Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Pembrokeshire’

Storytelling Starters ~ Catching up

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

Ever feel like this? Unaccountably exhausted after a long journey and maybe sensing there’s absolutely nothing else to do except give your soul time to catch up with your body?

Last night we got back to London from our Pembrokeshire place. All was well here in the London house. There were no problems in letters that had come in the post, not even new spider-webs in strange places. But today, I’m quite a bit of a wreck. Too much to process emotionally (I never like leaving) and also, it seems on this occasion, too much for my body to cope with in the long journey even though, apart from ensuring our Pembrokeshire place was clean and tidy before we left (cousins were coming to stay), there’d been nothing extra or untoward with which we’d had to cope.  (more…)

Storytelling Starters – Back and fore

Saturday, May 15th, 2021

Maybe it always happens when you go away from home. Even as you reach the place where you were headed, you’re paying attention to new things, features of your new environment that are different from what you experience at home.

One thing I’ve been much aware of this Spring in Mathri, the village where we have our Welsh home, is the multitude of cowslips in the verges and hedges of roads leading into and out of the village. OK, cowslips will never cease to be among my favourite countryside flowers. But each time I see them en masse at this time of the year, I feel excited and privileged all over again. I’m tempted to describe them as very modest creatures, they seem to blend themselves in to the hedgerows and fields. I feel grateful to be here at the right time to see them. The bluebells and garlic have a fine show too in the woodland ways close to the sea.

Another thing I’ve been much aware of since arriving here in Mathri this Spring is the birdsong. There’s what I want to describe as a flight of very tall trees in the churchyard at the top of the village. Walking past them in the early evening a day or two ago, there issued from them such a chorus of sound that it felt like the birds had decided to give the village a special concert. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Memory of place

Saturday, December 19th, 2020

A week today it will be Boxing Day. Because I don’t like boxing as a sport, I always used to feel a bit disconcerted about what Boxing Day was all about. Then I began to realise that it had nothing to do with the smashing of fists, person against person. What it meant – am I right? – was giving people bits of money in what might be called their begging box.

This year on Boxing Day I’ll be feeling deprived. Normally I’d be in Pembrokeshire and, unless the weather was absolutely ghastly, I’d surely be walking on Whitesands Beach at some point during the day. But this year, Covid restrictions have got in the way, preventing us from driving down to West Wales and staying there a week or two as we usually do. So until the restrictions relax, I’m missing my beach and the little headland where my father used to tell me how the raging monster, the Twrch Trwyth,   came rampaging onto land after its journey across the sea from Ireland. Or where, in contrast, he would also tell me how it was the place of peace from which St Patrick set out on his journey across the sea to convert the Irish people to Christianity.

Especially when the tide is out, Whitesands is a huge expanse of sand. It’s one of the places where I used regularly to go to swim when I was a teenager. In younger years, my family had stayed there for caravan holidays. Even now, it’s the place to which I return in my mind when I need to be calm. Yet, although in that sense it is essentially, for me, a place of solace and peace, it is also now in practical fact abuzz with visitors on most days at most times of the year. Surfers in wet-suits abound. Likewise people of all ages consuming ice-cream cones. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Time travel

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

This morning I finished reading Virginia Woolf’s extraordinary novel, Orlando. This was my second reading of it. The first was years ago, goodness knows how many. In various different ways, it’s a book about malleability. Orlando begins as a boy and then becomes a girl and it seems that he lives in many different eras from the Elizabethan onwards. At the end of the book, he is driving a car down Park Lane. Or is ‘he’ a ‘she’ by then? In a very real way, it doesn’t matter. The book encourages us to know that, since we as human beings possess this extraordinary thing called imagination, we can travel both in time and space. And, what’s more, through reading and living, meeting people from different cultures and experiencing the world through different media such as radio and TV and the internet, we also travel within ourselves. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Expectations

Saturday, March 7th, 2020

Mary, Mary, Quite contrary, How does your garden grow?With silver bells and cockleshells as in the nursery rhyme?

Well, my expectations for this week had been of a blissfully peaceful holiday week in Wales with trips to beaches, lots of reading and plenty of time to recover from the battering my wits and my body have taken from trying to deal with all the niggly health issues that have kept coming up.

Contrary to expectations:

Instead? The warning sign on the car kept coming back after it had apparently been dealt with in London and, in Pembrokeshire, led to the determination from the kindly, straight-talking Reg at the Volvo garage in Haverfordwest that, truth to tell, the car should be regarded as a write-off and he’d buy it off us for £300 and use it for spare parts.

This was more than a disappointment. We loved our old car and had been reassured in our garage in London that the small bump we’d experienced a few weeks ago had not left any problem. And now? If we’d couldn’t use the car to get back to London – and Reg was saying that tootling around locally would be OK but not to take it on the M4 – how would we make the trip with all our luggage at the end of our peaceful week? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Colours of Colour

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

Ten days of summer down in Pembrokeshire make a very welcome break before the next horrid chemo. I’ve been admiring colour – the orange-red of the poppy that has cropped itself up in the gravel at the back of the house, the purple of the foxgloves like sentinels in the hedges.

Colour is appetising. It makes you look and it makes you savour. Thinking about it has reminded me of a little story I once made up which has also been one I’ve told many times.

The Yellow Blob

The Yellow Blob lived in a world where everything was yellow. Yellow house, yellow grass, yellow fields, yellow sea. One day, the Yellow Blob went for a walk. He closed his yellow door, walked along the yellow brick  road and climbed up the yellow hill. At the top of the hill, he looked down. The Yellow Blob was very surprised. At the bottom of the hill was a huge blue lake. (more…)

Storytelling Starter ~ The Stolen Child

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

Peppers is in Fishguard, the Pembrokeshire town of my birth and the first 14 years of my life. It’s also the venue for Summer Enchantment, the evening of songs and stories which Paul and I will be performing next Wednesday, August 1st, with David Pepper at the piano.

Paul will be singing the songs. I’m planning to tell two main stories plus a couple of short ones. One of the big ones is the story I know as The Stolen Child. It’s a Scottish story which I’ve relocated to the Pembrokeshire coast. If you might possibly be there on August 1st, perhaps you should stop reading now. On the other hand, does it matter if, when you start hearing a story, you realise you already know it? I don’t think so. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Serious stuff

Saturday, July 7th, 2018

This week, down in Pembrokeshire, I saw a boy sitting on a stone pillar at the back of Abereiddi beach. He was probably about 10 years old, in his hands was a book, a proper book, and he was reading. When we left the beach an hour or two later, he was still there, still reading. The sight felt emblematic to me of those things that make me feel joyful.

On Thursday evening on S4C (that’s the Welsh channel), there was an equally hope-inspiring item on a programme about the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. A choir from Indonesia was performing and a background item from Indonesia itself focused on a school where dance and music and other arts items play as prominent a part in the curriculum as any other subject. I think it was the Principal of the school who, in an interview, said how important the arts are considered to be all over her country. ‘We feel they give the children sensitivity.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Another question of truth

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016

P1060450Beach-cleaning is one of two topics that have been in my mind this week. The other one – and they make an unlikely combination – is what makes a story stick in your mind and eager for you to tell it.

The beach-cleaning came up because a recent episode of Springwatch on BBC 1 showed clips from TV coverage of the horrendous oil-spill off the Pembrokeshire coast that, some years ago, caused mayhem to sea-birds and coastal ecology. The area has long since recovered from that. But, as Springwatch pointed out, continual damage is being done by the plastics that get onto beaches and into seas. The message of the programme was simple: if you see plastic, pick it up, dispose of it properly.

Well, we’ve been in Pembrokeshire over Easter and this week, we ended a long walk along Newgale beach with quite a horde of stuff  – one huge piece of green plastic tarpaulin and one small bag full of bits  of plastic fishing line, including a tangled clump from the skeleton of a sea-bird that had obviously died from getting caught on it.

What’s found on beaches: a Scottish folktale

Another recent reason for thinking about what you find on beaches came up because of a Scottish folktale I came across ages ago in a book called Thistle and Thyme. In the story,  a young mother has lost her baby and when it turns out that the baby has been stolen by fairy folk, she is determined to get him back. But how? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The truth of the matter

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

The question comes up quite often and I feel privileged whenever it does. Usually it gets asked by someone in a Year 5 or 6 class who is therefore one of the older-age children in a Primary school. Almost always,  a silence has fallen before it’s asked and invariably it’s asked in a quiet, thoughtful way. The question is: ‘Is that story true?’ On one unforgettable occasion, I’d just finished telling a most unbelievable Japanese story about a lazy liar who deserves a comeuppance.  

A Japanese story: The Magic Nose-Fan

P1010704One day, lolling under a bush, Kotaro is offered a magic nose-fan by a tengu who is a kind of mischievous Japanese troll-type figure usually recognisable by his very long nose. Our anti-hero accepts the nose-fan in return for the dice he’s been idly tossing about and it’s this same magic nose-fan that leads to the story’s final denouement in which Kotaro is left dangling off a far-distant planet, his little legs no doubt kicking around in the air.

What happens in between is that our anti-hero discovers that, when one side of the nose-fan is turned towards a nose, the fan will make the nose get longer. When its other side is turned nose-wards, it makes the nose get smaller again. With judicious use, it can return the nose to its normal size.

And how does our anti-hero make use of the tengu’s gift? Why, when he sees the local princess taking the air in the royal gardens, he wanders casually by and uses his fan to make her nose get long. Panic and pandemonium ensue. What is to be done? Doctors are called. Creams are deployed. Nothing works until our lazy no-good-boyo presents himself at the palace and, in a darkened room, returns the princess’ nose to its regular size. In return he gets to marry the princess as his reward and that enables him to lead an even lazier life than before.

But here comes the comeuppance. (more…)