.

A funeral to remember:

Yesterday was a time for listening and for telling. The funeral of our much-loved and hugely admired Kenneth Bowen was held in St David’s Cathedral where one of his sons had been organist for some years. The burial was in Fishguard at the burial ground of Hermon Baptist Chapel where, as he’d always said he wanted, he could be buried next to his mother who had died when he was aged just seven. (more…)