Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~What’s inside

One morning this week, there was a ring on the doorbell. The postman was there with a package. Larger  than A3, addressed to me in handwriting, what could it be? Inside was a violet-coloured, white-dotted plastic envelope with a long letter and an accompanying wadge of papers that, as I scanned through them, was like walking into a long-distant part of the past, namely those early teenage years when ones friends are the dearest, funniest, liveliest ever.

Dear, smiling friend Pam from my early teenage years had been sorting papers. Among them she’d found the ones she’d put into that plastic envelope. They included a photo of the gang we were part of, a copy of the programme for the production of Alice in Wonderland when I’d been Alice in our first year in Secondary School plus various other memory-jogging items together with, most importantly, that long letter from her: it was all such a surprise and pleasure.

For suddenly it was as if she was there in person, smiling as ever. I hadn’t seen or heard of her for many years. Inevitably along with her re-appearance came a re-awakened sense of the bitterness of separation. I’d grown up in Fishguard. But at the end of Year 3 in Secondary School, I’d had to move with my family to St David’s. It was only fifteen miles away but I effectively lost my treasured friendship with all those friends with whom I’d grown up. Those were different times from now. Parents didn’t zip around, driving their children to visit friends and attend events. My new home felt like the other side of the world.

Pam’s letter vividly recalls details of our friendship years. One event she mentions was one that has stayed in my mind too – not surprisingly since the memory was of something surprising that I had done.  You see, we girls used to cycle about on quite long trips. One plan we made was to cycle the six or seven miles to Cwm-yr-Eglwys, a lovely small beach with a ruined church. We’d take our swimmers and a picnic. We’d go for the afternoon. And go we did. But beforehand I’d somehow got it into my head to prepare an extra treat for when we arrived. Specific memory of how I effected my plan has now gone from my mind. But I must have cycled out to Cwm-yr-Eglwys on my own that morning, taking with me the tinful of strawberries I buried in the sand as the treat for my friends that would be there at the end of a treasure-hunt  I’d prepared for them to do over the course of our cycle trip to Cwm-yr-Eglwys that afternoon.

The strawberries were delicious, Pam says in her letter. I can’t help wondering if, by the time they came to be eaten, they hadn’t got a bit hot and bothered.  But certainly they were real and it’s gorgeous to know they are still remembered. Just as the devil is in the detail, so is the delight when something is so clearly recalled.

And how extraordinary it is to think that, in however many are the years that each of us has lived so far, there is so much we’ve experienced during that time – probably some of it sweet and delicious, probably quite a lot a bit gritty. So perhaps there’s something to be said for the chance that Lockdown brings to reflect upon it all and also perhaps to do the sorting of papers that can spur memories. It certainly makes me aware of the pleasure of receiving a letter from an old friend. So there’s a hint to myself for when I next feel twitchy in this Lockdown period. Remember a friend, write a letter.

PS: photos today are of a Mary Rose and a Paul’s Scarlet in our garden. Both are in particularly good form this year and they bring a lot of pleasure.

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