Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Sorting not sinking

You’re doing it too? I’m talking about sorting. Sorting with a capital S. For it’s my impression that it’s become one of the major occupations of Lockdown. Always there are plenty of things to get sorted. Clothes, books, papers, drawers, cupboards, foodstuffs … you name it, it needs doing before you sink beneath the mess of it all.

When I was sorting the piles of notebooks in the big cupboard in my study, out came two hardback notebooks labelled Coincidence. One notebook was full, the other half full and the first entry in the full one was 1st November 2007. This first entry gave an account of a series of events concerning a woman I’d interviewed for The Sunday Times for a special supplement on mental illness. The account recorded how I’d met her a number of times and, observing that she was becoming ill, had talked about her (anonymously of course) to a psychiatrist called Dr Anthony Clare who was also on my list of interviewees. When I asked Dr Clare if he thought there was anything I could do to help this woman, he advised that I tried to persuade her to go to the Maudsley Hospital. Later I learned that she did take up on my suggestion. And who was on duty at the Hospital when she turned up there? Dr  Clare of course. And for me what proved extraordinary was that he recognised her from the account of her I’d given him.

Coincidences have always intrigued me. Jung preferred to call them Synchronicities. He regarded them as a basic and frequent feature of human life, far more common than we commonly recognise. Perhaps it’s a matter of being alert to their occurrence, noticing how often they crop up in our lives and perhaps in such a way that we should see them as integral to the way the world works.  Besides, they make good stories. So maybe it’s as a working storyteller that I’ve been especially susceptible to them, always taking particular notice of how and when they occur.

For instance, back in 2009 as my Coincidence notebook records, Paul and I were in Paris for a weekend. I was to be working on the Saturday evening, telling stories to the Paris Welsh Society. So there we were on the Saturday morning, walking round the Luxembourg gardens and looking at a display of photographs of places in Cambodia, Laos and China that happened to be on exhibition there. I noticed that the caption to one of the photographs briefly quoted a legend of three major rivers that started life as three sisters. How strange I thought, knowing that that very evening, one of the stories I was planning to tell to the Paris Welsh Society was the legend of three Welsh rivers that in the story began life as three sisters who set out to go and visit the sea from where they lived at the top of a mountain in mid-Wales and who, in the course of their going, became the rivers Wye, Severn and Rheidol.

Well, there’s nothing like a bit of sorting for stopping you in your tracks and giving you things to think about.

PS: Thinking about a choice of photos to illustrate this week’s blog, I decided on little streams.  Big rivers impress. Little rivers delight.

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