Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Doing nothing

Ever happen to you? Outside it’s a perfectly decent day. You could be going out to do the food shopping or just to enjoy a nice walk. Or you could stay inside and put on the washing (plenty waiting to get done) or get on with some house-cleaning (once again, plenty). Taking yet another tack, you could get started on Sapphira and the Slave Girl, the next book by Willa Cather that you’ll be discussing with the friend with whom you have your Book Pair (a version of a book group but with only the two of you).

Or you could be making the phone call you’ve promised to make to a friend to report on yesterday’s session with a hospital consultant where you discussed next steps in the plan for dealing with your recently identified cancer (more on that anon, no doubt). Instead you are being perfectly idle. Much earlier on, you went down for breakfast (no lack of appetite here) and since then your lovely husband has brought you the very welcome cup of coffee and excellent biscuit that you’ve since consumed. Otherwise you’ve done nothing useful.

Or is it perhaps useful from time to time to do nothing at all? My father would have said yes. Indeed, he did say exactly that on a number of occasions when, in his later years, I’d go home to stay with him for a week or two. ‘But I am doing nothing,’ I’d protest as I idly turned the pages of the newspaper. ‘No,’ he’d say, ‘I said ‘nothing’.’ Sometimes I wondered why on earth he’d make what felt like such a daft suggestion. Why do nothing when there’s so much to be done?

Nowadays, I’m beginning to understand what he meant. On every morning of late, the birds in our garden have been most gloriously singing. Why not simply listen? Besides, with a programme of treatment now in prospect to deal with my fifth cancer, why not relish the unconstrained time before the treatment begins? Earlier on, I was trying to do that very thing – ie, enjoy doing nothing – when I suddenly seized on the idea of writing this week’s blog. After all, it’s Friday as I write this and by tomorrow, Saturday, by about mid-day it needs to be ready for me to click Publish.

Ah well! I’ll try to do better over the coming weeks and start learning to take that time to do nothing. Indeed, even as I promise to try doing exactly that, the voice of my much-loved Aunty Celia returns to my mind as she urged me to remember those very familiar lines from W.H. Davies’ poem, Leisure

What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare?

PS: This week, in lieu of photographs of growing things in my garden, I decided to use photos of other things worth stopping to stare at, namely old pieces of iron in the form of a piece of a chain and a water-pipes cover. Perhaps these are in memory of the Rag and Bone man who, when I was a child, used to come round our street with his horse and cart shouting loudly ‘Any old iron?’

Tags: , ,

2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Doing nothing”

  1. Clare Winstanley Says:

    Always loved that poem. As I’ve got older, I take more and more pleasure in just standing and staring.

  2. Pam Says:

    Dear Mary,
    I know those days well of having a to do list as long as my arm and not ticking anything off at the end of the day.
    I call it resting.
    Time for body mind and spirit to catch up with each other.

    All good wishes for your new treatment, Mary,


Leave a Reply