Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Pot-pourri

According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the word pot-pourri in its first recorded usage in 1725 referred to a stew or a hotch-potch. Not long later in 1749 it was being used, as now, to describe a mixture of dried petals of different flowers mixed with spices. But of course it can also have the figurative meaning of a musical or literary medley.

The Spring-Cleaning Bug:

My week this week has been a pot-pourri of experiences, most of them neither musical or literary. Several were a consequence of becoming infected by the Spring-Cleaning Bug. I sorted my clothes and my bedroom cupboard. I gave the stairs and stair-carpet a thorough clean. I mended the buttonhole of a favourite old jacket. Another element in the pot-pourri involved the continuing effect of the Plastic Elimination Bug from which Paul and I now cheerfully suffer. And it was a happy surprise to learn quite recently that other people I know do the same as us. Going out with bags in hand, we pick up plastic bottles that have been thoughtlessly discarded in the gutters of the streets around us. First time Paul and I did it we picked up 39 in about 20 minutes.

My Book Group:

But my week’s pot-pourri has also had some specifically literary ingredients, including a meeting of my Book Group at which we discussed one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. A Woman in Berlin was written in pencil as a diary during some months of 1945. It wasn’t published until 1954 – and then only anonymously. Its scandalised reception in Germany meant that it wasn’t republished until comparatively recently. Its author, latterly identified as someone called Marta Hiller, had been a journalist until the Second World War. Her experience in war-time Berlin paralleled that of many other women there in that she was raped many times over by Russian soldiers when they entered the city as part of the defeat of Hitler. In my Book Group, we talked not only about what the book so chillingly and clearly recounts.  We talked too of its relevance today when in numerous war-torn parts of the world – the Congo, Sudan, Myanmar, Syria (?) – women are frequent victims of rape.

A storytelling visit:

I think my storytelling visit to a school in Watford on Thursday can also count as a literary ingredient of my week’s pot-pourri. I know I greatly enjoyed it. The first such engagement for a little while, it gave me the pleasure of feeling that I haven’t lost the knack. A big part of that knack is observing and responding to the children’s response. With some 60 children in each of three groups over the course of the morning, I told Little Bear on the Long Road, The Chinese Fan story, The Door in the Mountain, The Tiger and the Mouse and The King with Dirty Feet. The response was terrific. But my pleasure was greatly increased when the Year 2 children remembered me from my previous visit to the school two years ago when they were in Reception. When they saw me, their thumbs went up in the precise manner required for Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle, one of the stories I’d done with them then.

This year’s visit to Parkgate Infants had been organised by the school’s librarian, Pat Parr, who is also librarian at Parkgate Juniors. Her thoughtfulness and enthusiasm for books and stories made the whole thing a hugely rewarding experience for me. I came home with a heightened feeling of the vital importance of those school staff who help children to value books, reading and stories.

A pot-pourri, I’ve discovered from experience, can keep its perfume far longer than you might expect. I’ll certainly savour my visit to Watford for a very long time.

PS: I suppose it’s obvious from my illustrations this week that I like taking photographs of mish-mashes of stuff whether it’s on a Pembrokeshire sea-shore as in my top photo, in the shallows of an inlet in New Zealand as in the second, or beside a rubbish bin somewhere I can’t remember in the third.

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6 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Pot-pourri”

  1. Clare Winstanley Says:

    A Woman in Berlin is, indeed, a stunning book.

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Stunning is indeed the world. I recommend it to everyone. Mx

  3. Julie Sperring Says:

    That’s a great post, Mary – a very rich pot-pourri!

  4. Mary Medlicott Says:

    So gorgeous to know you’re reading my blog on the opposite side of the world. It makes you feel very close. Maryx

  5. Pat Parr Says:

    Mary, we were so thrilled to have you sharing with us some wonderful traditional tales from around the world. Our children were captivated and thoroughly enjoyed joining in. A very successful visit which I’m sure will stay with them (like our Year 2s and their Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle!)

  6. Mary Medlicott Says:

    And I loved the responses of the children – both in listening and joining in. Many thanks again for the visit and your lovely comment. All bet wishes.

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