Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Remembering

 ‘Tennyson is crossing the desert!’ A few days ago, that was the strapline on one of the emails in my Inbox. It was followed a day or so later by ‘Tennyson has crossed the desert!’

Such a headline does make you think. For me, it brought to mind a grand-looking poetic figure, bearded and with hair reaching down to his collar: what could he be doing walking the desert? And on his own? Perhaps dreaming up new poems along the lines of The Lady of Shalott or Enoch Arden?

Tennyson, the cuckoo

Well, no! The Tennyson that had succeeded in crossing the desert was not the Victorian poet-laureate but a cuckoo, one of this year’s tranche of cuckoos named and sponsored under the auspices of the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology), its movements tracked as it flies alone across the vast distances that bring it into Central Africa and then back again to the UK where, of course, we think of it as ‘our cuckoo’ even though it’s in the UK for only a few weeks.

Such are the flight-patterns of the mind that, when reading about Tennyson the cuckoo, I couldn’t help but remember a funny story about Tennyson the poet. It’s probably the only story about Tennyson that I know though I do also know that, for a time, Tennyson lived on the Isle of Wight and that, walking once on the Isle of Wight, we passed what had been his residence there.

Here’s my Tennyson story (goodness knows where I got it):

Tennyson was once at a social gathering where, after exchanging a few words with a young lady to whom he’d been introduced, he leaned solemnly towards her and said: ‘Madam, your stays are squeaking.’ Now, it’s a fortunate thing that we women are no longer expected to wear stays. Yet we can certainly imagine how embarrassed this young lady must have been and how, no doubt red-faced in horror, she must have fled away from the imposingly grand poet who either then or later became the Poet Laureate.

What is less easy to imagine is how this young lady reacted a short time later when Tennyson bore down on her again and when he reached her, leaned towards her and said, ‘Madam, forgive me. It was my braces.’

On Chesil Beach

Well, such odd little stories do have a habit of lurking in my mind, popping up at the slightest invitation from the pit of memory where they normally lie. Another rather more important memory came back to mind a couple of days ago when Paul and I were taking ‘a few days off’ and staying in Dorset at West Bexington.  First came the recollection of the very long walk he and I had taken years ago which ended with us having to carry on all the way along Chesil Beach from Abbotsbury. I was so tired when we reached West Bexington that Paul had to push me up the hill to the hotel where we were due to be staying.

A second memory from that time has remained tangible in my life ever since. It was on Chesil Beach that I collected little stones that live in the little green bag which, countless times, I’ve brought out from the large bag where I keep my story props before tipping the stones onto what I call my Sea Tray and swishing them round and round to create the sound of the sea. Or sometimes I call it the sound of time passing.

The way such experiences associate themselves with stories is, for me, one of the most fascinating things about being a storyteller.

PS: The top photo was taken looking along Chesil Beach. The bottom photo is of my Sea Tray with the little stones that were picked up from Chesil Beach years ago.

Tags: , , ,

One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Remembering”

  1. Pam Says:

    Mary, it sounds like the pit of your memory is a treasure trove! I look forward to more gems by the trowel-ful.

Leave a Reply