Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Findings

Imagine. You’re walking along through woodland and you see a large sheet of corrugated iron with something lumpy sticking out from underneath. You pull the corrugated iron away and suddenly what you’re seeing is a huge plaster model of a man. It looks like it’s been there a very long time, strands of ivy are growing across it, parts of the legs are falling away. Who is this? And why is it here?

Well, the answer to the first question is Sir Francis Drake in the form of a plaster cast of him. The answer to the second is not known. But this last weekend, coming across the bones of the story, I was as much struck by all the unknowns as by what I’d learned of the tale.

Sir Francis Drake:

The finding took place in 1999 on Haldon Hill in South Devon. I haven’t had time to find out who was involved, whether it was one lone walker or two or more, or what action they then took. I do know that, whatever the string of events that then occurred,  the massive plaster model turned out to be what had been used in the casting of the impressive bronze statue of Drake that now stands on Plymouth Hoe and also of the other identical statue of him, which was in fact cast first – the one that stands in Tavistock where Drake was born.

How I came to know these facts is that, during a short stay in Plymouth over the weekend, we’d already walked past Sir Francis looking grandly out to sea in statue-form on the Hoe when we subsequently went on a visit to Buckland Abbey. Buckland Abbey, by then no longer an abbey, had become Drake’s home for fifteen years  from 1580 and in it are a lot of items that belonged to him, including his drum. By now alerted to the man himself and having walked past him on the Hoe, we were especially fascinated to come upon the restored plaster model of him as well as a whole lot of information on Drake’s career. The model is enormously imposing, all the more because of the pale cream colour which makes it look rather spectral.

Finding and losing:

Finding and losing are major themes in human life. Some finding stories are more impressive than others. But even the small ones are fascinating. It’s a theme I’ve found very rewarding in workshops. For instance, there was the woman who said she used to think of herself as unlucky. After telling us how she worked hard for a living and never had enough money, she went on to say how one morning she set off to go to the market to do her shopping. Walking along after she’d got off the bus, she saw a piece of folded-up brown paper on the pavement. It intrigued her and she picked it up. Unfolding the brown paper, she saw a £10 note inside. This find not only transformed her mood of the moment but also her feelings about herself. After that – and the incident happened at least 25 years ago when a £10 note was worth a lot more than now – she felt herself to be lucky.

Yes, we all agreed, that was good luck. Yet when I repeated the story in a subsequent workshop somewhere else, one participant angrily fumed: ‘She should have taken that £10 note to the police station.’ Really? The woman had said nothing about what she’d done with the money. Maybe she’d kept it. Maybe she hadn’t. Surely the point was that, just when she was feeling so miserable, she found what made her feel lucky. Good luck is good luck. End of story.

cofOr what about that lodger of mine who one evening went out running with a wodge of £20 notes stuck into his sock? Why he did that I have no idea. Certainly if I’d known what he was about to do, I’d have suggested he left the money behind or at least put it somewhere safer. All I know is that when he’d finished his run, the money was no longer sticking out from his sock. Cue to imagination. Did it spill out in one thud? Or did the notes peel off one by one, whirling through the air before each landed? Did it make someone feel lucky to find them? Did anyone look round to see where they’d come from?

My wedding ring tale:

Oh, the multiple scenarios, all wonderful little stories in themselves. And, of course, with such a theme, one story leads on to another. So, even as findings well up in my mind, I find myself recalling my own story of finding my wedding ring ten years after I’d lost it. The story is one of the 40 true tales in my recently self-published book, A Long Run In Short Shorts. How I remember the neck-hair-thrilling moment as I stood there in my garden-weeding clothes, holding the long columbine stalk I’d just plucked from the ground and seeing that small circlet of gold hanging off the end of it!

Finding is more than a recompense for losing. It brings a massive injection of feeling that more than compensates for the particular loss. It gives you a thrill, it makes you ask questions, it restores your sense of wonder. Unless, of course, you’ve found something horrid. But we won’t go into that. Suffice it to say, right here, that finding is an especially productive theme for storytellers. I recommend it.

PS: Look up on your website and you can find a fascinating account of the conservators’ work in restoring the plaster model of Sir Francis Drake. Just track down till you see Original Sculptor’s plaster model and there’s the account with photos too.

My photos this week are self-explanatory except to say that they weren’t taken by me but my husband, Paul, on our weekend in Plymouth. 

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Findings”

  1. Meg Says:

    Dear Mary.
    Last year I was tidying my herb patch when I found an earring. Luckily, I had kept its partner for, I realised, ten years because I loved the colour of the stone.
    Your Drake’s statue find is a great story.

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