It’s the story, Stupid!
On putting myself into the story
and the story into myself
One morning Cadwallader noticed his favourite goat Jenny was missing.
When people ask me what I do my reply bores them.
He saw her halfway up the hill and went after her. But she kept on disappearing only to pop up again further up the slope. Higher and higher she led him, onto the rocks.
I told my friend Steve this the other day and he said, ‘You’re a storyteller so start with a story.’ And he reminded me of the following occurrence. On a course I was teaching, everyone was asked to choose and tell a story. One woman found the story of Cadwallader and started telling it.
In exasperation Cadwallader picked up a rock and threw it at the goat.
Her telling was full of pauses.
The rock hit her. She fell out of sight.
After an especially long pause, she said, ‘I don’t think I can go on.’
‘What’s the matter?’ I asked.
‘It’s my voice… I just feel so self-conscious. I’ve always had this thing about my voice.’
‘Well, we haven’t noticed a problem,’ I said. ‘You have a great storytelling voice, and we all want to know what happens next.’ She sat in silence, and then continued.
Cadwallader scrambled down the cliff and found Jenny where she lay dying. Full of remorse, he cradled her head in his lap and she looked at him with her big soft brown eyes.
And then there was no goat.
In her place stood a beautiful woman. ‘Oh, Cadwallader, have you found me at last?’ She took him by the hand and led him up a mountain. On and on they went and at the top they came to a great herd of wild goats.
The biggest billy goat of them all took one look at Cadwallader and butted him off the mountain. He hit his head on a rock and knew no more.
‘The thing I like best about storytelling is the silences.’ Abbi Patrix
Birdsong and sunshine awoke him next morning where he lay.
Of the woman and the goats there was no sign.
He never saw Jenny again.
No-one spoke. At last I said, ‘That is your story. You were Cadwallader and Jenny was the story and she kept on getting away from you. You nearly killed her in the middle there and yet that too helped make it something extraordinary. That is your story and I hope you keep telling it.’
That is her story.
This is mine. When people ask me what I do this is what I tell them.
(Photos taken holidaying at my in-laws on the Isle of Portland in Dorset)