Monday, June 27, 2011

Haunted Storyteller

They say the Toledo castle I am sleeping in is haunted.
What they don't know is that it is I that haunts the corridors.
I am seeking my allocated room of three snoring men and one quiet sleeper.
When they said it was shared quarters at the conference of the Federation for European Storytelling, FEST, I thought: another man, a stranger. Perhaps.
Instead, there are four of us breathing the same air in our sleep, waiting for the call to arms.
The corridors are lit by sensor lights that illuminate at your approach. I walk too fast, the lights don't know I am there.
So, the halls I pass through remain dark.
I am the unseen presence. I can see nothing.
I beam in like a bat on the cave of the snoring men; and I am safe.
When the work of the conference is over; I tell my workshop group a story from South Africa told to me in Dublin by a storyteller from Arizona, a year ago.
A rooster is trapped by a wolf who will eat him for lunch. The rooster persuades the wolf to pray and while his eyes are closed the rooster runs away to safety.
Each knows a version from their own country and we elect to tell the story in our own languages, though the lingua franca of FEST is English.
We will tell in Portuguese, Austrian, Irish, Italian and Spanish; no English at all.
Luís from Portugal plays melodeon while we tell our versions in the 200-seater baroque theatre in Toledo.
Luís tells first, then plays for us; then Birgit from Vienna, Brendan from Dublin and Giovanna from Italy.
Alfredo from Chile and Madrid sings a song instead and we all rise, bow, and go home to the haunted castle to find the barman has gone home and the bar is closed.
Drink is sent for and we laugh and talk and drink into the morning in a castle garden looking across the valley to the tiered city of Toledo with its yellow light spilling like gold over the quiet streets.
Over there we told our stories.
For now we are happy.
Storytellers all.
And the ghost smiles.

Storytelling here

Sunday, June 19, 2011

In the air under the ground on the rails up a cliff

I fly to Madrid. Well, I fly to the airport and cannot find the Metro which I know is underneath the airport somewhere.
Outside, in the air, I ask a man who speaks no English where it is hidden. I speak no Spanish so he puts me on a shuttle bus and with hand gestures tells me that I am to get off at the next stop.
The bus travels for twenty metres at speed to the stop and I alight. I see a sign for the metro. I ask where it is of a man under a sign that says he gives free directions; but only in Spanish in an international airport.
I find it on my own and am by now armed with a hand map of the entire system. I am to change lines to get to where I want to be, the railway station in Madrid to catch a train to Toledo.
I ask for assistance at every change and am soon connected to many people in camaraderie in transit that I will never meet again. They are all fellow passengers hurrying about under the ground to get to somewhere else that is over ground.
Arrived at the rail terminal I hear the train I want is full and I have to wait another two hours to catch the final train of the night.
I wait.
It is dark when I reach Toledo and I walk up a cliff with a suitcase full of stories in tow.
Roads are steep in Toledo. I will tell a story in a theatre here; but not this story.

Storytelling here

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Talking Dogs

A woman with a dog stops me to talk to me about her dog and about mine.
I don't mind that she coos over my dog and asks me her name and then speaks to my dog in a familiar way without having been first introduced to my free-running companion.
She tells me what her dog's name is and waits. So does her dog, who is on a lead with a little bell on it to remind him at every step that a human owns him.
I don't feel I can enthuse about a dog I have just met on the way to the river. Me and my dog are going for a swim. Well, she is, and I am going to stand there and try not to get wet when she shakes herself dry.
I don't say this to my dog's new best friend.
She may want to come with me and learn our secret way across the grass to the best place to swim.
We get away and I make a note to travel a different route for a year or so to avoid such an encounter being repeated.
People with dogs can be odd creatures if you meet them unexpectedly on the road, on a sunny morning.
Best avoided.
storytelling here