Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Touching base

Good news. David is back in Tregaron. Tregaron is a town in West Wales and David is the cuckoo I sponsor, one of the clutch that are being tracked by the BTO (the British Trust for Ornithology). It’s  reassuring that my cuckoo is not only back but busy. Sadly another tracked cuckoo, Vigilamus, also managed to make the 4,500 mile journey back to his previous breeding ground, in his case in Yorkshire, but then almost immediately succumbed to the near-Arctic conditions in that part of the country last week. 

Back to base:P1070361

In getting back to Tregaron this year, David has successfully completed his fourth migration cycle. I think of this with a sense of wonder. It’s one of those stories of nature that are really worth telling: they force you to stop and think about their many implications.

For David will not remain in the UK for long. If all goes well, he will already be back in Africa by the start of August or soon after. There, if he does what he usually does, he’ll spend the winter in the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Then, next January, he will set out – and cuckoos always fly alone – on his migration back north. It’s a very, very long way, taking him north into West Africa, then across the Sahara desert and over the Mediterranean before heading back through Spain and France to arrive back once more in the UK.

Where is home?

So where is home for David? Is it Tregaron or the tropical forests of Central Africa? I know this is a question I’ve asked before. But last night I found myself discussing the very same question, now in human terms, with an old friend of mine called Anne whom I caught up with at the Chiltern Welsh Society. I’d been to this society’s AGM as their after-dinner storyteller once before, back in 2004, and it was nice to be asked back. Anne is the society’s secretary and, like me, has a home in Wales and a home in London. She put the question to me like this: ‘Where do you think you’ll end up’? I had to reply in the way I usually do when asked it (which I often am): ‘At present at any rate, I do not know.’ Like so many other people in the world today, I’ve become a child of two worlds. So far as I am able, I have to keep touching base with both.

Touching base: 

Meeting up with old friends is also like touching base. You talk about people you know in common, catch up a tiny bit with news of their lives. Then if last night is anything to go by, you both say something a bit sentimental about how good it is to have old friends. Last night, this led Anne to quote me a rhyme she used to be told as a child. It’s one of those little rhymes that used to be written into autograph books:Twolips

          Make new friends
          But keep the old
          The new are like silver,
          The old are like gold.

In turn, this prompted me to remember an extraordinary encounter that occurred when I was visiting the United States a few years ago. It happened in the café of the Museum of the Native American Indian in Washington DC. One of the several people clearing the tables was obviously a lively personality. Clad in the vivid orange boiler-suit type garb that all the café attendants were wearing, she would not only be clearing away dirty plates. She’d be starting quite long conversations with the people at the tables.

When Dolores started talking with us (for we quickly learned that her name was Dolores) we learned how she’d grown up in the Deep South and her family would laughingly call her a parrot because she loved talking so much. Then with gasps of delight, we discovered that she and I shared a birthday – and the previous day had been it! Next she talked about her grandmother and the sorts of things her grandmother used to tell her. One thing her grandmother said has stayed in my mind ever since:

‘Do not count your age in the number of your years but in the number of your abiding friendships.’

Old friends are indeed like touching base. But in between times, what do we do? We fly away, do other things. Thinking about all this has reminded me of a bird story I was once told by a woman from Thailand who was then living in Brixton. It’s a fascinating little story which I’ve always enjoyed telling to audiences of children. I’ll get ready to tell it to you in this blog next week.

 PS: My top photo this week is of the portrait of Africa on a kanga, a piece of material from Kenya. The bottom photo is of a bunch of tulips that had been in our kitchen for so long, it felt like they’d become old friends. We loved watching them as their petals folded and their colours gradually seemed to merge. 

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Touching base”

  1. Meg Says:

    How marvellous that your sponsored cuckoo is called David which I always think of as Welsh, Mary.
    I recently purchased a marvellous picture coffee table book (the type I never buy) called “Earthflight” based on the BBC series. The photographs are inspiring. Those flight paths of birds are one of nature’s wonders.
    Thanks too for the rhyme and thoughts about friendship, and for your fund of stories and the things people say.
    Meg

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