Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Any old bones?

The rag-and-bone man regularly came round the streets of Fishguard where I grew up. We kids would be playing Jacks on the front doorstep or What’s the Time, Mister Wolf? round on Victoria Avenue and we’d hear the rumble of his cart, look up and see his tired-looking horse and hear his echoing cry as he went on up the street. ‘Any old rags?’

The rag-and-bone man was a small, thin man as if he was nothing but bones himself. I suppose he did collect bones as well as rags. But I have no memory of that. However, I do have a special memory of bones from later, probably my young twenties, when Paul and I were in Corfu, staying in a house we’d rented out in the sticks.

After just a day or two, we were adopted by a fine-looking dog that turned up it seemed out of nowhere. Perhaps this dog made a habit of endearing himself to visitors. He certainly wasn’t skinny. We gave him the name Filoskilos and were delighted to adopt him and feed him while we were there. Indeed, when we went to the nearest little town to do our shopping, we made a point of finding a butcher’s shop to get a good bone for our canine friend. When we told the butcher what it was for, he found great amusement in coming out from the meat-store at the back of his shop with an enormous bone-shaped bone like one you might see in a pantomime.

As you might guess from these small recollections, bones have been somewhat on my mind. I’ve even gone so far as to wonder what will happen to my own old hip-bone after it’s come out of my left hip on Monday. Where do old bones go? Do they get thrown out in rubbish bags? Or do they go somewhere to get crushed? These are good questions, sure enough, but I don’t imagine that on Monday I’m going to be pursuing answers to them because I expect that when I wake up from the anaesthetic I’ll have other things on my mind.

As for stories and sayings involving bones, I expect that, between all the cultures of this world, there are enough to make several booksfull. Wasn’t there a beautiful maiden that emerged into  life after what became her body was assembled from a whole lot of lovingly arranged bones? And what about that adult excuse that used to be made to children and was certainly often produced to me by one of my aunties.  ‘No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that now, I’ve got a bone in my leg.’ And then of course there’s the wish-bone that children squabble over at Christmas-time because it’s supposed to bring special luck to the person that finds it in the portion of turkey they’ve been given.

Make no bones about it, there are sufficient superstitions and idioms involving bones to keep any sayings-collector going. And of course. at a more elevated level, there are all the bones in poems such as those most exquisite bones in Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

Enough. By this time next week, I’ll have a new hip-bone. Whether it will be made of what might be called bone-bone or of some wonderfully modern synthetic material is a  whole other question. Anyone who knows the answer, do let me know.

PS: I never learned the names of the bones in the human body but I do know that this top picture is a human skeleton. The bottom picture, evoked by the quote from The Tempest, is of course the skeleton of a crab I found on a Pembrokeshire beach.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Any old bones?”

  1. Jean Edmiston Says:

    Dear Mary – sending healing thoughts and wishing you a speedy recovery from your operation — just think about the long walks you will enjoy again – much love Jeanxx

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