Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Cough, sneeze, spit, blow

Cough. Sneeze. Spit. Blow. Reach for another tissue. Sneeze. Cough. Spit. Blow. Take another couple of Lemsip capsules. Cough. Cough. Cough. Cough. Consider going downstairs to make a new hot water bottle.  The process becomes unending. Get out of bed. Boil the kettle. Refill the hot water bottle. Make a hot drink.  Revert to the bed. Wonder how long this is going to last. What about the jobs that need to be done?

Strange how all sense of urgency subsides when the bugs have taken over. My new book, Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years, officially  comes out on March 21st. Even as the Marketing Department at Jessica Kingsley swings into action, there’s loads to do to get ready. A new day dawns. Send stuff to Early Years magazines? Write a piece I’ve promised for the Pre-School Leadership Alliance? Do some new recordings to put on my website? Make a list of personal contacts in the field to alert?

But all I want to do is lie down, sleep, do nothing. OK read a bit (and it’s weird that as I reach the end of the first section of La Belle Sauvage, the first volume in Philip Pullman’s new trilogy, The Book of Dust, I feel that the rumbling and swirling and collapsing that occurs with the massive flood that begins at that point is a perfect reflection of my own current condition).

Meantime, I’m rather desperately wondering what I can possibly do in this blog this week – cough, sneeze, blow, reach for another tissue – when a charming story comes back to mind. It’s an East African story, the one about the boy – I call him Kabebe – who journeys to the home of the sun. Yes, that’s just what I need, I think. Sunshine. Warmth. That wonderful glow that makes you know you feel well.

Sun-baked Bread:

So then the story seeps back into my mind as I begin to remember why Kabebe starts on his journey. It’s because, early each morning as he watches the sun rising above the distant mountains, he wonders where the sun resides. One morning, he decides to go and find out. Leaving home will bring its own sense of relief: his many brothers are perpetually coughing, spitting and sneezing, always suffering from colds. It will be good to get away for a while.

The journey to the mountain isn’t easy. Crocodile-infested rivers must be crossed and, at nightfall, the blood-curdling call of hyenas echoes through Kabebe’s troubled dreams. Then in the morning there’s initial disappointment: the sun has already risen, he’s woken too late to see the point from which it goes into the sky. But Kabebe isn’t daunted and, climbing the mountain, he’s rewarded. In front of his eyes, he sees a golden house – well, it’s a palace really – and when he knocks on the door, it is opened by a broadly smiling woman who introduces herself as Mrs Sun. ‘Come in,’ she says. ‘It’s nice to see you.’ And, my goodness, is it nice for Kabebe too! The lovely smell of baking bread emanates from Mrs Sun’s kitchen and she is most hospitable, insisting he stays till Mr Sun comes home after his long day’s work.

So it is that Kabebe gets to meet Mr Sun, gets to spend a night in his home and, waking extremely  early next morning as he is bidden to do, sees the exact moment when Mr Sun leaps from the bed he shares with Mrs Sun and jumps up through the hole in the domed ceiling of their bedroom to begin his day’s journey across the sky. Kabebe of course is delighted – and even more so when Mrs Sun gives him a loaf of fresh-baked bread to take home to his family as a gift.

And wow do I wish right now that I was one of Kabebe’s family. For when he gets home, not only are they delighted to see him, they love the gift he’s brought them. More than that, that loaf of bread never ever gets finished. And even more than that – and we can only imagine the special properties with which the bread is suffused – none of them ever get ill again.

So be it. One can but dream. And oddly, checking back in my blog archive, I see that exactly the same process back in October 2015 when I also had a cold led to me thinking about and retelling the story of Kabebe then.

PS: The top photo shows that magical moment as the newborn sun rises above the horizon. The second is of that equally magic glow that the early morning sun casts on the world around you. The third is of the Sun Cloth I was lent by my friend, storyteller Karen Tovell, when illness from nasal lymphoma obliged me to spend four months in University College Hospital back in 2010. The Sun Cloth was hung on the wall of my room on the 16th floor and was commented on by all who came in.


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