Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ All Gold

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.

So from Harrods bag, it is Harrods the shop that now comes into my journey of memory as, on one occasion,  I was stopped on a pavement in Victoria by a young Chinese man who said in an enquiring way: ‘Ah oh?’ My face must have shown my bafflement. ‘Ah oh? Ah oh?’ He said it again and yet again until at last I understood. ‘Oh Harrods!’ I said. He smiled. So then I told him how to get there.

But Harrods did not prove the Mecca we hoped when a group of us from the London Welsh Chorale went there to sing carols one Christmas time some years ago. Funny that. We were stood together on the stairs. Many wealthy-looking people went by and did not even look at us. They certainly gave us not a penny. Those few that gave, we noticed, were generally ones that did not look rich. But anyway we sang.

And sing its heart out was what the nightingale did,  the one Paul and I heard outside our bedroom window on the isle of Iona when we were staying there once. It sang and sang in its voice of gold. It sang as if it would never stop and never ever need to stop. It sings in my memory right now as I recall it.

For wasn’t it the nightingale that got the gold in that little story of how the birds got their colours? When God was giving the birds their colours – remember? – he’d just about finished his task when a little brown bird turned up. It was late and the bird was worried. Alas, God was worried too for there were no colours left in his bag, not until he found a tiny little speck of gold right at the bottom of his bag. He asked the nightingale to open its beak, put the gold on his brush and painted it into the nightingale’s throat. The song of the nightingale has been gold ever since.

And gold provides a major theme in Silas Marner, the book by George Eliot that I finished re-reading just the other day. Gold had become the obsession of Silas the weaver. Not surprising really, he had little else to think about. It made a miser of him and a very unhappy miser too when his stache of gold was stolen from him. But then something amazing happens.

Out of the blue, a lovely young girl walks into Silas’ cottage after her mother has fallen down dead on the road outside. Gold is the colour of her hair, gold is the sweetness of her nature. Silas gives her the name Eppie. She becomes the joy of his life, his transformation.

So gold goes on. Yesterday morning, it became the theme that transfigured my early morning thoughts when I could no longer sleep. Gold normally gets locked away. This gold unlocked what began to feel like the endless stream of memories that I have now recounted here.

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