Rocamadour: Ritual Wanderlust

For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have stopped in this gorge on their way through France to the Santiago Di Compostela. There’s a shrine to a Madonna here.

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When we’ve come this far, we may as well keep going along the only street.

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Buildings cling to the canyon walls, while a castle crowns the crest.

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How do we get up there? Where are we?

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Climb more stairs at the castle, past the clock tower which begins to toll the hour. Shakily, step out onto the ramparts to get a better view: a sense of where we are in the world.

DSCF0593Looking down, there’s the Sanctuary with its basilica and chapels. Put one foot in front of the other. Go in and light a candle. Sit. Go back in time. Read the words on a mural ” Aimer, Evangeliser, Servir.” (To love, to proclaim, to serve.) Sit still in the space.

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Later, we followed the sheltered path, down past the 14 Stations of the Cross, where millions have walked before.  We talked of history and how fortunate we are to live now.

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I’ve taken a while putting this post together. ‘Wanderlust’ doesn’t seem the right word to me. I’m more of a WanderLuck person.  Now, especially with my camera, I notice good fortune more that ever.

When I was travelling in 88, setting out as a storyteller for the first time, I was given a copy of an Armenian story by New York storyteller Diane Wolkstein. She wanted me  to write it out again in my own way. It felt like a test. I did a fearfully poor job of it then. Years later I realised what a significant tale it is.

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Here’s a shortened version of what I read then in Virginia Tashjian’s collection “One There Was And Was Not.” Like most stories, it’s so much better told, face to face –

One there was and was not, a man who walked off in a temper one morning to find God. He was a poor farmer who’d struggled all his life. He wanted to tell God, once and for all how unfair his life had been.

On the way he met a ravenous, skinny wolf who wanted him to ask God why he was always so hungry, then a beautiful, rich woman, who was so lonely and next, a huge tree by a riverbank withered and thirsty. Each listened to his complaints, without judgement, and requested that he ask a similar question of God on their behalf. The man agreed and went on his way.

He met God sitting on a rock in the middle of nowhere. The man asked for answers for those three he’d met on the way. When God heard his complaint, he agreed with the fellow and gave him the gift of luck.

On the journey back, the man reiterated the solution to each character as he had been told … but was in too much of a hurry to dig up the treasure choking the tree roots and rejected the rich woman’s proposal. He had to get back home for he had been given the gift of luck.

And the wolf’s god-given solution ? ” Soon he would meet a very foolish man and once he had devoured him, only then would his hunger be truly satisfied!”

(I’ll leave you to imagine the ending.)

Thanks for your time.

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Wanderlust

References

Rocamadour

Shrine

Taking The Road

This week’s photo challenge is to show something that surprised or delighted me on the road taken.

(I do need to acknowledge the patience of friends & family when we’re driving along, & I suddenly call out from the backseat, “Stop! I need to take a photo.”)

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In some traditional tales, taking to the road to seek their fortune was often the only way folk could solve their troubles.

In Norroway, long ago, there lived a widow and three daughters who were so poor that they barely had enough to keep body and soul together. One morning the eldest came to her mother and said, “Bake me a bannock and roast me a collop for I’m going to seek my fortune.”

Continue reading

A ‘Good’ Match : WPC

This week’s Photo Challenge gave me too much choice. I scrolled thru my photos and mulled over my choices for a while. ‘Good’ is such a loaded word.

The colour of my neighbour’s ‘Tilly’ (Utility Truck) is pretty close to the blossoms on my Illawarra Flame Tree. Reds are hard to match.

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Last year I was keen to get a photo from the train going over my favourite railway bridge. Continue reading

The Kelpies : WPC Names

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Since 2013 these 30m high sculptures have attracted thousands of tourists to Central Scotland. Their creator, Andy Scott, sought to celebrate the mighty horses which pulled coal barges along the tow paths of the Union Canal, more than two hundred years before. He didn’t name them Kelpies, but this is the name remembered from old legends which has caught the public imagination. I wonder why?

Perhaps you haven’t heard of them –

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Long ago, folk tales about Kelpies warned children not to go near deep, lonely water, or untended horses, lest they be carried away. These legendary creatures were said to feed on human flesh. Children, young women or weary travellers, once they mounted, were held fast, to be carried off, drowned and devoured.  William Stobbs’ cover illustration captures the underlying mood of such stories.

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There’s one gruesome story of a school child who laid just one finger on a Kelpie. When it was held fast, he knew from the look in that horse’s eye that this was a dreaded water horse. Only iron could save him, so he quickly used his penknife to cut off his own finger . All the other school children on its back were carried off and never seen again. He was the only child left in that village for a long time.

In Australia today, a ‘Kelpie’ looks like this.

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 It’s a breed of smart, hard-working dogs: almost an icon of Outback life. This one’s a Red Kelpie.Perhaps you’ve seen the movie Red Dog, based on a real kelpie’s story. There’s a sequel out in cinemas right now.( I’ll have to take hankies if it’s anything like the first one.) There are also Black & Tan, Chocolate and Smokey Blue Kelpies. They make faithful family pets – that’s more my kind of Kelpie.

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Names

How Mary Medlicott “twigs” on her Storyworks Blog

Here’s a great example of how Story “twigs” your imagination.

Mary is a longtime storyteller and author of several  compilations of stories and more. I have been following her blog for over a year now … and I learn so much.

Reblogged here with permission. Thanks, Mary

Thursday night, we went to see King Lear in the Royal Shakespeare Company production at the Barbican. It was hard and long and brilliant and Anthony Sher was a completely believable and utterly moving Lear. As his three daughters responded to his request to tell him how much they loved him, it was immediately clear…

via Storytelling Starters ~ Dear as Salt — Mary Medlicott’s Storyworks Blog

Giving a Fig for Storytelling

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Ooooooh fresh figs! Some years ago I planted a Brown Turkey fig tree just so I could celebrate February with this tangy, moist fruit. Right now, the tree’s laden with more figs than ever, which darken as they ripen. I’ve been giving figs away to neighbours.

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Once, a long time ago, an old man was planting a young fig tree when the king of that country rode by. He reined in his horse and asked why all the youngsters in his family weren’t doing such heavy work, planting trees. “After all,” he added. “They are the ones who will eat the fruits?”

The old man bowed and explained that he’d learned about growing trees from his father, and his father’s father. “Now it’s my turn to plant trees so my grandchildren will enjoy them.”

The king agreed that figs were a most delicious food and thanked him for his work. As he turned to ride on, the ruler suggested the old man might bring some to to the palace, if the trees bore well.

IMG_8749It was some years, after careful pruning and tending, that the trees flourished and yielded a crop of ripe brown, pungent globes of fruit. While his doubting wife shook her head, old grandfather filled a small basket and set off for the palace.

The guards refused to believe that their king had asked for this crazy old man’s figs. When he pulled back the cloth and lifted the fruit to their noses, explaining, “Just say, that the old man he saw planting the fig tree comes bearing the fruit of his labours,” he was brought before the king.

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The monarch remembered their meeting and so enjoyed eating those figs that he had his Royal Treasurer fill the basket with gold coins. Beaming, the old man bowed in thanks and wandered home with a full heart. On the way, a nosy neighbour spotted a shiny coin as it fell from the basket. He rushed over and held it up to him. Aghast at the old man’s good fortune, he quickly invited him in for tea. There, he learned of the king’s fondness for figs.

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Just after dawn next day, the man had his wife fill her biggest basket with figs from their garden. When it was full, he staggered off to the palace gate and demanded to see the king. The shouting that ensued attracted not only a motley crowd but also the king, who was about to ride out.  The Gate-Keepers stood smartly to attention, and a hush fell over the curious. All listened to the fig bearer and their king, with shocked faces moving from each in turn. When king realised that the man wanted a reward for his figs, he drew in a deep breath, shook his head and gathered up the reins.

“No,’ he said, turning away from the demanding citizen. Then he declared, “Unlike you, the old man gave to me wholeheartedly, expecting no reward. Guards! Let him have his figs. Stand him against the wall and have the people throw them at him!” With that, he and his retinue galloped off, leaving the crowd scrabbling for their fruity missiles.

The greedy neighbour returned home a sad, sticky, splattered mess.  His wife giggled helplessly at the sight of him, saying that all he gotten for his figs, was figs!

“Enough of this, wife,” he muttered as he sat down. “I’ve been a fool … but a lucky fool…  lucky because it was soft figs they threw at me … not beetroots.”

Within the week, his story had spread through the city. His wife, meanwhile, boiled what figs they had left with sugar and made jam. As she spooned it thickly on her bread one morning, she sighed and looked husband up and down.

“Ah yes, dear husband,” she mused. “The taste of fig jam will always remind me of what a glorious mess you got yourself into!”

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 Sources:

Adapted from “The Figs” in Schram, Penninah. The Hungry clothes and other Jewish folktales. New York, Sterling, 2008: 22-4

http://museuconfitura.com/en/historia-de-la-confitura/

All text and photos © Meg Philp

 Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

 

 

 

Time kept on slipping



IMG_7532We had a great holiday last month. Friend  – storyteller, author  – Naomi Baltuck even posted a blog about it. We cruised on ferries. went for long walks, caught up,

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talked, listened and told, as well as heard, great stories.

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 Leaving Seattle, after a ‘history-making’ good time with Naomi is always hard.

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 I’d had an awesome Autumn.

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Flying past the luminous, snow-covered Mount Rainier at sunset made me feel small and very fortunate.

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As the plane came into land that night at LA, I watched the vast spread of city lights twinkle below us. Where had I seen this before?

Here, is where my time slip began. Perhaps you remember this –  Los Angeles in 2019 – from Bladerunner

Arriving at the Tom Bradley International Terminal was awesomely disorienting. Hi tech designs, with huge video screens, columns of light flickering above, beside and ahead of me. I had to ask the man in the iStore where the Departures info was. That’s it, in the photo, three floors up on the left!

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(Photo taken by Praytino copied under CC 2.0 licence)

I felt so disoriented, I couldn’t focus … then … I heard my my name called from the heavens. “Meg Fillip, please bghajkkljd, lkajsd, ijnn, ooa, inmpe am cfoeee. Meg Fillip, please bghajkkljd, lkajsd, innj , ooa, inmpe am cfoeee.” That helpful man in the iStore said it generally meant you were being called to your departure gate.

I hot-footed it to the distant gate which was about as ornate as a temporary hangar.  The flight attendant took my Boarding Pass and handed me a new one, unfazed by my query as to why I had been summoned. (I do have a Scottish accent, so perhaps this was dismissed as unintelligible … I was a bit stressed.) So I sat there in the departure lounge, waiting, waiting …closed my eyes to wish I was back in those cool woods again.

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When I opened them, a woman was standing in front of me, staring. “Lee!” I squeaked. Here was  a fellow Aussie storyteller I hadn’t seen in years. “I heard your name called and I couldn’t believe this was you, but I see that it is!” she laughed. I was so relieved. We hugged.

She helped me break the announcement garble. Lee heard that someone with my name had left something behind in Security. I looked around me and froze … no cabin bag …  quick march back there.

No. They hadn’t blown it up. My purple spotted, unlocked, blue carry-on was intact. A weary supervisor put down his coffee and sandwich, got it for from a back room for me – no trouble.

What a sense of relief … my feet were back on the ground again. I took this reassuring photo as I passed the bookshop. (They’re reading a book about puppies.)

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Well, I flew home safe … but not that sound. No sleep and in the dark, my mind skewed through time – dreams, images, words and background noises,  all melding together like a shimmering, Munch scream …I was encased in a swelling gum bubble showing flickers of story on the inside …

In Scottish folktales there’s lots of instances of characters slipping in time. I have never really thought about them being so disorientated … being ‘away with the fairies’ –  a hundred years pass by in a night of fiddle-playing for the fairy folk, or a man with no story to tell has a dream, or one goes exploring in a cave …

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or venturing out in a graveyard one night to visit the land of the dead. This takes the main character three hundred years, in the Italian tale One Night in Paradise. When he returns, there are strange buildings where his home used to be.

In the Irish legend of Bran’s Voyage, the sailors think they’re gone for three years, not for hundreds! When they return, the men are warned not to set foot on dry land or else!  One sailor steps off and he turns to dust. The ship and crew are doomed to sail the oceans forever. What a fate!

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Magpie in my Illawarra Flame tree

I woke up to soft light and the calls of familiar birds greeting the dawn. Later, as I walked my usual route around by the creek, the Jacarandas confirmed it is Spring time in Brisbane. I was on home ground.

Jacarandas early morning

Jacarandas early morning

I’m not “away with the fairies” now but the air is heady with the scent of Star Jasmine, and Mock Orange. And the strongest perfume of all, comes from a bush where the flowers are purple when they first open, then fade slowly with each passing day, till they are white, commonly known as

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Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow!

In the inimitable words of the Steve Miller Band, Time keeps on slipping!

…………………

All text and photos by Meg, except Praytino’s photo as  indicated.

Some stories I’ve told featuring time slips –

One night in paradise in CALVINO, Italo. Italian folktales.

The Man with no story to tell in DOUGLAS, Sheila. The King o the Black Art and other folktales.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Characters: play with the details! Hodja No. 2

“In traditional tales like “The Enormous Turnip” from Russian folklore, we’re introduced to settings and characters through the barest of details. Often the characters are nameless.

Once upon a time, an old man planted a turnip..

I wonder what he looked like and what his wife called him – “Husband,” “Dearie,” or “Thomas?”

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© Meg Philp

What was he wearing? Did he have a favourite shirt that he wore all week?

What was he good at? What other hobbies did he have?

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What was his favourite food? Was he fond of cooking?

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Did he have a favoured pet? What was its name?

Up until the turnip appeared, what was he most proud of in his garden?

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© Meg Philp

Did he talk to the plants, or sing to them all? (Did they talk back?) Did he have a favourite garden song? He did? He taught it … to a friend?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u90qRE2F7CM

Answers to questions like these make characters real. All those kinds of details add up. These invented answers don’t go into my telling of the story. While I may have them in my mind’s eye and in my looking out into the audience … I try to hold a sense of that personality there. As I begin to tell, they’re there, ready for the story, as large as life.

Of course, Nasreddin Hodja (a tricky character to understand, I’ve found) had heard the story of The Enormous Turnip. He liked to tell it dramatically in the school playground, extolling the virtues of vegetables, and engaging the audience in the action. The children re-enacted the tale over and over again. One afternoon, after one such telling, he went home for a sack. Then he climbed over a neighbour’s wall, for he’d seen into their abundant home garden, with its row upon row of leafy greens – beets, cabbage, kale.

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“Come to me, my beauties!” he cried, as he started filling the sack he’d brought with him. As he bent over the stalks, his neighbour suddenly appeared at his back door shouting,  “What are you doing here!”

“That Shamal blew me here!” protested Hodja, holding his sides as he straightened up.

“I hear or see no wind! And who pulled up my vegetables?”

“Didn’t I have to grab what I could … to stop me from being blown away?”

“Oh yes? So how do you account for your sack being full of my vegetables?”

“Funny you should ask that. I was just pondering that myself … when you startled me by shouting so loudly.”

All of a sudden, Hodja took to his heels and vaulted over the wall – no mean feat for a man of his age. He looked back at the wall in amazement, unable to move.

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One of the children walking home from school, spied him lying there and ran up, calling, “Hodja! Here! Give me your hand and let us pull you up!”

[Adapted from Strange you should ask …  In Shah, Idries. The Pleasantries of the incredible Mulla Nasreddin. Picador. 1975: 44.]

Shamal: a summer northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf, often strong during the day, but decreasing at night. http://windlegends.org/windnames.htm

All other text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

What Motivates Characters ?

As a storyteller I imagine that the characters in the story I am telling are real. I can see them in my mind’s eye. They have human qualities. As I prepare a story for retelling, I’m often stopped in my tracks wondering “Why did they do this  … and not that?

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There’s a Sufi story Idriess Shah retells about a group of villagers discovering something they’d never seen before in the middle of their wheat field. They thought it was a monster and ran for their lives. 

Life does bring the unexpected. Wandering in a garden, I  wondered what made gardeners do this?

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Then one day, a knowing stranger came along. When he crept up to investigate the monster he saw it was a watermelon. But pretending he was a brave warrior, he jumped up and killed it : chopped it to pieces. The villagers were amazed. When he then began to eat it noisily, they were horrified and feared they might be next! So they chased him out of the area.

This world is full of differences; new; strange; unfamiliar.

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There are sights that can arouse assumptions. Who are the flowers for … and why?
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Why did they leave these behind? Did they have fun stomping on the cans?

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“What possessed the makers to dye these cheeses?

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Recently, my sister told me she’d watched the completion of beautiful mural near the Paris flat where we were staying. Next day, what I saw wasn’t what I expected. Why did he do this?

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Some days later another traveller walked into the village and heard about their monster in the wheat field. When he saw how frightened they were, he crept to the field alongside them and having seen the watermelon, said they were right to be afraid and together they ran back to the village. He stayed with them for a while and every day, bit by bit, he told them all the facts that he knew about watermelons … until the time came when the villagers were no longer afraid and they started cultivating those strange fruits themselves.  

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© Meg Philp

Thankfully, characters’ motives in folktales are made really obvious.  Balance must be restored and problems solved in a shortened space of time . Each character’s desires are made clear from the beginning. They want to change, to go out and seek their fortune :  to move from ill fortune to good fortune,  from fear to confidence, from doubt to trust. They want to live well.

When observing people’s actions in real life, their motivation is not easy to fathom.

Perhaps that’s why people tell stories. By learning from a safe distance what others feel like –  through the story’s characters, their choices and possibilities for action – we are learning how to live well, together, before any “monsters” appear.

I can learn about myself and others by putting myself in the character’s place. As the poet W.H Auden once said,

The way to read a fairy tale is to throw yourself in.

What do you think?

All text and photos by Meg

NB. I read this Idries Shah’s story recently but I can’t remember where. You can find Sufi stories in his collections like –

Tales of the Dervishes: teaching-stories of the Sufi Master over the past thousand years, London, Octagon Press, 1982

 Story Twigs …! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Making the Change

It’s been a while since my last post.  I have ceased working for my employer of 39 years.

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Here’s the card I got from some of the kids. I treasure their ‘comments.’

Report card

After my refusal to ‘work’ like the good daughter in Grimm’s Mother Holle tale of my last Blog, I’ve stopped and just got on with it .

Just like the golden-haired daughter, I’ve been doing what needs doing –  ‘shaking the apple tree,’ and ‘stacking the fruit.’

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Getting back to sustaining routines and some order in my life.

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I’ve given away all the books I don’t need any more. Like the ugly sister who returns with no treasure, but covered in black stuff that sticks to her for the rest of her days, I’ve let “stuff” weigh me down, most of my working life – data … information …

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 So now I’m into celebrating simple experiences,  like the perfect boiled egg,

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Being home with myself “when the feathers fly” as I make the beds,

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Keeping a weather-eye open for signs of change,

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Cherishing my freedom,

Homing pigeon

Friends and fun

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And wondering how it will be now …  telling more stories …

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and singing silly songs as I follow a new path.

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All text and photos by Meg

 Story Twigs …! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.