Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ How amazing is that!

IMG_20170203_142128_resized_20170210_114149557People who’ve been reading A Long Run in Short Shorts have been sending me lovely comments. Many have noticed how I love coincidences. And they’re right. I do. I’ve been thinking a lot about why. One reason, I’m sure, is that they simply bring pleasure. ‘How amazing is that,’ we say and, suddenly, it feels like the universe isn’t completely chaotic or random (which it certainly isn’t as any physicist will point out). More than that, as one friend put it only this morning on the phone, ‘it makes you feel like there’s a little connecting network in life that pulls us together.’

So it’s what they mean to you that matters. For me, the pleasure and surprise they bring leads, I hope, to a deeper awareness of what I value in life. In this connection, what follows are two tales where coincidence is important. One is a West African folktale – I’ve mentioned it before so I’ll make my retelling  brief. The other is an incident that happened to me in Cardiff last week.

The Three Brothers – a West African folktale

One by one, three brothers receive from their father the money he has kept for them. Each in turn goes off to see the world. Each in turn buys something of great interest to him. Then, after a time, they all decide to head back home. Amazing! It seems that entirely by chance, the three of them meet at a crossroads.

Now what happens? Each shows the others that object of great interest which he has bought in the course of his travels. The objects are a telescope, a prayer mat and a ritual whisk of the kind used back home in religious ceremonies. 

The deeper meanings of those objects – how they may symbolise the power of inner sight, desire and belief – now become apparent. As they look through the telescope, they see that their father is on the verge of death. As they sit together on the prayer mat, their desire to be with him lifts the prayer mat into the air. And as the prayer mat brings them home and they see that their father is already dead, the ritual whisk stirs the life back into him.

A meeting with triple impact

We were in Llandaff in Cardiff. I was there to do a morning’s storytelling at the new Cardiff Montessori School which is housed in an extraordinary old building called Insole Court. As we parked, Paul and I saw crowds of people, tripods, a police car (the BBC, it turned out, were there, filming an episode of Casualty). We also noticed an attractive looking café. ‘You could have coffee there,’ I suggested to Paul.

IMG_20170203_142518_resized_20170210_114311924Later, when Paul turned up to collect me from my storytelling, he excitedly reported that, in the café, he’d bumped into someone I’d grown up with in St David’s. Not only was this a lovely surprise in itself – and we promptly repaired to the café where said friend, Gerald Nash, was waiting to say hello. The second aspect of the surprise was that, that very afternoon, it was our plan to go to St Fagan’s Museum, the museum of traditional Welsh life, to see and take photos of  siop y clocsiwr, the clogmaker’s shed which is there. And where had Gerald worked until he recently retired? St Fagan’s – and in a very senior position. So Gerald gave us information which subsequently proved extremely useful about what to do if the clogmaker’s shed was not open at the time we were there. He advised that, if there was a staff member in another of the buildings nearby, we might ask if they could unlock the clogmaker’s shed so we could see inside.

And that’s exactly what happened. And what completed the triple impact of meeting Gerald lies in the particular reason why, on this occasion, we wanted and needed to see the clogmaker’s shed. The reason is that it had been given to St Fagan’s for rebuilding there by our much-loved Pembrokeshire friend, Miss Ella James, whose father, Tommy James, was the clogmaker who’d made his living in that shed and, in so doing, made it a place of renown where people used to gather and talk and tell stories.

Ella is going to be 100 years old in March. We are making a special card for her and we wanted some photos of the clogmaker’s shed to put on it. We’ll be giving her the card at her birthday party. And who else will be at the party? Well – of course! – Gerald Nash and his wife Pat.

How amazing is that! Coincidences are one thing. They can also have more impact than what is immediate. They can deepen our awareness of what is important to us, how we may value our knowing of people and places and the histories they represent. They make our world enlarge.

PS: Photos this week are ones Paul took inside the clogmaker’s shed.


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4 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ How amazing is that!”

  1. Hilary Minns Says:

    Hello Mary,
    I’ve just read an essay by John Berger: “Ev’ry time we say goodbye” where he writes:
    When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of a book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story’s voice makes everything its own.
    I’m quoting this because it reminds me of your self-contained life stories in Short Shorts. Each one is a perfectly framed memory fashioned into your own story. Berger would have loved them.

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Hilary
    Sorry this is a rather belated reply to your John Berger thoughts. Your feeling that he would have loved my stories is just amazing especially since he was someone who really did love and value stories. Last night I was reading his essay, The Storyteller, and thinking it could have been written about some of my Pembrokeshire villages. Thank you as always for your much-valued support. Mary

  3. Meg Says:

    I second that!

  4. Jean Says:

    Yes I agree — I third that. x

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