Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Fantasy and reality

Isabella The Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park is now in full dress, azaleas and rhododendrons a riot of colour. As four of us walked around it, one asked ‘Why is it called the Isabella Plantation?’ Well, said I, I think it’s called that after Queen Isabella though I have no recollection of when she lived. Having given that answer, my mind went on to rehearse how Isabella’s husband, the king, had been so besotted by her that he declared he would give her a gift of anything at all that she wanted. What he didn’t yet know was that in Isabella’s secret mind she had a notion of an enormous garden that would be all hers and would be a riot of colour. So she didn’t ask him for a new palace, a priceless painting or a ruby. She told him she’d like a piece of Richmond Park which would be made into a very large garden where she might walk and admire the colours.

Of course, the king was rather horrified. This wish of his wife’s meant giving up some of his precious hunting grounds. But for his beloved Isabella, he’d do it. And so the garden began to become. Of course it has taken many centuries to come into its full glory. But by now it is certainly there and well worth a visit


So stories come into being. But that one above is codswallop, rubbish, no more than a passing fantasy of mine. An information board in the park explains more routinely that the name Isabella comes from isabel which is a word that means yellow brown in colour. My Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says a bit more. Isabel, it says, is a small variety of the Pouter pigeon, so called from its colour. And isabella, it says, means greyish yellow, light buff, and is not associated, it points out, with the Archduchess Isabella and the siege of Ostend (1601-1604). The word, evidently, is also applied to certain sorts of fruits, including a kind of peach and a species of North American grape.

So there. Codswallop, by the way, is a term whose origin is not entirely clear. According to Wiktionary, the most widely quoted story is about a chap called Hiram Codd, an English soft drinks maker during the 1870s who developed a technique for bottling lemonade which involved inserting a glass marble as a stopper into the neck of the bottle. When the bottle was shaken, the resulting pressure from the fizzy pop forced the marble against the neck to form a seal. Hence the name Codd Bottle.

As for the wallop, that evidently is or was a slang term referring to beer which first arose in the early to mid-20th century. Since beer drinkers don’t generally go for bottled soft drinks, it’s rather odd that it ever got associated with Hiram Codd and his Codd Bottle. Still, that’s part of the mystery of words. How do they ever get linked together? Perhaps it’s not quite so odd that another fascinating little sequence in the Isabella Plantation reminded me of that song that young children so love:


cofFive little ducks went out one day
Over the hill and far away.
Mother Duck said “Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But only four little ducks came back.

This old children’s rhyme came into my head as, on a path next to a pond in the Isabella Plantation, Mother Duck came waddling along with eight little ducklings following pertly behind. With all of us four going ‘Ah!’ (and thereby attracting other people to the sight), Mother Duck continued along the path with her retinue until, just after the path crossed a little bridge, they all peered down into the water. At that point, it would have been quite a leap down into the water for her little crew. Whether for that reason or no, Mother Duck continued a bit further to where the leap was less. As all her ducklings hopped into the water, she was already swimming across to the side of the pond where she clambered out, each of the young ones following in turn. Then Mother Duck walked off among the undergrowth only to return to the water a little way after. ‘And why did she do all that?’ I said to my companions. ‘To get away from the dogs,’ was the answer. Of course. There were dogs on the path. In my fascination with the ducks, why hadn’t I noticed that?

 PS: Self-explanatory photos except to say thanks to Paul since both the photos today were taken by Paul, not me. I’m still getting the hang of the new camera I had to buy because the old one developed a fault on the zoom and a blodge on the lens.

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Fantasy and reality”

  1. Liz Richards Says:

    Hi Love this blog as it takes you off in to a tangent of different ideas and thoughts. Love the duck and her babies. So precious to her. If you look for beauty you will surely find .
    Liz x

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Liz, Thanks for your kind comment. I hope I’ll get to see you this week – I’m in Pembs until May 14th.

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