Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Train-world dreaming

R01Yesterday I spent a good part of the day on a train coming down to Wales. The reason for my trip? I’ve been invited to a 100th birthday celebration lunch. The person who has reached such a wonderful age lived with her family at the end of my street when I was growing up. Her husband ran the chemist’s shop on the corner. We children played with her children.

On the train, I was reminded of a piece of writing I did recently – not about birthdays but about being on trains. I don’t know if you find the same kind of thing when you’re on a train (and I think it’s not the same on buses or planes or in cars). My mind goes into itself. Often I find myself thinking about a story and that’s what I wrote about. I’d be fascinated to know if any of you who may read this blog have the same kind of experience.

Train-world dreaming:

R10I think of myself as a journeywoman storyteller who’s always enjoyed working in a variety of ways – performance, school work, workshops and courses. But whatever the work ahead, it has always held the same essential challenge for me: the story and how best to serve it. So you might have seen me on a train (storytelling, for me, has involved lots of travelling). At the same time as I’m sitting there, overhearing people’s conversations, observing passing townscapes or countryside, I’m frequently moving into a story somewhere entirely else, it could be Africa, America, India, a real or remembered country or the brightly heightened world of myth. I’m making a narrative journey, retelling in my mind a tale I’ve either read or heard, observing how the characters in it behave, listening to what each says to the other, observing what happens to their innermost thoughts, experiencing their conflicts, discovering their needs.

Next minute, I may become aware of myself flicking back into what’s happening around me, the ticket inspector extending a hand. As I hear the drone of wheels on the track, I wonder what people sitting near me would have thought if I’d begun to speak that story out loud. I might have had to explain how double awareness is something I believe we all carry. Or perhaps it carries us. It moves between memory and dream, fantasy and present experience, the storyteller’s consciousness no different in this except for the particular way it is honed.

Pool and mudOne time on a train to Redbridge to run a storytelling workshop for parents, I must have fallen asleep for I suddenly found myself waking as the train juddered to a halt. We were at a station. In a panic – had I outslept my stop? – I began looking for a sign that would tell me where we were. When I couldn’t spot one, I rushed to the open door of the carriage. Still unable to see where we were, I called out in my panic to other people in my compartment. ‘Which station is this? Where are we?’ ‘Maryland,’ they chorused in reply. ‘Odd coincidence that,’ I thought as I returned to my seat. ‘Mary wakes up in Maryland.’ In my inner mental world – Maryland it might be called – is where I’m often to be found.

You too?

During this coming week when I’ll be in Wales, I’ve got some hard thinking to do about various pieces of work coming up. In next week’s blog, I think I’ll be talking about some of the stories I’m thinking of telling. That’ll probably mean sharing some of the thoughts I had on the train yesterday. But meantime, do write in if you recognise that same basic experience of train-world dreaming. Or maybe for you it’s walking-world dreaming?

PS: I’m really not sure what photos could illustrate that dreamy sensation of being in the middle of a story. I decided on photos of reflections. I think they tell their own story. The first was taken at home, the second in Venice. And the third is of a pool in the middle of mud with clouds reflected in the pool. I’ve chosen it from my archive in special recognition of all the lovely comments that came in on clouds.


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