Blog : Posts tagged with 'storytelling'

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A Medley

In which we discuss local things, and eat pancakes


A few different things on my mind today, none of which are worthy really of a full post.

Firstly, in serious local political news, the city council’s minority Labour administration has collapsed, to be replaced with a minority Lib Dem administration. Whether the change in cabinet will lead to any changes to or abandonment of the destructive and wasteful guided busway scheme, much blogged about here in the past few months, we will have to wait and see. For that matter, there may well be changes to the rather rushed scheme to pedestrianise half of Prince St Bridge, which some people think was part of the guided busway plans; but which I think was more likely to be some sort of council sop to transport charity SusTrans, whose main office overlooks the bridge.

Talking of things round the Harbourside, regular readers might remember me talking about Folk Tales, the monthly music-and-storytelling event at the Scout Hut on Phoenix Wharf. February’s Folk Tales was last night; however, me and K didn’t remember this until about half-seven last night, at which point we didn’t really feel like going out. Oh well: roll on the next one. I remembered, when noticing that people have been searching the internet for information about it (and finding me).

Another topical search term: “what happens to Annie in Being Human?” Episode 5 spoiler time: sharp-eyed viewers will have noticed that although Annie was on the verge of passing on to the next world, she hadn’t actually gone when the credits rolled, so will no doubt still be in the final episode. Highlight the preceding bit to read it.

Aside from that: we had plenty of pancakes on Tuesday night, as is only right and proper; and enjoyed them so much, we had more yesterday. Which is probably slightly going against the point of Shrove Tuesday, but never mind. More pancakes has to be a good thing.

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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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New Year’s Eve

In which we celebrate


Wednesday night was New Year’s Eve; and, for once, we went out. Counting on my fingers, I worked out, it must be about seven or eight years since I last went out to an event on New Year’s Eve, rather than just pop round to a graveyard or a friend’s house. Last year, I remember very clearly where I was at midnight: in bed, ill, groaning and wishing the bloody fireworks and cheering would shut up.

This year, though, as I said, we decided we’d go out. Find somewhere which sounded like Our Sort Of Thing, something new to try, and enjoy ourselves. And, indeed we did.

We ended up at the Cube Microplex, the independent cinema off Stokes Croft, for a night called Fascinating Virtue; and fascinating it was, with a stream of small folk-ish, indie-ish bands taking to the stage. One performer, Rachael Dadd,* had flown in from Japan that day, and flung a boxful of Japanese confectionary into the audience for us all to try. One landed right in my lap. We kept the wrapper:

Japanese confectionary wrapper

Other performers included alt-folk storyteller Jetfly, quiet harmonium-equipped duo love.stop.repeat, storyteller Hannah Godfrey telling a tall and beautiful tale in-between, and complex local five-piece Boxcar Aldous Huxley. The latter sounded like a cross between the Everything Is Illuminated soundtrack and the Decemberists,** had not only a harmonium but also a saw, clarinet*** and euphonium, and sang lively songs about such things as the Hellfire Club and how debauchery isn’t as good as you might hope; or the difficulties of being an astronaut in the 19th century. The stage acts finished with Men Diamler, self-proclaimed drunkest act of the evening, who went on to DJ by the bar for a couple more hours. We danced, energetically; skilfully in K’s case, not so much in mine.

K pointed out that often, when you go out on New Year’s Eve, it can be a bit of a compromise: you go out to something that you wouldn’t normally go to, just because you feel you should be going out somewhere. Fascinating Virtue was an event we’d be excited to go to any day of the year.

* I was tempted to ask her if she was related to the famous mentally-ill Victorian artist Richard Dadd, but I didn’t get chance. Which is probably a good thing, because I’d forgotten his first name.

** It was me who thought they sounded like the Decemberists, and K who thought they sounded like the soundtrack. K rather likes klezmer.

*** Any band with a clarinet in has to be a good thing. Except possibly for Supertramp.

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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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Bells

In which we tell a story and hear a funny noise


Writing about the things that the staff say over in Another Part Of The Forest has reminded me of an old folk tale I read once, in a book of English “village fool” stories. I can’t find the book right now, so I’ll do my best to retell it.

It’s specifically about Another Part Of The Forest, and it tells of three travellers who were one day walking along the High Street, to meet a crowd of locals shouting loudly at people to get to church.

“What’s going on?” one asked.

“Well,” said the local, “we’re the local bellringers. Only our church has no bells, so we walk around the town telling people to come to church instead.”

“Never fear,” said the first of the travellers. “Me and my companions are the finest of craftsmen, your town is clearly in need, so we will each make you a bell for your church tower.”

A year later the travellers returned, each with a bell for the town. They were installed in the belfry, and the bellringers started to ring a peal with joy – only to find out that the bells made a slightly odd noise. Their peal went tink, tock, pluff.

“I thought you were the finest craftsmen of your trade!” said the lead bellringer.

“Indeed I am,” said the first craftsman. “I am the finest tinsmith in the county, and you have an exquisite tin bell.”

“So am I also,” said the second. “I am the finest carpenter in the county, and you have a perfect wooden bell.”

“I am but modest,” said the third, “and I can only claim to be the second-best leatherworker in the county. I have given you a top-quality leather bell.”

So that’s why, if you listen to the church bells in Another Part Of The Forest, you’ll still hear them going tink, tock, pluff.

(or at least that’s what the story says. I’ve never heard the bells ringing myself, so I can’t confirm that it’s true. Somehow I suspect not.)

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