Tag Archives: wonder

I believe in magic

 I love the magic of Christmas. But like anything magical it’s impossible to predict or prescribe. We can decorate the house and garden with glittery ornaments and twinkling lights but we can’t make the magic appear. Yet sometime during the heady season of panic, when there is more to do than there are hours in the day, there’s a special moment when something seen or said or done ignites the wonder, the magic, of Christmas.


Of course expectations are high. Christmas is formed through family traditions, heavily seasoned with memories and nostalgia. No wonder the magic is elusive. And it’s sparked by something different every year, despite the careful rituals, tangled inside the busy bustle obligatory to the season, between shopping and wrapping presents and writing cards and making lists and checking them twice.  


It’s also my experience that magic manifests itself through means which might, to others, appear mundane; a scene in a movie not seen for years; a forgotten piece of music; words from a song; an unexpected phone call, or letter, from a friend. If I could explain what triggered the magic I might know how to attract it. All I know is that something wonderful happens when the sparkle of magic ignites into Christmas.


My first experience of spine-tingling magic happened when I made my debut in pantomime. At the age of eight I was memorably cast as a Christmas pudding. All the role required was to walk on stage as a big, round pudding then tug a cord which allowed the top to open and reveal the pudding had been magically transformed into a little girl. I’m not sure how the cord got knotted, it always ran smoothly during rehearsals, but I wriggled and shook until I managed to squeeze out through the bottom, to tumultuous applause (and my one and only encore).


Later, as an apathetic art student, it was ‘cool’ to deny the sense of anticipation as the final week of winter term exploded into ‘Xmas’ parties. But I remember walking home by moonlight on Christmas Eve, in the wee small hours, and it began to snow for the first time in years. Soon big, white flakes lay thick on the ground and silhouetted against a window I caught sight of a small child jumping up and down with sheer delight. In that moment I realised it doesn’t matter what or where or when or how, you just have to believe, whether you are eight or eighty.


I hope the magic of Christmas stays with me forever. I accept remembrance of past happiness weighs heavily upon the present, and the coming together of family and friends also brings sadness for those no longer here to share our celebrations, but we hold them in our hearts as part of our collective memory of what Christmas means. And now I’m a grandmother I’ve discovered nothing can be more magical than seeing Christmas through my grandchildren’s eyes.




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Where do stories begin?

I often wonder about that moment…..when the telling of tales first began?

Cave-paintings show how our earliest ancestors lived, and their pictures reveal, like tiny chinks of light, what mattered to our ancestors and what their lives involved. But when the men went away to do the hunting what stories did Neolithic mums tell their young? I’m sure they must have had lots to tell, events in their ancestors lives, stories passed from mother to child? Were those stories about love or, like cave paintings, did they revolve around the thrill of the chase. And what about the battles their people had lost and won? Did these mums tell stories to comfort sweet dreams or risk adding horror to nightmares? And did those primitive mums also sing songs to lull their babies to sleep?


A couple of years ago I was fascinated to hear a folk musician on the radio (I was driving at the time and couldn’t take note of his name) explain his life-long search for the oldest tune in the world. And the most  ‘common tune’ he discovered (admittedly sung with different words) in just about every culture he explored, from the Sami peoples of the Arctic Circle to fishermen on the Mediterranean, was the tune known I know as ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star.’ 

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are?

Up above the world so high

Like a diamond in the sky.

He showed how the structure/phasing/melody are all extremely simple, which means the basic tune can be played on fundamental, hand-carved instruments. But I wonder if an Egyptian mother sang similar words as she lay on the roof of her mud-brick home with her children, seeking a cool breeze in the middle of the night after an unbearably hot day. Did she look up at the great span of stars and wonder…… We may never know how long the song has been sung but it is strangely comforting to think it precedes written history.


So back to my original question, how old is storytelling? I believe it is likely as old as humanity, if not older. Even, perhaps, we imagined the story and then we began.


World Storytelling Day is celebrated on the Spring Equinox in northern territories and on the Autumn Equinox in the southern hemisphere. The theme for 2013 is Monsters and Dragons. For more information go to: http://www.freewebs.com/worldstorytellingday/


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