King Arthur

I have many books on King Arthur; I have collected them since I was a teenager. I have 2 Tarot decks associated with the legend, purely because they are associated with the legend!  On my bookshelf in total there are 27 with “Arthur” or “Arthurian” in the title, and that’s not including all the various “Myth and Legends of the British Isles” genre.

Not a huge amount, but enough for someone interested in the Arthurian Legends you might think. But curiously enough, I have not read ANY of them! Oh yes I’ve flicked through, skimmed, and glanced at pages, and illustrations, and always intended to read them, but every time I sit down and open a book, the words stay on the page.  They stay there, unmoving, un yielding, un read (by comparison, when I pick up a Terry Pratchett novel, the words leap off the page and pull me in to Discworld).

You may think that I should give up.  But Arthur keeps calling, like he has since my teen years.  Somehow I have to find the way in to the story. But I have come to the conclusion that it is not through books, and the stories are so set in stone that people now argue with alternate versions.  Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote the stories down for William, who wanted a “One Land, One King” legend to refer to,  Malory recorded his version (which obviously I cannot comment on because I haven’t read it) and latter day authors have mixed in their versions too, like John Matthews, Kevin Crossley Holland, and Michael Morpurgo.  New books appear every year, claiming to have proof of Arthur being in Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, and yet everyone has their own King Arthur, and their own Merlin.  They may not go by these names, but the essence of the figure remains, and can be associated with each of these characters.

The stories of Jesus are written in a book and people believe in them, but Jesus affects peoples’ lives in different ways.  He is friend to some, saviour to others, prophet to many and nothing to some.  They say there is historical proof, but what does that matter to those who BELIEVE in him?

So that leaves me thinking that people don’t believe in Arthur and Merlin, because there’s too much red tape. Where the legends of Arthur and Merlin are concerned, there are different versions yes, but when someone releases their version, the old dusty copies come out and critics say “but that’s not the story, or that’s not historically accurate”.

What is Arthur to you?  What is Arthur to me? What is Merlin to me?  I don’t know, is the answer, but they keep tugging at my sleeve, whispering in my ear, drifting into my dreams. Do they need labelling? Pigeon holing? Restricting? No!!!!

I don’t live in Cornwall, or Wales, or Brittany. I live on the slopes of Titterstone Clee, in South Shropshire, one time gathering place of the clans of the Middle Lands and this beautiful, quarry scarred landscape has given me its stories to tell the world. The Hill tells me of a Serpent deep within that turns the wheel of the year, and the Ancient Yew told me of the Dragons, a stream told me how the Mistletoe came to this valley. And now Arthur and Merlin are trying to do the same. But how can I get the stories? Are they too the stories of this land? The Land of Oak, Albion, Merlin’s Isle, Britain.

So many stories, myths, legends all captured in books, stories from other lands brought in and adapted, it is time to free them to take them from the pages, melt them down into their base form, and then with alchemical force bring them to life in their raw state, without political opinion, without religious view, without historical accuracy.

Gather the kindling, light the tinder, fill the bellows.

A story is real, while it is being told.

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Apples and Foxes

 

 

Welcome Autumn

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Time of silly hats and colourful scarves, and not necessarily matching gloves!

Time of flames flickering in the hearth as the Rayburn is lit.

Time of turning leaves, ploughed earth and hedge trimming.

Time of sunny days and star filled nights.

Time of foggy mornings and frosted spider webs.

Time of Apples and Foxes.

 

Yes, the traditional Apple Day! This year I am privileged to be storytelling at two! Tenbury Applefest, and Calke Abbey Apple Day. The days of the year when I eat more apples, and drink more apple juice than I consume the rest of the year! I try the different varieties, fill my nostrils with the gorgeous smell of ripe apples, and generally have a fabulous time!

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As for foxes, I went for a stroll down the lane last night, to see what things had changed, the ripening berries, the still flowering Meadowsweet, when across the stubbly field, there was a fox. Such a beautiful creature, bane of chicken keepers and instinctual delight to the hunter. They are a little like Marmite, you either love them or hate them. This fox, picked its way around the field, looking for whatever he was looking for. There were some rabbits in the field too, both Fox and Rabbit seeming oblivious to the company of each other. Words started to come to mind.

 

“Black tips on your orange ears, white flash at the end of your tail. Tell me oh Fox of your honest tale. When you were revered and not hunted. One that tells of you as clever, not sly. Of how your wit and cunning was rewarded, not punished”

 

This got me thinking of the other creatures of this land, so slandered in folklore as the new religion swept across the land. Ravens, hares, owls, dragonflies even, all associated with devilment and witchcraft in European folklore. Yet in other cultures, these creatures are revered, honoured, and respected.  Tell me your tales, ancient ones, of the times when you were truly magical and to catch sight of you was a blessing, not a curse. My ears are listening.

 

Every adventure has a challenge

Calke Abbey in Derbyshire is a stately home like no other,it is “Unstately” and proud of it. There are gardens and woodlands and parklands and a house full of wonderful  “stuff” collected by the Harpur Crewe family that owned it over the centuries.

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I have had the pleasure of telling stories there over the summer, sometimes in the Garden of Imagination and other times in Calke Explore,  a woodland nature trail with a wild play area and art meadow.

In the gardens, I sat in the Summer House telling tales of Dragons, fairies, and watering cans with leaky bottoms. Children (and adults sometimes) would come along and make up stories with the things in the story box,. There were some fabulous stories of King Egg and Queen Rose that I could tell you!

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Down in the woods, Mad Meg Sorrel, (my woodland character who has developed a Scottish accent over the summer) had riddles to be answered and told families about tree folklore among stories of gigantic antlers and dancing tree folk.

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It has been wonderful, each time different , each time magical.

Because I live in Shropshire, it is beneficial for me to stay over at Calke, usually at my sisters, but the last time I went , she was on holiday, so Calke very kindly offered me a place to stay on site!  Wow! Staying on the Calke Estate! That’s exciting!

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Walking around the park when the rush of visitors had gone home, talking to the trees that usually are driven past on the way out.  And generally having a bit of peace and quiet in the evenings.  But as in the title of this post, “every adventure has a challenge” and the challenge was to stay in the Base Camp accommodation ON MY OWN!!!!!

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Now everyone likes a bit of peace and quiet, and some time to themselves, yes, but this was a converted farm. Part of the house was the dairy, now lived in by Bill and Viv, and the Base Camp was other parts of the farm set up.

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The kitchen was massive, and that’s where I spent most of the time, reading, studying and listening to the radio. The toilets were upstairs, and the dormitory was one of two, also upstairs.  Very nice, they are, basic, comfortable, the toilets being across a landing, over the stairs and across another landing. It even had a “who goes there” door!   This place was HUGE!! And I was in it ON MY OWN!!

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Now being a storyteller with a rather active imagination, you can imagine what I was dreaming up in my head. Every sound would be something that it wasn’t. but that was it! Apart from the odd aeroplane from East Mids Airport flying overhead, there was NO noise AT ALL!!! Nothing! Zero, not even the rustle of leaves, or the shuffle of sheep. The windows had secondary glazing and the silence was deafening and kept waking me up in the night. And of course, the three realms that had to be traversed to get to the loo in the middle of the night were hurriedly crossed with eyes almost shut incase I saw anything that I didn’t want to see!

So that was the challenge, being on my own. I am usually surrounded by people, noise, even in the “middle of nowhere” where I live, there is a gentle hum of the land, sheep and cows shuffling about, an occasional car down the lane, owls hooting, cats asking to be let out, or in. Not a huge challenge I know, no dragons to fight, or rings to be thrown into fires, but a challenge for me and a real adventure.

On returning home, I am so grateful to everyone at Calke, for my summer adventures. But I am also very grateful for my own bed, and the noise that surrounds it!

Charity shop treasures

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I regularly visit charity shops, most people do. Some shop for clothes, others for books and bric a brac. I do that too, most of my costumes and everyday clothes have come from these charitable emporiums, but sometimes there, in amongst the donated nick nacks, will be a shining treasure.

Sometimes they are really shining, like a mini golden throne, sometimes they need a bit of tlc or transformation, but today I found a veritable feast!

A bowl of fruit and eggs. The bowl and the contents for £2.99! Bargain! This has led me to go Story Hunting for “Fruity tales” I have found 4 such delights, the starfruit, the pear, the peach and the strawberry.

The bowl has it’s own tale to tell I am sure!

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Back pack, packed, and off we go!

So I decided to start a blog about storytelling adventures.  On my facebook page I’ve been doing “A story a day” since the Winter Solstice, so that’s been updated (almost) daily, but what about the places, and the stories that I found extra to that?

That’s where this blog comes in. When I’ve been out Story Hunting, or to an awesome Storytelling Festival, the postcard will be on this blog.

Ideas, plans and things that I am bursting to share, may not always come to fruition, but like a pinterest board, it’ll be on here, even if it’s never done. Just to remind me.

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