Honeysuckle Days

Summer is here in earnest. We’ve had a little rain and the honeysuckle on the west side of my home smells sublime.

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Early morning and the perfume is strongest in the cool air. In this variety it’s the yellow flowers seem to release the headiest scent, the white hardly not so much.

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This plant has been documented since the middle of the 14th century and the word is in fact a misnomer – as listed in my copy of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1996:705). It was thought bees sucked honey from these flowers.  They can’t reach the nectar, of course, but hummingbirds do. We do have nectar-eating birds in Australia, but no hummingbirds.

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Originating predominantly in China, about 40 species of honeysuckle grow in Europe and North America … not sure what mine is. I planted it not long after I moved in.

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Did you know Woodbine is another name for Honeysuckle? When I was a child I knew that word as a cigarette brand. When I sang in choir that Robert Burns’ song “Ye Banks and Braes ” I imagined spirals of smoke around the roses. 

Oft hae I been by bonnie Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine.

I wonder where I smelt and saw honeysuckle for the first time? They say honeysuckle symbolises happiness.

A filbert-hedge with wild-briar overtwined,
And clumps of woodbine taking the soft wind
Upon their summer thrones.John KeatsI Stood Tiptoe Upon a Little HillPoems (1817).

Isn’t Keats’ image of honeysuckle flowers as thrones just right? He must have studied the flowers close up and from every angle, like a child.For the dreamy amongst us, Woodbine appears in wedding ceremonies to represent the love that clings without harming anyone. Among the French, giving honeysuckle to a partner represents generous love, and in China dreaming of honeysuckle means passion. 

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Honeysuckle Hero Susan Weeks was Inspector Foyle’s driver in the British TV series “Foyle’s War” … seems she was born when the honeysuckle was in full bloom. 

Oops. I forgot to mention Honeysuckle Creek our famous Space tracking station. It’s 50 years since it sent out the first images of the Apollo landing to the world.

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PS. This is my post for “Something Smelly” for Jenn Mishra’s Inspirational Photo Theme for Dec 16. #witsendtravel

All text (except quotes) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law. 

Six Ways to help Listeners ‘twig’ to your Telling.

Storytellers work at many levels

1. Be clear on the setting of the tale. (Map out the story, search images or info online.)

2. See the action in your imagination. Dwell on your favourite scene – the one that hooked you in the first place. Can you make it more alive?

3. Clear up any details or facts in the plot you’re not sure of.

4. Include listeners in the story. Ask them a question or wonder aloud yourself. Make them curious about the outcome.

5. Add fun where possible. This is entertainment!

6. Feel the emotions as they occur, as the story carries you along.

……………………………

Remember that a story told is a give-away, a gift that you hope is passed on.

See if you can find the ways I’ve tried to do this in a story I’m learning to tell.

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Here’s my written version of an Xmas story I’ve adapted from a 1992 adaption of The Mice and the Christmas Tree by Pat Thomson in A Stocking Full of Christmas Stories, which is a 1956 adaption of the story in the collection Little Old Mrs Pepperpot, which Alf Proysen expanded on from his carol Musevisa (Mouse Song) he composed in 1946. He was one of  Norway’s most famous writers, poets and playwrights. The song has since become part of their Jul tradition.

The Christmas Tree Mice. Adapted by M.Philp 2018

Long ago and far away, in a village in the heart of Norway, lived a family of house mice. There was Ma, Pa, Grandma Mouse and seven mousekins, all snug in their home in the pantry wall of an old red house. Each winter the mice celebrated Yuletide just like people did. They got their home ready for Christmas Eve, swept the dust out using their tails, put out good food, got dressed in their best, gave presents and sang around the tree.

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At a nod from Ma, Pa Mouse would roll in an old pine-cone and decorate it with cobwebs. The mouse-children then lined up in order beside their tree and Ma presented each of them with a nut. Then, as a special treat, she went down the line, holding a piece of dark chocolate under each nose, so they each had a good long sniff at heaven.

Next, the mice all caught hold of each other’s tail and circled their tree, dancing and singing all the songs they knew. After that, they played Blind Man’s Bluff until ‘Lights out’ and time for bed.

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But one year, the youngest child squeaked into the dark “No! No! We don’t’ want to go!”

“Don’t be silly,” replied both parents. “We’ve all had our Good Jul. Now off you go to sleep, the lot of you!”

The eldest child refused and explained that they all wanted to dance around that really big tree in the front room of the house. Only yesterday he’d seen it through a crack in the skirting board and had told the others how beautiful it looked.

Ma Mouse choked and coughed. She reminded them how dangerous it was to go into those giant rooms.

“Not … if they’re all fast asleep!” stressed the littlest mouse, looking at Pa with shining eyes.

“Oh well, … it is Christmas,” declared Pa looking at  Ma. “Follow me, children!” Off they set. Ma brought up the rear, calling “Mind you go carefully and very quietly.” Grandma decided to stay behind and finish knitting her scarf.

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One after the other they quickly crept along, inside the walls of the house till they emerged from the crack in the skirting board. There was the tree reaching to the rafters. “Ooh … aah” they sighed. “Oh, it’s lovely … and so tall! ”

“That’s a Norwegian Spruce for you!” announced Pa. The mischief of mice then skittered by the wall till they sat beneath the wondrous tree. The littlest mouse whimpered to the eldest “But … where are the stars you saw? You said there were lots of sparkling stars all over.”

Meanwhile, Ma Mouse had arrived at last at the opening but couldn’t get through because of her big tummy. She was breathless and grabbed a cord to steady herself. Suddenly, the tree lit up with twinkling stars.

The rest of the family crept around the tree admiring those magic lights, the tinsel; the strings of flags. They even clambered among the pile of boxes underneath. I don’t know who it was found the truck first, but soon all the children were in the back and Pa was in the cab. Imagine their squeals of delight when it started to move and Pa drove them across the room to Ma who pleaded “Children. Not so much noise! Someone will hear!”

They all waved to Ma as the truck went past and then squealed at it veered towards the door, which suddenly clicked open. Each mousekin jumped and clung to their neighbour. As the truck swerved away, a fat brown cat walked in, carrying its tail high.

Pa drove straight back behind the tree. When they came round the other side, there sat the cat on the mat. Pa turned the wheel hard round and drove faster. The wheel stuck there!  Each time the truck came round the tree, the cat made swipes with his paw as it zoomed past. The mice froze with fear in the back.

Oh no! The truck began to slow down! Pa drove in among the boxes. As soon as it came to a stop, he yelled “Everybody out! Up the tree!” Little grey bodies scampered up the trunk and hung on to the highest branches for dear life.

Cat Below pulled at the mat with her claws and squinted up. “Come on down,”she sighed impatiently. “Tonight is not the time for catching.”

“Oh no, we won’t!” shouted the eldest mouse, clinging to a star. “You’ll pounce on us and torment us. We know what cats do.”

“Not tonight!” sighed the cat, looking at her clean claws and then up at these new ornaments. “Christmas Eve is the only time I’m kind to mice!”

The mice froze again as she slowly stretched and got up, walked to the door and called back, “Better watch out … if I see you tomorrow … !” The mice held their breath. Then the door closed and she was gone.

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When the family were safely back in their little home, Ma Mouse made all the children promise not to go up to the big house again, to always do as they were told and never to give cheek to the cat. They promised, with their front paws crossed behind their back.

Then one by one, each mousekin took from their pocket, some little strips of tinsel, or a Norwegian flag, wisps of wool, snippets of ribbon and thin silver stars. These they proudly hung on their own cone tree.

And so it was from that night on and ever after, the mice had a fine Yule tree and a  happy story to tell their own children every Merry Christmas.

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[Dedicated to LC, my Lucky Cat]

All text and photos by Meg. Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Sources

‘The Mice & the Christmas Tree’ by Alf Proysen (adapted) in A Stocking Full of Christmas Stories collected by Pat Thomson. London, Transworld, 1993. pp109 -118.

[Pat Thomson has written over 50 books, great to read aloud. Look out for them in libraries]

Mice Word list

I learned a lot about mice here! A collection of mice can be a trip, horde or a mischief!

Alf Proysen: Norwegian poet, playwright, musician, author & songwriter

Mrs Pepperpot stories

Christmas in Norway (includes choir singing Proysen’s song (Musevisa)

PS. Spot the mistake in one of the photos. Happy Days!

Finding Your Treasure

Searching for stories that appeal and that I’d want to tell is like hunting for treasure. Lately, I’ve been searching for stories and images about treasure.

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I’ve had loan of a carefully wrapped 1919 collection of Hindu tales that Anne’s mother used to read aloud to her sister and she. They would talk about every story afterwards.

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This one is about a Brahmin, a much- revered holy beggar, who hoards the money and jewels he is given and then, to keep it safe, buries it all in the forest. When he discovers it’s been stolen, he announces he will starve himself to death, unless his treasure is returned! His treasure is returned when the king of that district cleverly finds the thief, whom he then pardons but whom the Brahmin will not. The story sets up the need to talk about it more by ending thus –

Every one who has read this wonderful story would, of course, want to know what became of him after that, but nothing more is told about him.

Stories need to be talked through, mulled over, repeated and given to someone else.

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Many a good story is shared over a cuppa. What a pot! There is a story there.

As I was walking a treasure to school on Wednesday, she talked about how, as part of Book Week celebrations,  a teacher had come dressed as a pirate. “She had lots of gold in a box, “she said. “Of course, it wasn’t real,” she added, sounding a bit disappointed.

Remember being excited as a kid by the notion of a treat kept in a special place you weren’t allowed to go?

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I used to be impressed by these cars … never drove one!

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A ‘Leaper’ bonnet mascot from an older Jaguar car.

A 13th century poet, Rumi, told of a poor man of Baghdad who had the same dream on several nights, telling him to go to Cairo where he would find treasure in a certain quarter, at a certain spot. He followed that dream, made the long journey, only to be captured by the night patrol while begging for food. He confessed to his captor why he had come to Cairo, who then admitted he’d had ignored a similar dream. His dream had told of treasure buried in Baghdad, in a certain street, in a particular house yard. As he listened, the captive realised it was in  his garden! As soon as he was set free, the poor man hurried home to find his treasure. What did he find?

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Plovers’ eggs which did eventually hatch, grow and fly the nest in a local park.

There’s a more recent (2007) Palestinian version of that ancient story called The Farmer Who Followed His Dream in a children’s collection by Sonia Nimr.   (I included this map of it in my last post.)

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It was when I told my version of the story again to a live, adult audience that the ending changed. A stranger came up and said how much they liked it. A regular  grinned and whispered across to me as I sat down, “Vintage Meg!”

The meaning made hangs on the storyteller’s intonation.

Without changing the final words,  I’d said them differently, for I was feeling and seeing what his treasure truly was when he reached home – family and children.

Treasure, for me, is the same  … and includes my extended family – the dear people I have as friends.

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A new grandson for a longtime friend.

References:

In Cairo Dreaming of  Baghdad, In Baghdad Dreaming of Cairo in Delicious Laughter: Rambunctious Teaching Stories from the Mathnawi of Jelaluddin Rumi. Versions by Coleman Barks. Athens, Georgia. Maypop Books, 1990.

A Royal Thief-Catcher in MITRA, S.M. (trans) Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit. Adapted by Mrs Arthur Bell. London Macmillan, 1919. pp 30 – 45.

The Farmer Who Followed his Dream in NIMR, Sonia. Ghadder the Ghoul and Other Palestinian Stories. London, Francis Lincoln, 2007. pp23 – 27.

All text and photos (except last one) by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

 

 

 

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

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

Australia Colours the Tale

As a storyteller, I do my best to see the story unfold in my imagination as I tell. A well-known American teller, Gioia Timpanelli, once said to me, “If you’re going to tell as story about an eagle, make sure you’ve had a real close look at one.”

Looking closely here in Oz, it’s colours that are especially striking –

Ficus Tree Pink, a sign of new growth.

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Sunset Mauve Flame, the colour of the Flame Child’s dress in Jospeph Jacob’s ” My Own Self”

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Aquamarine, on the edge of the sea, the place the farmer retired to in “J.Percy Cockatoo” by J.Bodger & M.Philp.

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Kelpie Cattle Dog Red in many a faithful, farm dog, tale.

DSCF0029Ancient Grass Tree Green.

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Soft Pelican White, where ‘his beak holds more than his belly can.’

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 Guava like watermelon – juicy, sweet-smelling tucker.

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Eucalyptus Speckle Bark on the “Galah Tree” where those pesky birds roost  in Jean Chapman’s tall tale of the same title.

IMG_1561 Silver Quandong Fruit Blue, the colour of the new eyes Vulture finds for Jaguar, in M.R. Macdonald’s “Little Crab with Magic Eyes”

IMG_1280Sugar Almond Sundown, the end to a perfect winter’s day.

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Don’t Forget to Remember

This post is for me. I’ve learned a few things the hard way in this blog.  There are steps I have to remember…

I had a strict Geography teacher in high school. I don’t remember his real name, for we all deferred to him as “Sir” quick- smart, or “Albert” with a nod towards his room, amongst ourselves. His star turn was to give a hundred lines if we forgot anything for class … and the line was “I must remember not to forget to remember to bring my geography equipment at the appropriate times.” I only ever forgot once.

Posting a blog I need to remember to –

Make backup copies of all the photos and text I create. Double-up if necessary.

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Aim for the target, but expect to be distracted.

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Avoid typing when ruffled, especially early in the morning.

DSCF0068Keep me eyes peeled when I’m out and about.

DSCF0025Always take a camera. I never know who I might meet.

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Try not to be a dragon with the details.

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Remember life is risk and dare. But be wary of the delete button.

Yes. I’m on this raft and that’s another story!

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Don’t take it all so seriously,

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and always stop for a celebratory cuppa, before I hit “Publish!”

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What have I forgotten? Reminders welcome!

All photos and text by Meg Philp©2014

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

Throw-away Lines

IMG_1024 Both my grandfathers signed up for Highland regiments and survived WW1.

As a child, I have a memory of watching my maternal grandmother, ironing on her wooden board in the kitchen and her telling me that the worst ironing job was my grandfather’s kilt when he was home on leave from the Front. This was a confusing idea for me. I’d seen how a  kilt was made.

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 “The lice in it, “she explained. “I had to use the iron, pressing hard up and down the seams on his kilt . You’d hear the crunching as you ironed. Then, it was out to the wash-house, lots of soap, and some would float out then. But it was after the kilt had dried on the line, I’d poke them out each folded seam with a knitting needle.  It took a while. Then I’d press the kilt for him and off he’d go back to the war.”

My aunt knows more family history than I ever will. As a daughter –in-law, she was close to my father’s shy parents, and is a great talker. On the phone this week, I asked about what she knew about my paternal grandfather’s experiences in WW1.

 “Oh …  “ she said. “It was never talked about at home,” she sighed. “It was all too terrible“ Then she giggled, and quipped “He and a mate chipped in and bought a monkey when they were in France. “

“Why, for goodness sake?” I asked. Still laughing, she replied. “It picked the lice off their kilts!”

That line has haunted me since. I see a little, nervous monkey, among the horrors of war, picking away at tartan seams.

Have you ever had a throw-away line grab you like that?

All text and photos by Meg

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