Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Coming round the mountain

According to the definition given in my Chambers English Dictionary, a hotchpotch (sometimes spelt ‘hodgepodge’) is ‘a confused mass of ingredients shaken or mixed together in the same pot.’ And now that I come to think about it, I feel of a mind to say that, particularly in my present circumstances, the same definition could quite often be used for the contents of my mind.

Not too often, I do hope. But certainly it’s not so surprising in the aftermath of the dose of chemotherapy treatment I received at the beginning of the week.  My current treatment is meant to deal with the fifth occurrence of cancer that I’ve experienced. It’s going to go on until Christmas and this dose has pretty much knocked me out. By now, however, as well as the sense of being quite wrecked, the feelings incurred are giving me a renewed sense of sympathy with all the people in this country, let alone across the world, whose minds and bodies are being similarly affected right now by cancer and by its treatment.

At the same time, it has to be said, what illness and its treatment can also give you is a bit of time out. Time when you’re not quite able to do what you normally do, or not as much. And time when you’re not necessarily reflecting on your past in any organised way. But time, when you’re having to rest, when things can be allowed to drift in and out of your mind. Sometimes it’s surprising where that process can take you such as right back into childhood or teenage experience.

At some point on Thursday night, for instance, I was definitely on the school bus in my young teenage years, presumably coming back from some Eisteddfod or other in which we schoolchildren had been competing. As always, this bus journey was the most enormous fun. For at the back of the bus you could sing what you liked and, unless a teacher came walking back from the front to reprimand you or tone you down, you could sing as raucously as you wanted.

‘She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes, when she comes! She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes!’

Remember that? And remember how, with the imagination of young teenagers for finding new extensions, that raucous song  can go on and on, its first lines repeated with fresh  additions  any number of times. Maybe this next time, it can even get a bit rude? So maybe this time when she comes round that mountain, she’ll be wearing pink knickers or next-to-nothing or even nothing at all.

For there is nothing at all that could be discounted from the encroaching-on-extremely-rude ideas that schoolchildren of about twelve or thirteen years old could find to put into that song.

In my experience, however, they were essentially innocent times and certainly very merry. So last night, waking from sleep sometime in the early hours of the morning, I greatly enjoyed immersing myself in my memory of them and recalling the fun, the friendships and the feelings of great satisfaction that a good time was being had by all.

Come to think about it, perhaps it was the raucousness that provided the most satisfaction.  For when you’re being raucous, you’re no longer thinking about behaving properly or being nice. You’re just letting go.

Ah! Merry days!

PS: So the top picture is the pre-teen me and the lower one is from a few months ago.

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