Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Flags or shirts?

It’s lovely to have a day that’s not pre-determined, a day when anything might happen. But there can also be enormous pleasure in a day where you know exactly what you’re going to do. So today I know that, barring the sky falling in or some other equally unforeseen event, I shall be sitting down in front of the TV at 2.15.

That’s when the 6 Nations Rugby programme begins today and I have to be watching because Wales is playing and by my presence in front of the TV, I feel I’ll be contributing towards the hwyl, the spirit that I think makes all the difference.

So perhaps it was pre-match tension that contributed to the fact that I had a very bad night last night. I couldn’t get to sleep. Or rather, not any sleep that lasted. Whenever I did get off to sleep, I’d wake up again soon after and whenever I was awake, waves of memory would start rolling through my mind as if my mind was a sea in rough weather. Yet I have to admit that such memory surges can also bring great pleasure. During last night, they kept on returning me to Italy, perhaps because Italy is today’s rugby opponent for the Welsh rugby team.

I fell in love with Italy while I was at University. This happened because, reading English at Cambridge, you had to have a foreign language and I decided to focus on Italian. French was of no interest to me, largely because our French teacher at school had been far more interested in trains and car engines than in teaching us French. So I opted for Italian at University as giving a fresh challenge. Besides, I very much fancied the idea of spending the long vacation in Italy, which was as I recall a requirement of the Italian course I signed up to.

At the pensione in Florence where I stayed while attending Italian school every weekday, one of the other guests was a delightfully imaginative Italian man. He used to sit opposite me at table at mealtimes and for some reason he decided (all in Italian because he could speak no English) that I was the Queen and he was my carriage. As my carriage, my carrozza, he would take me all over Florence in our conversations, including to places on the outskirts that I would never otherwise have known anything about. In this way, I learned a lot about the city where I was staying and the particular places I could visit.

Ah memory! I find, as the years go on, that when I pay attention to what’s stored in my memory, there is a very great deal there. The trick is to pause long enough to realise this reality and to release the particular memories from their storage place. Thus right now, I’m feeling glad that the fact that the Welsh rugby team is playing Italy has made me pause long enough to haul out my memories of that time I spent in Florence.

And then, over coffee this morning, Paul told me an interesting piece of information. Stephen Varney who plays for Italy was actually born in Pembrokeshire, raised in Rhoshill just south of Cardigan and went to Preseli Secondary School which is a Welsh-speaking school. The reason he plays for Italy is that he has Italian roots. Indeed, during World War II, his grand-father became a prisoner-of-war in Wales.

So memory once released rolls on.  Thinking about Stephen Varney and his Italian roots made me recall that during the time when I was at Secondary School in Fishguard, so before my family moved to St David’s, I once got talking to a young Italian guy on an occasion when I was in Conti’s Café, the very friendly Italian cafe on Fishguard Square. Indeed, this guy and I went to Fishguard cinema together a couple of times. As an Italian in Pembrokeshire, he was a member of a community which has contributed all kinds of good things to the life of the place, including very good Italian-style ice-cream.

Memory rolls on also to reach the day when, some time after my family had moved to St David’s, a ring on the doorbell introduced an Italian man that, some years before, had been a pupil of my father’s. Back in Pembrokeshire on a visit, he’d asked whether my father was still alive and, on being told my father’s address, had come to say hello. I’m not sure who shed more tears when he came into the house – him or my father or me as I observed how moving such a re-meeting can be.

P.S. Rugby shirts or flags? At first, I couldn’t decide what to choose as illustrations for this blog. In the end, as you can see, I settled for the shirts and the flags.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Flags or shirts?”

  1. Clare Winstanley Says:

    I had some thoughts this weekend, also prompted by the Wales rugby team. The exciting, new winger, Louis Rees-Zammit, has a Maltese grandpa. There was a girl in my primary school class called Susan Zammit who also had Maltese heritage and a connection with Penarth. (I hadn’t thought about her in years.) Surely there must be a family connection…..? I’d like to believe so!

    And aren’t Our Boys doing well??

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