Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Helen East’

Storytelling Starters ~ That tree is ours.

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

Making lists, I thought, would be my subject here today. For there have been too many lists in my life of late. Jobs to do round the house. Christmas presents to be bought. People to whom to send emails about my new book, The Uses of ‘a’.

But early this morning, lying in bed awake and feeling overwhelmed by my lists, my mind turned instead to trees. I think this was due to a visit yesterday from storyteller friend, Helen East. As we sat in the kitchen drinking Lemon and Ginger tea, Helen began talking about  the time that she’d spent in Kerala a few years ago. Then she told us a Kerala story, a terrific story about the kindness of a tree. (more…)

Storytelling Starters – Where Words Can Take You

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Walking across Green Park a few days ago, a friend and I were bemoaning how dusk comes too early at this time of the year. Then we cheered up by reminding ourselves that, by now, the days are already drawing out.

CockerelA journey of words:

Cam ceiliog is the phrase that was always used by the mother of my Welsh friend, Beryl. No sooner had the shortest day gone by than she’d be reminding us how, from now on, the days would be drawing out. Cam ceiliog is Welsh for the cockerel’s step, the general inference being that, while the days get longer only bit by bit, we can all be certain that the steps do happen.

On our walk through Green Park, the Welsh phrase caused some discussion. Could there be any connection with the Scottish word, capercaillie which so brilliantly summons up the idea of stepping? Next day – for the friend in question was the renowned translator, Margaret Jull Costa – I got an email from her elucidating this question. Any connection between ceiliog and capercaillie? ‘No,’ she said, detailing the relevant etymologies, ‘no connection at all.’

However, word-expert and word-forager as my friend is, I received another email from her a day or two later. This one referred to the fact that, on our walk,  I’d happened to say that ceiliog, the Welsh word for cockerel, reminded me of Kellogg’s, the company that makes Cornflakes and so many other breakfast cereals.

Ah now! Margaret had pursued this link and was now writing to tell me it wasn’t just me that had seen a connection between that Welsh word for cockerel and Kellogg’s. Someone else had done exactly the same quite a few years ago: none other than the world-famous harpist, Nansi Richards, who died back in 1979. Evidently, during a harp-playing tour in the United States, Nansi Richards had at one point visited the home of Will Kellogg who, at the time, had been looking for a marketing emblem for his company.

And what had he finally chosen? Why, a cockerel. And why did he choose it? Well, according to the story, because Nansi Richards had told him how his surname, Kellogg, reminded her of the Welsh word, ceiliog. So that’s how the cockerel became the Kelloggs emblem and although Wikipedia says the story may be apocryphal, I like it – and even more so  because that same Wikipedia entry led me to another intriguing association. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The puzzle of time

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

clock-change-the-timeA young friend of mine was still a teenager when he said to me once, ‘When you tell me a story, the room goes all still.’ How time passes! He’s nearly 40 now.

But I know what he means. When Helen East was at Waterstone’s in Piccadilly telling her London Tales  last week (her book of these is published by The History Press), there was a palpable sense during the storytelling of moving into a different place and time.

A welcome gift?

So what’s to be done when time feels harassed, weighed down by anxieties and things that have to be done? When that’s so – as this week for me – I try and remember Mink, that hero figure in North American Indian legend who brought the sun to the people. Later, according to another story of him – and I see that I told it in this blog four years ago on November 19th, 2011 – Mink also brought time to the land. But after he stole that clock from the white settlers’ house, there was a big downside to the new possession.  From then on, time became something that had to be managed. The story warns that we have to be mindful. Without care, time can dominate.

PuffballA welcome gift?

A wonderful counterbalance comes in those old Welsh folktales where someone sits under a tree to listen to the sound of  birds singing and, wholly enchanted, becomes oblivious of time going by.

Robyn Meredydd is one such fellow in Carmarthenshire lore. It’s a lovely summer’s day, the sycamore tree is in full leaf and the bird is singing so sweetly. But when Robyn eventually  comes to himself, the tree is withered and dead, his farmhouse when he reaches it is covered in ivy and the old man who comes to the door turns out to be his own nephew who confesses that when he was a child, he’d once heard about an uncle called Robyn who had disappeared.

Time is a puzzle. Yet it seems to me that any of it that’s spent listening to the singing of birds is refreshingly worth it –  one of life’s inestimable pleasures. It restores a sense of calm and the confidence to think that, after all, life’s problems can be managed. Certainly it’s a whole lot better than, last night, the sound of the foxes screeching the night away out in the back.

 P.S. I hope you’ll agree that, in their way, both my photos this week are symbols of time. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Feast

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

Storytelling Cookbook was the title I gave the first little book I put together with stories for children and hints on telling them. No doubt the name came to mind because I can’t help thinking of cooking and eating in connection with storytelling. Listening to stories or people talking about them just feels like participating in a feast. A traditional Scandinavian tale-ender gives the idea another twist:

 ‘And all I know is, that if they are not yet done feasting, then they are probably at it still.’

In other words, when a story ends well, it’s not hard to imagine the characters in it sitting long into the night , chewing things over in more ways than one. When I’m finishing a story with children, I often bring in that idea of eating afterwards – it’s a little bit of a tease.

A tale from India

For instance, in that marvellous Indian tale, Bhambhutia,  (you can find it in The Singing Sack by Helen East), an old lady is threatened with being devoured on her way through the forest to visit her daughter.

The story describes how she succeeds in getting back home inside a life-size clay pot she constructs. But the old lady is clever enough to stay in the pot till the animals who still want to eat her have gone to sleep and are snoring around her. It’s when she hears their snores that the old lady knows it’s safe to climb out and quickly run into her house. But that’s not quite the end of the story. Next morning, she gives the pot its reward for bringing her safely home. Either it can go round the world or it can stay with her.

It’s a good point for a bit of discussion. In my experience, lots of children say they’d choose to go round the world – and in multi-ethnic Britain, many say they’d visit the countries where their families originated. Equally, lots of children decide that, if they were the pot, they’d stay at home with the old lady. We talk about it. Then I end the discussion like this: ‘Well, in the story, it says the pot decided to stay with the old lady. And I know that’s what it did because the last time I went to have tea with her, it was still there.’

The proof of the pudding – Kensington Palace revisited

The proof of the storytelling pudding lies in the eating. Thursday was the 6th session of my Kensington Palace storytelling course for parents. It was intended as an opportunity to reflect on what has happened up till now and what might happen after this. The parents’ reports provided a feast. (more…)