Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Important moments

Saturday, July 24th, 2021

Looking forward to the Lions v Springboks match in Cape Town today made me think of an important moment for me. It happened in a storytelling workshop I was running in South Africa. The occasion was organised by a wonderful man called Alan Kenyon, alas  now no longer alive.

In one part of the workshop, I asked people to get into twos and share their experience of first leaving home. I was with a young black man who gave me a moving account of leaving his village to go away for the very first time. He described walking along the path that left the village, then stopping and looking back.

Another thing I remember of that same young man is that he also looked up at me and said: ‘This is the first time I have ever looked a white woman in the eyes.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Clearing the decks

Saturday, July 17th, 2021

Clearing the table, clearing your mind, clearing the air, clearing your diary, clearing the windscreen, clearing the weeds from the garden:  from the abundance of associated phrases and sayings, clearing is clearly a major human activity. Certainly it is in my life right now. For right now I am completely occupied with the conviction that I just want to clear the decks and be shot of stuff.

Part of the reason is no doubt to make room for the flow of new stuff that arrives in the house. Just inside my study door, for instance, is an ever-growing pile of recently acquired books which has now almost reached to the level on the wall of two lovely watercolours painted by my mother, one of our first beloved cat Hannah-Jane, the other of a typical Welsh cottage washed in pink. There’s certainly no room for more books in my bookshelves. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Doing Something

Saturday, June 5th, 2021

Last week I was carefully putting my eggs in the basket called Doing Nothing. By this week these eggs, one by one, are being carefully moved into the basket called Doing Something. I still am not persuaded that Doing Something is invariably better than Doing Nothing. But if the Something is identified as reading to children then I’m all for it. Besides, I’m very glad to see that, as recorded in a piece in the Guardian this week, so is famous footballer and generally good person, Marcus Rashford.

Furthermore, reading to children is usually a habit that gets passed on. Happily, I read in an email I received this week that the three year old son of one of my God-Daughters, is currently absorbed in a book – The Big-wide-mouthed-toad-frog – that I edited and gave his mother 30  years ago when she herself was a child. Thus do good story-books get passed on and loved all over again. Indeed, I recall that some of the story-books I loved the most as a child were ones that, in the process of being passed on, had become far less than pristine in their appearance. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Doing nothing

Saturday, May 29th, 2021

Ever happen to you? Outside it’s a perfectly decent day. You could be going out to do the food shopping or just to enjoy a nice walk. Or you could stay inside and put on the washing (plenty waiting to get done) or get on with some house-cleaning (once again, plenty). Taking yet another tack, you could get started on Sapphira and the Slave Girl, the next book by Willa Cather that you’ll be discussing with the friend with whom you have your Book Pair (a version of a book group but with only the two of you).

Or you could be making the phone call you’ve promised to make to a friend to report on yesterday’s session with a hospital consultant where you discussed next steps in the plan for dealing with your recently identified cancer (more on that anon, no doubt). Instead you are being perfectly idle. Much earlier on, you went down for breakfast (no lack of appetite here) and since then your lovely husband has brought you the very welcome cup of coffee and excellent biscuit that you’ve since consumed. Otherwise you’ve done nothing useful. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Remembering – Cofio

Saturday, May 22nd, 2021

One of the magazines I get sent in the post because I’m a subscriber is Golwg, a Welsh magazine which arrives once a fortnight.

Opening the current Golwg  gave me a start of surprise and recognition. For there, fifty years after his death and accompanied by a lovely photo of him, is a piece about one of the most well-known and admired of Welsh poets of the 20th century, Waldo Williams. Thanks to my redoubtable Aunty Mali whom I’ve mentioned in this blog numerous times before, I met Waldo Williams on several occasions. His home was just a few miles from Fishguard where Aunty Mali and my family lived, she at No 1 Vergam Terrace, us at No 16. From time to time when Waldo came to tea with her, it would be my job to bring over to him from the table the platters of sandwiches and cake on offer so he could choose what he’d like.

Waldo Williams was a Quaker and a passionate pacifist. He refused to pay taxes that would be used for military purposes and in 1960 his non-payment of taxes got him sent to prison for six weeks. A second prison sentence followed the next year. Professionally, he was a school teacher working with young children. He published only one book of poems for adults, Dail Pren (Tree Leaves). He published another for children, Cerddi’r Plant (Poems for the Children). He had a lovely smile and a great sense of humour and evidently he was gifted in that very Welsh art of making up verses on the spot.

As important to me as meeting Waldo Williams in person in my young teenage years were the one or two of his poems I came to know well. In Wales we’re keen on poems and in school we’d be encouraged to learn and recite them. One of the ones I loved is one by Waldo Williams:  Cofio, which in English means Remembering. The poem is only six verses long, each verse consisting of only four lines. But short as it is, it’s wonderful. Did I ever learn it well  enough to recite it by heart at a Noson Lawen, the social evenings that regularly happened where we lived? Certainly, I’d read the poem to myself from time to time and I still love it today. The imagery of it, the theme, the rhythm: all are wonderfully resonant. Here’s the first verse of it:

Un funud fach cyn elo’r haul o’r wybren,
Un funud fwyn cyn delo’r hwyr i’w hynt,
I gofio am y pethau anghofiedig
Ar goll yn awr yn llwch yr amser gynt.

One small moment before the sun leaves the firmament,
One dear moment before evening comes to its end,
To remember the unremembered things
Lost now in the dust of times that have gone.

Dear Aunty Mali, she introduced me to any number of fine people and I feel grateful to her for that as well as so much else. In this year of celebrating fifty years since Waldo Williams’ death, I’m proud that she gave me the memory of helping to serve him his tea.

PS: The top photo is Waldo Williams (by Dafydd Williams, Rhuthun) exactly as I remember him; the bottom photo is of the wonderful Ceanothus Pershore Zanzibar now in full bloom in our garden in London.

Storytelling Starters ~ What we’ve been missing

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Disgruntled is how I feel. Not about any particular person or situation. Just disgruntled – and all the more so as Lockdown trundles towards an end. On Wednesday this week, as if to emphasise what we’ve been missing, Paul and I were royally entertained to lunch by some friends, one of whom is a most fantastic cook. Thankfully Wednesday’s weather  came up trumps for, of course, we needed to sit outside for this lunch. So sit outside we did, enjoying the food, the talk, the garden and the company of two affectionate dogs. It was altogether a pleasure.

So why, you may ask, did it produce that subsequent feeling of disgruntlement (if disgruntlement is a word)? Well, only because the occasion itself was a reminder of the social life of which Lockdown has generally been depriving us. For life before Lockdown was peopled by friends. By now, we’ve probably all become acclimatised to doing without the social pleasures that friends bring. But as I was reminded of how much we’ve been missing, it did make me feel a bit sad. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Birdsong and bark

Saturday, March 20th, 2021

My mother loved birds. One day many years ago when I was still a schoolgirl, she saw a hoopoe in our garden. So excited was she by the sight of it – for a hoopoe is a very distinctive bird and a rare visitor in this country – that she immediately telephoned Mr Griffiths, the Chemistry teacher over at school who was renowned as a bird-watcher. Evidently, upon receiving her telephone call, Griff Chem as he was generally known rushed across to our house at once and together he and my mother admired the hoopoe through our kitchen window.

As for me, I know shamefully little about birds in general. But I can say that, for quite a few days now, I’ve been enraptured by the song of the blackbird who has taken up residence somewhere in the gardens at the back of our house. What gorgeous sounds he makes and how long the song continues! Each time I hear it I know that the world of nature is full of wonders and that this blackbird’s song is surely one of them. Maybe it’s a common-or-garden bird (for indeed it’s just out there in the garden). But its song feels like just as much of a blessing as that of the nightingale that Paul and I used regularly to hear from our bedroom during a holiday we once had on the isle of Iona. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Flags or shirts?

Saturday, March 13th, 2021

It’s lovely to have a day that’s not pre-determined, a day when anything might happen. But there can also be enormous pleasure in a day where you know exactly what you’re going to do. So today I know that, barring the sky falling in or some other equally unforeseen event, I shall be sitting down in front of the TV at 2.15.

That’s when the 6 Nations Rugby programme begins today and I have to be watching because Wales is playing and by my presence in front of the TV, I feel I’ll be contributing towards the hwyl, the spirit that I think makes all the difference. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A day with a view

Saturday, February 27th, 2021

‘Your language is dead.’ The voice rang out from immediately above where Paul and I were seated at a late night Prom concert in the Royal Albert Hall. It did so in response to the singer and Radio 6 presenter Cerys Matthews introducing the next piece she was about to sing by its Welsh name. Wisely, she made no response to the rudeness but simply continued with her performance. Born of patent ignorance, I see the rudeness as a form of racism and I’ve never forgotten it.

I expect it will come into my mind again at some point this next Monday. For Monday will be March 1st and March 1st is St David’s Day, the day for the celebration of Wales’s patron saint. On the day, were it not for Lockdown, there would undoubtedly be celebrations of St David all over Wales (and elsewhere too) in services and performances in schools and community venues. On the day also, despite Lockdown, many children and adults will undoubtedly wear either a daffodil or a leek. In the school I went to – which as it happens was in St David’s – the girls wore daffodils and the boys wore leeks, chewing them almost to nothing in the course of the day and glorying in the resultingly oniony smell on their breath. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Into the bin

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

Old bag. Old hat. Old news. Old times. Old paperwork. It’s the paperwork that’s been especially on my mind this week. Slowly the papers are being sorted and wherever possible they’re getting into my wastepaper basket. For the most recent big decision made in this house has been to clear the decks, sort the papers and throw away as much as we possibly can. The storytelling gear? Well, perhaps that’s going to have to wait.

But yesterday afternoon, I sat on the little settee in my study going through a large pile of files from the past about storytelling bookings. Name and address of the venue, a note of whoever made the booking, details of how many sessions there’d be, who’d be attending the sessions and what ages they’d be, any special advice on themes for the stories, notes on how to get to the venue and what the payment would be: in quite a lot of instances, all this info is followed by my subsequent remarks on how the sessions went, interesting things said by pupils or staff and anything of especial interest that arose about the stories I’d chosen to tell. (more…)