Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Mirror, mirror

Stories can be like symbols. They can tell you a lot about something you’re feeling, something that’s happened in your life. But they don’t do it directly. The information comes through the story. It comes in sideways. So if you look into the ways you’re affected by a particular story, it can sometimes let you understand and accept something about yourself.

Something like this happened to me last Saturday. The event in itself was absolutely horrid. But when I realised the symbolism in my own true story, I felt much better. It even made me laugh.

The horrid event

Last Saturday afternoon I was looking forward to watching the Wales rugby game on TV – Wales vs. South Africa. (And yes, I was going to be disappointed when Wales got beaten.) Coverage would be starting at 5 p.m. I realised I had a short time beforehand to go to my local shop for one or two things that I needed. So I quickly grabbed a shopping bag from the bag behind our cellar door in which we keep our shopping bags. The one I brought out was an old black plastic bag. I recognised it as one that had been around for some time and it wasn’t one I especially liked. But never mind, I thought. We believe in re-using shopping bags and this one would do. So I quickly shoved my wallet and shopping list inside and set off. It was starting to drizzle. I walked fast. In double quick time I got to the shops, chose some bananas from the stall outside the newspaper shop and looked in the shopping bag to get out my wallet.

My wallet wasn’t there! Nor was the shopping list.

No wallet?

And that’s when I saw the great big hole in the bottom of the bag. Frayed and gaping, it looked like someone had cut at the bag with a pair of shears. No wonder there was no wallet inside. My heart dropped like a stone. Immediately I put down the bananas and turned for home, walking as quickly as I could, hoping against hope that I’d see my wallet on the pavement or that maybe, I’d find it at home. Perhaps it had fallen out of the bag before I’d even left the house.

No wallet. Not on the street, not by my front door, not inside the house. I immediately decided to retrace my steps to the shops in case I had missed it. So I did, all the while looking carefully around, wondering about who might have picked it up and whether they might have thrown the wallet away after they’d taken everything out. No wallet. Even as I went, I was becoming aware of several feelings. They all seemed to dawn on me at once. First I felt extremely stupid. Why hadn’t I looked in the bag? Why had I not noticed the hole?

Secondly, it dawned on me that I now had no money and no credit cards. Paul was away for the day. There was no spare money in the house. So I wouldn’t be able to buy what I needed. This made me suddenly realise what it must be like to be often or always in such a situation. It made me identify deeply with people who – especially in the present financial situation – often or always have that same feeling of powerlessness and need. I at least have a husband who’d be arriving home later and who’d be able to get what was required. Also, I do have friends in my street who’d have helped at once if I’d gone to ask.

Meantime, even as I continued to feel very stupid, I was already extremely anxious about the credit cards that had now gone missing with the wallet. I was aware I’d have to try and cancel them as soon as possible. So I’d have to remember what they were, I’d have to find the telephone numbers to ring and I’d have to get on with it quickly. For I still wanted to watch that rugby match. I had one hour to do the job. Amazingly, I managed it. Then I sat down to watch the rugby match, feeling stupid, downhearted and shaken.

Is this me?

Later when the game was over, I looked again at that shopping bag. It was obviously a well-worn bag. It would not have been surprising really if there’d been a tear in the bottom and quite understandable if that tear had got bigger as the bag swung around with my wallet inside.

And then it dawned on me why I was feeling so bad. Because of what had happened, I was feeling like the bag itself – unobservant, broken, frayed, unsafe. As soon as I realised the symbolism, the connection between the story of what had happened and myself, I felt better. I may be sometimes unobservant and inattentive (isn’t everyone?). I’ve been around for a bit. I’m getting a bit frayed round the edges. And, coincidentally, I use the name Old Bag Productions when I make greetings cards for my family and friends. But that, I hope, is where the comparison can stop. So now I can laugh about the symbolism in my own story.


As you can see, my photos this week are of bags. In the circumstances, the theme is irresistible. But these bags are my good, true and infinitely-well-used story-bags, the ones I have used so many times to carry about the beautiful cloths, musical instruments and other fascinating items that I employ in my storytelling.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Mirror, mirror”

  1. Liz Says:

    what an awful and annoying thing to have happened to you.Yes it does make you feel stupid but as you said it also puts our problems as very small compared to people who have nothing.Today I was talking to my eldest grandson who is 11 about the tragedy in the Phillipines and he said how lucky he was that he had all the things he had and bought loads of raffle tickets out of his own money .Thanks for your amazing blogs as usual it makes my day xxLiz

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