Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ A Kind of Liberation

When I came downstairs this morning (and we’re still in Wales), I found that Paul was already seated in front of our current jigsaw puzzle. Of course this represented a dilemma for me. Breakfast or jigsaw? I love doing jigsaw puzzles (as does Paul!) and whatever the jigsaw that’s being done at the moment proves a real draw when we’re on holiday. It can even distract attention from a bright sunny day (today is actually damp and drizzly) or, on this occasion, from the prospect of breakfast.

This morning, I womanfully resisted the call of the jigsaw (it happens to be a picture of small children at the seaside) long enough to eat my porridge. By this time, Paul had moved on to other things. So I managed to have a nice long uninterrupted time alone at the jigsaw table while, meantime, suppressing the thought that actually I needed to be coming upstairs to my computer to write this blog.

Well, here I am at my computer and quite happy too. For now I can report on the pleasure of beaches. This week in particular it was Whitesands – Traethmawr – which triumphed. The tide was a long way out, the beach was emptier of people than I’d thought it would be and walking across it felt enormously liberating. At some point on the walk I thought about how much I’ve been a lover of Whitesands since childhood. My family started coming here when I was quite small. My father would get me to help dig out a boat in the sand which, of course, would have to be defended from the incoming tide. My mother would sit beside a rock quietly drawing and painting.

The pleasure of beaches has continued ever since. As a teenager, I had the greatest possible fun as one of a small group of friends from school who’d have the pleasure of coming to Whitesands to stay in the caravan belonging to the mother of one of our group. We’d have other schoolfriends (including boys!) come to visit and on one occasion I remember picking up a group of young German lads who were on a visit to the area. It felt very daring to entertain them to coffee in our caravan.

I suppose such experiences help to explain why I always feel a kind of liberation when, these days, Paul and I arrive at Whitesands beach. Or anywhere else on the Pembrokeshire coast come to that. Partly it’s the air. It’s invigorating. Partly it’s the sea – always on the move. Partly it’s the way that such lovely open places create a sense of energy.

But such experiences cannot be the only thing in mind when there are also newspaper reports  of the dire things that are commonplace in so many people’s lives. This past week, for instance, there was the report that more than 5,000 children in Leeds alone have no bed to sleep in at night.

It’s not easy to move from the memory of Whitesands beach to the knowledge of such deprivation. But perhaps it can prove to be an inspiration too. I well remember being part of a project which brought children from inner-city Birmingham to spend a few days on the West Wales coast. I specifically remember the children’s reaction to seeing the sea and one or two of the group joyfully running into the sea in their clothes. It might have been hard for these children to go back to their city lives. But I hope it was an inspiration too and that the experience brought them back to the coast in later years.

PS: The extraordinary photo that accompanies this blog was taken by Paul this week on one of our Whitesands walks. I suppose it’s a reminder that our shadows are also in a sense our echoes.

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ A Kind of Liberation”

  1. Meg Says:

    Dear Mary.
    The sea, the beach, the air! So vivid. My favourite as a kid was the Silver Sands, at Aberdour!
    Have been thinking of you this week. I happened to watch an Aussie tv prog with Bill Bryson being interviewed about London. He showed us and raved about The London Library! It was marvellous to see on of your other favourites places!
    Thank you for your faithful posts.
    Wishing you a Good New Year
    Cheers from here

  2. Mary Steele Says:

    I was also brought up near the sea and visited it very often, and it is difficult trying to imagine not knowing what it looks like and even more difficult trying to explain it in words for people who have never seen it. It’s possible in pictures, maybe, and stories. I only visit the seaside occasionally now, and can’t explain the sense of missing it to someone who can see it out of their window every day.I’ll be heading to the coast sometime soon, as the days lengthen.

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