We are surrounded by stories, and stories are everywhere.
We are each made up of layers upon layers of stories, and it is precisely these stories, wrapping themselves around us like a magic cloak, that work to inform and shape our identities; telling others who we are, and perhaps most importantly, telling ourselves, of who we are.
I have always loved stories. As a child I would reach out an ear, ready for the stories I would hear the grown-ups tell.
My maternal Grandmother was French and I loved hearing the stories of a different country that felt like home. The romance of a different and beautiful language, and all those second-hand tales of Convent schools, rosary beads and difficult nuns clicking down the corridors, fierce looks on their faces.
My. Grandmother Jacqueline Delance – she has written ‘To my Eric’ on the photograph. Eric was her husband. My Grandpa…
There is a story that my Great-Grandpa may have helped the Resistance during the war. He was buried with emblem of the Croix-De-Lorraine on his coffin. We were told later, that this was a known symbol for those who supported, or were members of Free French. A kind of shared secret code for those who assisted, or took part in Resistance work.
If my Great-Grandpa did so, he never spoke of them. Some stories, are not for the telling. They are to imagined and revered, and to be wondered at. They are certain stories that remain elusive and full of mystery.
My English Grandpa made wonderful home-movies (which we discovered years after he had passed away, in my Uncle’s attic) These wonderful cine films, brought to life my Great-grandparents, French markets and my Mum when she was a little girl.
My Dad, meanwhile, came from generations of farmers. And these stories were more earthy, more rooted in land and hard work.
My Great Grandfatber, Harry, and my Grandad, Wilf. Taken in a field with a champion crop of flax in 1940.
My Grandparents had an Italian Prisoner of war who worked on their farm. He took my Dad out into the fields with him, keeping him safe by strapping him to the helm of a horse-cart, while he worked.
I look at my Dad, and these stories feel so important. They explain to me who he was as a boy. And they explain the father he is to me now.
These stories I took as my own; absorbing their adventures, and turning them into pocket-fables. These worlds of charm, heartbreak and love, that I could turn into life-lessons and learn from.
Later, as I grew older and looked beyond my family for stories, I learnt in the same way I had at my Mothers knee, to listen out for stories in public places – on buses, trains, queues at post offices and across tables in busy cafe’s.
Stories strangers shared with you on late night train rides, or waiting for taxis in heavy snow. This was before mobile phones, when talk was all around, when a good gossip happened over a counter, rather than on a Facebook timeline.
But that isn’t to say that Social Media doesn’t promote or encourage storytelling. In fact Instagram, for instance, puts storytelling at the heart of what it does best; bringing people together by the stories and images that are shared.
On Instagram, you can find such beautiful examples of storytelling, and for me, the best kind. Small insights into little moments, which in themselves speak of larger narrative arcs hidden behind them.
People who are brave enough to share a story, and to contribute towards building a lexicon of daily life; from the momentous to the minutiae, with a picture that draws you in, and an accompanying thread of a story written beautifully beneath it.
Creating a little world laid out in words and images, inviting you to imagine the rest.
The difficulty is to slow down long enough to take them in. To resist the urge to move on to the next story and the next, but instead to stop and pause, to take some moments to really listen. We should all be doing more of that. After all, a good story will always need an even better listener for it to really come to life.
There is, of course, the argument that Instagram can be seen as idealistic or contrived, by offering up the best narrative versions of ourselves and the lives we lead.
But isn’t it also true that the art of a good storyteller is to do precisely that? To present a story with a little spin and polish. To take an event, a memory, a glance, and by breathing the storytellers magic upon it; illuminating it into something meaningful ~ something memorable. Something magical.
A passing moment, which becomes an open door to a tale, no matter how ordinary its setting.
So my stories here – the stories I write, the snippets of my days I collect in notebooks – the photographs I keep, and the pictures I take – are all the stories I want to hand on to my children.
And as we move along through our days, our seasons, our years, more stories will pass through.
Telling stories that tell us of who we are…. 🍃🍃🍃🍃