Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Cats or birds

Birds were tweeting to me today. After being somewhat sidelined in my last few blogs, it seemed they were finally wanting to take precedence. However, cats got in first, I suppose, because of a visit I had to make to our dentist a few days ago. The dentist’s surgery happens to be just round the corner from the flat where we used to live in Pimlico although when we first started going there, it was down in Victoria. Its current location proves richly stirring of memory each time I have to visit (and I’m currently in the middle of a string of sessions). This is because the street where the surgery is now located was where the lady lived that gave us our first cat. We called her – the cat not the lady – Hannah-Jane. She was very much beloved and she became the first in the much-honoured line of cats that have been ours.

Birds and cats don’t go well together. This is probably why we currently have no cat. The bird-feeder out in our garden attracts large numbers of birds and we wouldn’t want to see them being slaughtered. Not even the parakeets whose lithe, green bodies, doing acrobatics round the bird-feeder, are so well worth watching. But to be honest, I wish the parakeets had stayed in Tobago where we saw lots and lots when we were there  on one of my storytelling trips.

At least these pushy parakeets don’t seem to put off the smaller birds. I’m especially grateful because among ‘our’ birds is the blackbird. Beloved blackbird, how it sings and sings, morning and evening, and with such melody in its voice. I’m often reminded when I hear it of the lovely Welsh folksong, Y Fwyalchen, in which the lover pleads to the blackbird to come and listen to the cries of his heart:.

O gwrando, y beraidd fwyalchen;
Clyw, eden mwyn serchog liw du!

O blackbird, come hark to my pleading
Give ear to the cry of my heart.

As background to that song, I should say that a common device in Welsh folksong is, if you’re a man, to be sending a bird to your beloved to tell her of your great love. The blackbird is one of the birds that gets sent.

Now to finish, alas on a more doleful note. I’ve mentioned the situation before. And it didn’t bring any fresh cheer to my heart to read in a Guardian newspaper article this week – and I’m sorry now that I didn’t write down the details – of the big decline there has been in the numbers of garden birds. I suppose this decline may be linked to a diminution in the numbers of gardens and perhaps also to a diminution in the numbers of townspeople that provide food for the birds. Maybe, too, there are more cats. For cats love killing birds. And with the mention of cats, I come full circle. Birds or cats: this blog has now got both.

PS: The blackbird speaks for itself. The cat, however, needs naming as Minky, the last in the long line of much-loved cats that have shared our lives. Minky was so much loved that we couldn’t think of replacing him after he died. Our thoughts are only now beginning to get round to the prospect.

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