Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Detritus

According to my much-used Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (turned to far more often than the two-volume Shorter Oxford) detritus is ‘a mass of substance gradually worn off solid bodies: an aggregate of loosened fragments, esp. of rock’. Well, maybe. But I think of it as mess, an aggregate  of stuff that has been left behind. Like after some kind of open-air gathering, or even an indoor party, there’s always a lot of detritus. Paper napkins, straws, uneaten crusts, cup-cake holders … you know the kind of stuff.

But it’s not exactly detritus that is bothering me now. What’s on my mind is, for instance, the two bulging plastic bags I spotted last night underneath a settee in the sitting room. While watching the 7 o’clock news on TV, my eyes lit upon them. What on earth is in those two bags?  Why are they there? It’s not that I’d not noticed them before. My eyes had lit upon them several times. But I hadn’t previously investigated. Now I took a look. Ah yes, a melee of items of no-longer-wanted clothing. Now I remembered. Weren’t these bagged and ready for going to the charity shop? So why, oh why, are they still here?

Well, I suppose life is like that. Full of items that never quite made it to where they were intended to be; oddities that you keep because you can’t finally bear to get rid of them; stuff from the past that still gives you that twinge of recognition that means you really can’t dispose of them yet; drawings you once did that, because you now remember doing them, you can’t let them go; pamphlets you never quite finished reading.

And then again, the world is packed with peculiar little coincidences that, observed or unobserved, happen all the time in our lives. Like the other day when Paul was out shopping and it occurred to me to make an apple tart that we could eat for dessert that evening. The two nice-looking cooking apples were appealing for attention on the fruit-and-vegetable rack. A special treat. Why not use them? So I did. Into the oven went my apple tart. It was almost ready to come out when Paul arrived home and, with a flourish opened the carrier bag in his hand. And what was inside? Why, an apricot and almond tart he’d purchased as a treat. You may ask which tart we cut into for our dessert that evening. Well as it happens it was the apple tart. Perhaps because it was so quickly made (‘Quick girl, quick,’ my mother would say), the resulting tart turned out to be one of the best, pastry-wise, I’ve ever made. My mother would have been proud of me.

It happens all the time. An old friend is on your mind. The phone rings. It’s the very person. A letter or card arrives in the post. It’s from that person you were definitely intending to write to yesterday. And so it goes. Synchronicities of the mind. Synchronicities of event. The psychologist Jung, who first propounded the synchronicity theory, would not have been surprised. It really does happen all the time. What doesn’t happen all the time is that we who might have noticed the coincidence actually do so. If we did, we might be rather taken aback. Our lives have rhythms and undercurrents of which we are often quite unaware.

Ah ha, the phone is ringing. Who will it be?

PS: That idea of detritus was still in my mind as I was choosing pictures for today. The top picture is a bit of balloon with ribbon left behind on a beach. The crab is a very special example of detritus from a receding tide. My bottom  picture is, well, just rubbish.


One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Detritus”

  1. Karen Tovell Says:

    Another fascinating blog, Mary, thanks. The blog got me thinking about ‘detritus’ and the art of storytelling. How at first you might have many ideas about how to work with a story with a particular group of people, but some of those initial thoughts don’t seem quite right for that particular time and occasion – so you shelve them and go with your other ideas. Time passes. Later – perhaps many years later – on a different occasion you find yourself dredging up those ideas (that you had previously cast aside) from the depths as now they seem just right to work with. Or, perhaps it is that you yourself have changed meantime and your relationship to the story has evolved? It is rather like finding pieces of colourful glass thrown up on the seashore after many years of being tossed about in the sea.

Leave a Reply