Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Orientating

Spider web cropHow much we take for granted. On 6th June, an update message from BTO, the British Trust for Ornithology, announced that the first of their tagged cuckoos had left Britain two days previously on the cuckoos’ annual migration to Central Africa. I was surprised: when I was a child, the call of the cuckoo symbolised summer to me. So now, with me only just beginning to realise that this year’s summer might have arrived, it felt odd to learn that our cuckoos were already starting to leave.

Cuckoo migrations:

The news of the first of the cuckoos departing has been tinged with sadness for me. David, the cuckoo I’d been sponsoring, had failed to return to the UK this year. Or if he did, we don’t know about it. Last information from his tag, he was still in Central Africa. When no further transmissions were received, BTO had to assume either that his tag had failed or that he was dead.

David was first tagged in May 2012 in his breeding grounds in Tregaron in West Wales. Had he returned there this year, he would have completed five whole annual migrations between Tregaron and Central Africa. In each complete migration, he would cover around 10,000 miles. So if he’d made it back this year, he would have flown 50,000 miles on migration flights alone.

Thanks to my small annual sponsorship payments to BTO, their regular updates on cuckoo migrations have made me more aware than ever before of the extraordinary life of our planet. Learning in such extraordinary detail about the movements of that one species has made me ponder the orienteering that all of the planet’s diverse inhabitants must be doing all the time.

Harsh contrast:

CobwebsNow, harsh contrast with thinking about cuckoo migrations,  this week brought the horrific news of the fire that was, even then, consuming Grenfell Tower, the 24-floor tower block in the Kensington area of London. As the scale of the fire and its utterly devastating effects became apparent, it must have made all of us hugely aware of what our daily lives mean to us and how we are orientated in them by our families, our neighbours, our friends and our homes. Cuckoos fly alone. People grow up in families and in neighbourhoods that become their familiar places. It is unbearable to think how devastated the surviving residents of Grenfell Tower must be. Everyone’s hearts go out to them.

But it mustn’t stop with hearts. How was it possible for people’s declared worries about the safety of their building to be so ignored? How is it possible now for the survivors to re-orientate themselves to daily life after losing so much?

Anger is the only reasonable response, anger at all the organisations, companies and individuals who did not fulfil the basic duty to ensure that the housing they provided was safe. But with the anger must come the determination to pursue in detail the story of what went wrong and what must be done to put it right, not only for people in Grenfell Tower but in similar tower blocks too.

PS: Thinking about illustrations for today, neither a photo of David the cuckoo or of the burned-out Grenfell Tower seemed right. So, since spiders seem to know a thing or two about orienteering, I’ve resorted to spider webs.

 

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