Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Perfect Pleasure

As a child, I was given a small patch of garden to tend. I remember the delight when marigold seeds produced marigold flowers. Making cakes felt wonderful too. Fairy cakes, Welsh cakes or a kind of bread-cake called Bara One-Two – all very nice. My mother, an excellent seamstress herself, also got me sewing and was always at the ready to sort out mistakes or help with the hard bits like putting in zips. My father would set me word games, for instance writing a long word at the top of a piece of paper and setting me the task of seeing how many smaller words I could find in the long word. Then when I was older he’d always be agreeable to taking me into his study to search out from his bookshelves a good book for me to read. When it looked like a grown-up one with lots of difficult words, I was secretly proud and pleased that he trusted that I would and could give it a go.

Simple Gifts:

All these things I regard as gifts my parents gave me. There were many others, my mother for instance sitting patiently against the rocks down on the Parrog beach in Goodwick while I practised swimming after she’d taught me to do it. Or, years later, my father patiently sitting by my side in the car as I learned to drive it and then when we went out for driving experience, requiring me to drive at a steady 30 miles per hour just as he’d had to learn to do when driving a tank in the war.

Pleasures of Reading:

But I think of reading as one of the most important and enjoyable of all the gifts. I’m sure my parents knew jolly well that, after they’d said goodnight and turned out the light, I’d turn it on again after they’d gone back downstairs so I could carry on with my book while keeping an ear out for one or other of them coming into the hall downstairs and realising what I was up to.  At that point, I’d quickly pull the cord which switched the light off until, when danger was past, I’d turn it on again and continue the reading.

Re-reading:

Oh, the tricks children get up so they can do what they want! But how glad I am that I wanted to read and that reading became my habitual pleasure. Currently I’m re-reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the title that the friend I call my Book-Pair and I recently chose as our next book to read and discuss.  When we do get to talk about it on the phone, it won’t feel like a task but a pleasure. Mind you, I’m finding myself consciously having to get back into the Jane Austen style and remembering what was said to me once by another friend who became a Secondary School teacher of English. She told me how hard it was for her 6th form pupils to become comfortable with Jane Austen’s style and language. Yes, re-reading Persuasion now, I do see how that could be.

Well, it’s all fascinating stuff. Reading is a kind of life-blood to me, something I’m delighted to do and that constantly teaches me a lot. Poetry, novels, short stories, magazine and newspaper articles: you name it and I’m up for it. I know that many people don’t love it. Why should they? Many others haven’t learned to do it. That’s a shame. But I’m so grateful for it. Lockdown, shmockdown, where would I be without it?

PS: My top photo comes from years ago when the wonderful South African actor and storyteller, Gcina Mhlophe, was promoting Book Week there. My bottom photo shows the cover of my own most recent book of short stories, The Uses of ‘a’. Got a copy? If not, you can buy one direct from me. Just go to the top of my website for details of how to do that: www.storyworks.org.uk

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Perfect Pleasure”

  1. Pam Says:

    Dear Mary,
    When I saw the photo in your post of an African woman with books on her head I was immediately drawn. And when I discovered what her name was I became even more curious as I recognised her name as Zulu. So I immediately looked her up (on Grandmother Google!) and am now totally enthralled.

    The sad thing is that I had never heard of her before. And that is not really surprising because that was the tragedy of apartheid, but also because I left South Africa in 1981, more or less as Gcina’s career was taking off.

    So, thank you so much for introducing me to a fellow African, albeit a white (mhlophe) one. I was born in Kenya and spent 18 years in South Africa. Thanks to Youtube I will be watching Gcina some more!

    Best wishes,
    Pam

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