Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ The Tiger-Mouse Tales etc.

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Lockdown lifters

April 25th, 2020

I’ve been missing my Pembrokeshire sea. I’m going to be missing it more and more. Each time I read in my newspaper about how long Lockdown is likely to last, the predicted length gets longer and longer. It’s vitally necessary but oh dear! Today, looking for distraction in my file-box of Songs, Poems and Sayings, I came across this lovely short poem by the American poet, Carl Sandburg:

The sea-wash never ends
The sea-wash repeats, repeats
Only the old strong songs
Is that all
The sea-wash repeats, repeats

Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ The boredom

April 18th, 2020

I’m currently doing a lot of cleaning of shelves, a job that also involves sorting whatever lives on those shelves.

I’m making phone-calls to friends, some to friends abroad I don’t often get to speak to, some to elderly friends I think might be feeling lonely in the current circumstances.

I am continuing with my writing. The story I’m working on right now is about a man who, as a boy, was conspicuously shorter than his friends and stayed shorter than the norm as the years went on.

I am thinking about which publishers to contact to see if I can interest one or other in taking on the collection of stories in my recently self-published book, The Uses of ‘a’.

I am walking round our garden, enjoying seeing what’s coming up, admiring what is already up and attending to the occasional weed.

I am taking a daily walk. It’s generally a short one because my left leg remains painful. But, hey, at least it’s a walk.

I am turning to the Guardian crossword each day. It’s the Quick Crossword I attempt, sometimes with good success, sometimes with almost none.

I am also doing some reading. The book I’ve just begun is another Thomas Hardy novel, A Laodicean. It’s one of his least known. I’d never been aware of it at all until recently.

I cook supper every evening. The cooking is currently not inventive, but at least I put my mind to it.

And, dear friends, I am bored. I can admit it. I must admit it. Bored out of my mind. It’s the staying at home that does it – or as close to home as the powers-that-be have instructed. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Hand

April 11th, 2020

In these strange times, books can offer some more than usual solace. A good friend of mine and I are the only members of what I might call a Book Pair. It’s not a club, it’s just us two. But it operates just like a book group. We choose a book, we read it and then we talk about it. In our case, the talk takes place on the phone because we live in different towns. And it’s a real delight, the pleasure of it for me increased because as a translator by profession and well renowned too  – Margaret Costa is her name and she translates from Spanish and Portuguese – my friend really cares about books. Instead of gliding over them as so many people do, she is delightfully observant about them.

The most recent book we decided upon to be read by us both was one by Thomas Hardy. We had already re-read and discussed several of the well-known books by him. Now we chose The Hand of Ethelberta. It’s not a book of Hardy’s that’s often mentioned and she’d not read it before. I had – and for one obvious reason. Ethelberta in the novel becomes a professional storyteller. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ High and low

April 4th, 2020

It’s felt like a very strange week. Highlights include standing outside on Thursday at 8 p.m. clapping for the NHS and its workers. Most people on our street were joining in and it  felt like a real togetherness, a solidarity of gratitude. For me personally, the gratitude is enormous. After four cancers in my adult life, I’m still here.

Blue skies up above today and for several previous lovely days have felt feel like they’re assuring us that Spring is really on the way if not already here. As well as the cowslips in my garden (one of my most-loved flowers), there’s a large patch of the bluest grape hyacinths and the primroses are doing well. Things can’t be bad.

Friends who’ve rung up to keep in touch during this awful lockdown period have felt like they in themselves are much-needed evidence of the continuance of life and love and the enormous value of contact.

But the most exciting single event of the week – and this because of the memories it’s bringing back – was having my attention drawn to a gorgeous review of my new book, The Uses of ‘a’, in Facts and Fiction magazine. I saw with amazement that this review had been written by John Pole, a fine songwriter, storyteller and Punch and Judy artist who used to come along to my storytelling courses years ago. We’ve not been in touch for a very long time. Now I hope the contact can be renewed. I’ll be ringing him up shortly. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ In our street

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! Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters: Calling …

March 21st, 2020

Thoughts on Friday, 20th March:

My desk says: ‘Tidy me!’

My house calls: ‘Spring clean me!’

My garden pleads: ‘Attend to me.’

My poorly left leg sighs: ‘Massage me.’

My books to review for School Librarian yell: ‘Start reading us now before it’s too late.’

My newly written stories for children screech: ‘Why haven’t you started trying to get a publisher? Don’t you think we’re good enough?’

My unwritten blog for tomorrow nags: ‘You haven’t even started thinking about me yet.’

Meantime, my poor husband sits tucked up in bed with a bit of a fever

And outside, the world feels strangely quiet like it’s waiting for something to happen.

However, news has arrived that a neighbourhood group has formed to give help to whoever needs it.

Kindnesses make the world feel better. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Renewables

March 14th, 2020

After this last Monday, I feel renewed in my conviction of the value and interest of storytelling for elderly people.  And come to think of it, aren’t I classifiable as an elderly person myself?

The elderly people on Monday were all residents of the St Mary’s Care Home, Chiswick. About 15 women and one man joined the session  which I was doing at the invitation of a good friend, Julia Langdon, whose mother had been a resident here in the last part of her life. Julia had asked me if I would come to tell them stories.

I hugely enjoyed it. They sat in their chairs round the sides of the room and listened intently and laughed quite a bit. The woman sitting next to me leaned against her left arm throughout, head down and eyes closed. When we had a short break she apologised saying that, though her eyes were closed, she was listening to every word. With her as with the others, it felt like she was missing nothing. The woman sitting opposite me frequently tapped her arms on her knees with a kind of excited pleasure.

I told a variety of stories, including the Chinese story of The First Storyteller which I’d first come across in a book laid out on a table in a shop in Covent Garden many years ago and also a really soppy one about the Prince of the Earth falling in love with the Princess of the Moon. The latter is one I specially enjoy because I’m good at making frog noises and here it’s Frog who makes it possible for the two lovers to meet.

But I started the session by telling a story I haven’t told for a long time. I imagine it’s a well-known story among storytellers. In this version, it’s about a dressmaker but it can also be about a tailor making a coat or a jacket. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Expectations

March 7th, 2020

Mary, Mary, Quite contrary, How does your garden grow?With silver bells and cockleshells as in the nursery rhyme?

Well, my expectations for this week had been of a blissfully peaceful holiday week in Wales with trips to beaches, lots of reading and plenty of time to recover from the battering my wits and my body have taken from trying to deal with all the niggly health issues that have kept coming up.

Contrary to expectations:

Instead? The warning sign on the car kept coming back after it had apparently been dealt with in London and, in Pembrokeshire, led to the determination from the kindly, straight-talking Reg at the Volvo garage in Haverfordwest that, truth to tell, the car should be regarded as a write-off and he’d buy it off us for £300 and use it for spare parts.

This was more than a disappointment. We loved our old car and had been reassured in our garage in London that the small bump we’d experienced a few weeks ago had not left any problem. And now? If we’d couldn’t use the car to get back to London – and Reg was saying that tootling around locally would be OK but not to take it on the M4 – how would we make the trip with all our luggage at the end of our peaceful week? Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling Starters ~ Marking the day

February 29th, 2020

At least it’s not raining on this extra Leap Day – at least not yet. Tomorrow is St David’s Day and, in memory, that was always a day of celebration when, at school, we girls all wore a daffodil pinned to our jackets and the boys wore leeks (which they’d diligently chew almost to nothing over the course of the day).

To celebrate St David’s Day every year in St David’s, an Eisteddfod is held in the City Hall. Eistedd in Welsh means sitting and fod (mutated here from bod) means being. So yesterday, two days in advance of the day itself, there we were, Paul and me, sitting in St David’s City Hall as two of the hall-full of people ready to participate in a whole day of competitions of many kinds, among them reciting and dancing and singing alone or in groups. Paul and I won a number of prizes – alas, no firsts – and so came home with a handful of little prize-bags made from the beautiful woollen cloth donated by Tregwynt Woollen Mill.

The tradition:

Evidently, the first known Eisteddfod took place in Cardigan in 1176 under the aegis of the Lord Rhys. It’s a tradition that has persisted all over Wales, though not necessarily on St David’s Day. For many, many youngsters it becomes the route to a future in musical performance or, since prose and poetry competitions are usually included – literary success. Bryn Terfel is just one of the many performers who rose to success in this way. Read the rest of this entry »