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Blog : Posts tagged with 'story'

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Condiment Frenzy

In which we are delighted by music and storytelling


Since we moved here, we’ve been promising ourselves that we’ll get Out And About, go to lots of local events, be actively artistic, and so on. And, well, we haven’t quite managed it. We’re doing better than we used to; we go to more things than we ever did before we moved; but the calendar still isn’t quite as full as we’d like.

As I’ve said before, though, one of the things I love about this city is that it doesn’t take long before you hear about a good-looking event.* For example: we quickly popped into Boston Tea Party at the weekend for tea and cake,** only to spot a poster on the wall that we quite liked the sound of. A regular event called Folk Tales, at the Scout Hut on Phoenix Wharf, on the last Wednesday of the month. So, we went along.

It turned out, as it happened, that one of the organisers of Folk Tales was one of the performers we saw on New Year’s Eve at the Cube; so we knew that things would probably turn out for the good. And any gig where the door-person, after taking your money, points you to the kitchen where you’re free to use the kettle, make yourself tea and help yourself to a biscuit,*** is going to be a good gig.

And, indeed, it was a good gig. Folk Tales is a mixture of folkish music and storytelling, as you might guess from the name; and the whole thing together made a rather good combination. I’m not really a fan of some “professional” storytelling, because I find it rather over-dramatic and stilted; I prefer a more naturalistic style of recounting. For that reason, I didn’t enjoy the storytelling as much as the music; but because of the mixture of performers, that wasn’t a problem. The storyteller closest to my taste – for that reason – was the aforementioned Jethro McDonald, who told us about a man who, after a kitchen accident, and ambulance delirium, became obsessed with falling. As I can just about remember a similar chunk of ambulance delirium myself, I could sympathise.

In-between the storytellers, came a selection of local musicians with a similar ambiance: quiet, thoughtful, and with stories to tell. My favourite was probably Shaun McCrindle, partly because of a coincidence: one of the stories in his songs was an anecdote in the David Crystal book I recently read and keep writing about; the others, though, both women playing ukeleles,**** sparkled just as much. Thoughtful songs, which raised wry smiles.

We’ll be going back to Folk Tales, and we’ll remember to get there early again next time, because the audience really had to pack themselves in tightly. We’re making sure we keep turning up in time to get a seat and a cup of tea; not to mention, making sure we can get in the door. If Folk Tales gets much more popular, people will be spilling out onto the quay outside. Understandably so, I’d say, because it’s a very good way to spend a weekday evening.

* and one of the other good things about this city is the converse: if you’re running an event, if you advertise, people will turn up. Putting random posters around the city does work.

** Why we say “let’s go for tea and cake” when we both rarely drink tea itself outside of the house is one of those eternal mysteries. I had coffee that day, for example, and K had hot chocolate; but we still referred to it as “tea and cake”.

*** Dark chocolate digestives, for the record. And we did indeed have tea, despite the previous footnote.

**** It wasn’t clear whether that was themed or coincidental, really.

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Another shaggy dog

In which we tell a tall tale


There once was a teacher, who went by the name of Miss Swing. She was a very good teacher, popular with her children, who were all well-behaved and scored very well on all the tests they took. All the parents at parents’ evening either wanted to be her or be with her, and all her colleagues knew she was wonderful in the classroom, the best teacher the school had.

There was one small problem with Miss Swing, though. She would never agree with anyone else.

If you said something was black, she would say it was white. If you told her the weather was cold, she’d reply she thought it unseasonably warm. Anything you said to her, she would contradict if she could. The only exception was when she was on holiday, when she would be as pleasant and polite a person as you could ever meet. Apart from that, she would always disagree with everything you said.

Finally, one day, someone confronted her. “Why is it,” they said, “that when you’re on holiday you’re as charming as anyone, but when you’re in school, or even after work, you can never agree with anyone?”

“Ahh,” said Miss Swing, “I’m just a contradiction in terms.”

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Shaggy Dog (part three)

In which the tale is concluded


The conclusion. If you need to catch up, here is part one, and part two.

The next day, crowds went to the carpenter’s workshop, as usual, to
try to ask him to build and carve for them. But he was not there.
They looked through the windows, but his workshop was empty. They
looked through the windows of the house, but there was no sign of him.

They searched the entire village, but there was no sign of the
carpenter. After a while the village constable agreed to break
into the carpenter’s house, to find him. But he was nowhere to be
found.

The whole county started searching for the missing carpenter, but he
could not be found anywhere. He had disappeared, completely. They
searched for months, but the carpenter never returned.

Some people thought that he had got so angry with being asked to paint
everything he made, that he had decided to retire and move away. They
could not explain, though, how he had disappeared so suddenly. Others
thought that a disappointed client, who could not find a painter, had
done something; or that a great lord elsewhere had kidnapped him to
create beautiful furniture for the lord alone. Noone ever saw any
furniture in the carpenter’s style, though, but somehow this made
these people even more adamant they were right. Some thought he had
been murdered for the great riches they assumed he had made from his
work; but they were wrong, for he worked for the love of carpentry and
had spent all his money on expensive woods from overseas.

The carpenter never returned to the village, and noone ever saw
furniture like his again. Those things he had made were preserved
carefully by their owners, because they knew they were irreplacable.
To this day, what happened to the carpenter who refused to paint
remains a mystery. As far as anyone could tell, he just varnished.

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Shaggy Dog (part two)

In which the story continues


If you need to catch up, part one is here.

The carpenter was asked to build a bookshelf for the mayor of the
nearest town. He built the best bookshelf anyone in the area had ever
seen. It had strong, firm shelves, yet such fine carving that anybody
who saw it was amazed. Other carpenters from around the county came
to see it, and all came away disappointed that they would never be
able to create such a bookshelf themselves.

The mayor said: “Plain wood will not match the furniture I already
have. Would you paint it for me?”

The carpenter replied: “I have created some of my finest carvings for
this bookshelf. Painting them would ruin the sharpness and the
definition. In any case, I am a carpenter. My craft is wood, not
paint. I will not paint the bookshelves for you.”

The mayor went away disappointed, despite now having the finest
bookshelves anyone had ever seen. All the visitors to his home wanted
to see them and admire them, and the carpenter’s fame grew further.

The bishop of the diocese travelled to the carpenter’s village to see
him. “My palace needs a new dining suite,” he said. “Will you be
able to build me one?”

It was the carpenter’s largest commission yet, but he took it up with
confidence, even though so many people were giving him work that he
was having to turn people away. After several months, he had
completed the finest dining suite yet seen, with intricate seat-backs
and delicate table legs, so finely-carved you would barely believe it
was made of wood.

“Will you paint it for me?” said the Bishop.

“I am not a painter!” said the carpenter. “I am the finest carpenter
this country has known, but people keep asking me to paint my work!
Slapping thick, sticky paint on such delicate chairs would ruin them!
And besides, I am not a painter. I am a carpenter. I work with wood.
I am the finest woodworker anybody knows, but I cannot paint. I will
not paint these chairs, because that is not my craft.”

The bishop went away, disappointed, even though he had the finest
dining suite in the land.

To be concluded…

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Shaggy dog (part one)

In which we start to tell a tale


There was once a man, who was a talented carpenter. He just had to
touch a piece of wood to know how it could be worked, how it might
split, how it would behave under his tools. He started off as a
little village carpenter, making furniture and doors for the people of
his village.

One day, he built a chair for a local dignitary. The dignitary asked
if he could paint it, too.

“Oh no,” said the carpenter. “I’m not a painter. I only work with
wood. I have built you the best chair I can, and I wouldn’t want to
spoil it. If you want it painting, find a painter to do it.”

The dignitary took his chair away, unhappy. Many visitors to his home
saw the chair, though, and were very impressed. Some of them came
back to the village to visit the carpenter themselves, when they
wanted furniture making.

To be continued…

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Fiction, this time

In which we plan a story


Talking of ghost stories, I dreamed an interesting one a few nights ago. I liked it so much, in fact, that I rather fancy working it up into a proper story.

No doubt the plot is one that’s been covered many times before; but there aren’t really very many ghost-story plots that haven’t been well worked-over. The way it came out in my dream – which was of someone telling the story, rather than of the story itself – it was a version of one of the most frequently-used plots of all, the Disappearing Fellow-Traveller.* However, it was, well, rather inverted. I don’t want to say any more, because I don’t want to spoil it for you if I ever do manage to finish it.

* At least one classic story of the Disappearing Fellow-Traveller genre made it, in a retold version, into an anthology of supposedly true ghost stories. I can’t remember many details at all about it; but it concerned someone who got chatting to a fellow-traveller in a railway carriage, and found that the stranger was a friend of the people the traveller was going to visit. On mentioning him at the destination, of course, he turned out to have died some time earlier. I really should work this up and look up the names of the writers and books involved. I’ve got a feeling the “true” book was Railway Ghosts And Phantoms by W B Herbert, but I’m not at all sure.

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