Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Clearing the decks

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.

And yes, I do have bookshelves. Two big bookcases in my study, in fact, as well as shelves fixed onto one wall.  But both bookcases are already stuffed.  Here are the books of stories of the myths and legends genre. Here too are the books containing studies of stories and thoughts about them. But the books in the bookcases are far from all. For the slightly smaller bookshelves also contain the storage boxes in which are copies of hundreds of stories, (folk stories, myths etc), all neatly filed, I have to boast, according to place of origin. And then again, beneath that particular bookcase are the piles of theatre and concert programmes of events I’ve attended dating back to the year dot of my London life.

There’s more. Against the wall at right angles to the two big bookcases is a wonderfully commodious wooden cupboard where, on the top shelf, are stored diaries, notebooks and journals from the span of my adult life. The earliest diary here (though up in the attic there are more) is 1983. Behind the diaries are the journals in which I’ve recorded life-experiences, including of storytelling engagements over the years. Below on three lower shelves are such things as boxes of cards for sending to friends, piles of notebooks for future use and also such essentials as Spray Mount, crayons and boxes of paint.

Oh my goodness! By now, I’m sure you’re getting the general idea that in this study of mine there’s quite a lot of stuff. And I haven’t even got to the bookshelves on which are kept a whole lot of reference books and also, on shelves below, a selection of the children’s picture books I’ve reviewed over the years and used in sessions with early years children. Nor have I yet got to what I call my story-bags in which I have kept all kinds of objects and cloths to add colour to my storytelling work with children. Nor have I yet reached the filing cabinet in which, among lots else, I’ve kept, my notes and  records from all the years of my storytelling with children and adults here in the UK and other countries.

Nor have I yet come to what I call my Story Bags, namely the two large plasticated bags in which I keep what could be called my props, namely objects  I’ve often used to introduce stories, especially when telling to children. As well as soft toys, these include many different kinds of instruments which make interesting or musical sounds. Chuck it all out, I say to myself as I look at it all. But of course I can’t. At least not without going through it, and in the process being reminded of the many kinds of storytelling engagements of which my work has been composed and plucking out the special bits I particularly want to remember and keep.

So unless I could approach my proposed clearance as a kind of one-off event, not allowing time to ponder the stuff but just chucking it out, the problem of executing my intention is immense. Besides, even as I contemplate the very special challenge represented by my study, I am mindful that elsewhere in the house are similar problems such as are the big one represented by the boxes and shelves full of photos.

Ah well! The stuff exists, it is all around me. But present too, I hope, are the spirits I might name as the Spirits of Clearance and Clarity. Please wish me the best for clearing the decks.

PS: Top photo is, of course, of three of what I call my Story Bags. The bottom photo is of my dearly beloved monkey who always seems to me to embody the spirit of fun.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Clearing the decks”

  1. Jean Edmiston Says:

    Dear Mary
    Ahh — clearing out — sorting — one of those never ending tasks you encounter in stories.
    I’m also attempting to clear out and sort – but I’ve never been a chucker outer — and so for me the emphasis is on the sorting — with just some chucking out. Spirits of chaos and confusion are winning here at the moment tho —
    Good luck dear Mary with your task — enjoy the process and as beloved monkey reminds us — have fun
    Look at all the love, memories and stories in those bags — Big hug Jean XX

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