Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Pointers

Ever noticed how a particular theme can crop up as if from nowhere and make itself felt over a period of your life? How does that theme begin? Where does it come from? What makes it continue? Is there something in our individual minds that is seeking out the kind of meaning the theme can make? Perhaps these are good questions for storytellers to consider.

New friends:

Over the last ten days, Paul and I have been visited by two very lovely, very different young women that we feel we’ve somehow inherited from their parents. One is one of the twin daughters of two Kenyan friends I made when I was 18 years old and in Kenya to do Voluntary Service Overseas. By now, both of the parents have died. But somehow – and it feels quite wonderful that this is so – the friendship is being renewed and continued by the children of those two friends, and not only on visits that one or other of them has needed to make to the UK but also by email and Facebook. Sadness and regret at the loss of the parents is thus transformed into something new.

It’s the same with the daughter of a cousin of Paul’s. Getting to know her father was a very great pleasure, perhaps all the more intensely felt because we hadn’t come to know him earlier in all our lives. Getting to know his daughter brings not only the pleasure of remembering her father but also the very appreciable and additional pleasure of getting to know her and her interests in life.

Continuity and renewal?

Perhaps the theme I’ve been experiencing is to do with continuity. Or perhaps it is renewal. Certainly both  ideas have featured in what has been at base a very sad couple of weeks. Since the death in New Zealand of our dear friend, Larry Jenkins, we’ve been busy sorting out photos and messages to send for the memorial gathering being held for him in Kerikeri today. But at the same time, other things have been happening too, most of which have connected in some way with him and also, perhaps coincidentally, with those themes of continuity and renewal.

This Tuesday, for instance, Paul was involved in singing a wonderful programme of songs for an event at Pepper’s in Fishguard. And of course it was Larry who’d first got Paul singing and had kept on encouraging him ever since. Then on Wednesday, Paul and I attended a storytelling evening at Pepper’s in which storyteller Fiona Collins, down from North Wales, gave a brilliant performance of her new programme, Mistress of Copper Mountain. Fiona is by now a very long-term friend whom I first got to know at the Drill Hall workshops I used to run in London with colleague Karen Tovell. I came away from her performance on Wednesday with a strong sense of exhilaration. This came partly from what Fiona did and how well she did it and partly from the little piece of storytelling I myself contributed to the first part of the evening when songs and stories were invited from the floor.

What I told in the first half of Wednesday evening was a tale I’d first heard from a friend in a Pembrokeshire pub. But only on Wednesday did I realise that it’s a tale which in some deep way I connect with my father. Every now and again, my father would come out with a Welsh saying which, insofar as it can be translated, says that heaven is no more than going back to the pleasing or pleasant places, ‘y mannau dymunol’. My Wednesday story was about the same kind of thing  – the way in which we can find a heaven by realising that we’ve already been there. Perhaps the story (which is actually a very funny tale that invariably succeeds in making people laugh) helped me see that, even in sadness, there can be laughter. And making us laugh was one of the things that, in his own unique way, our dear friend Larry was extremely good at doing.

P.S. My two photos both come from this week in Pembrokeshire. The first is of a signpost to a very muddy, currently leaf-filled path on the edge of Mathri. The second  – a set of stones, beautifully chosen by someone unknown and placed in the sand to point out towards the horizon was taken on my most-loved beach, Whitesands.

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