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News posts about YouTellYours and the storytellers that have taken our courses.

The Finish Line

Years and years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was at Drama school, we were doing a Brechtian chorus as part of our end of year show.  (Don’t be intimidated by “Brechtian chorus.” Basically, what it meant was there was a speech by Bertolt Brecht, and each of the students was given one line to say  as we stood as a chorus.)Continue reading

When you feed it, it grows….

Fishy story

So, a few weeks/blogs ago I wrote about how my youngest was having a tough time at school.

It was a tricky old journey.
I’d not under any circumstances vouch for myself as being an authority on parenthood, but  I do know that a parent is only ever as happy as their unhappiest child.The Mamma bear in me wanted to take my son out of school, to yell from the rooftops about the injustice of it all, as I pinned everyone down with my angry eyes and razor tongue demanding for them to be held accountable.
But in the end I had to acknowledge that the central character in the story was my 9 year old son – and as much as I wanted to make it all about my needs, the person with the real wounds was him.So, in spite of my natural instinct, I decided to focus on the positive. I figured as part of his long journey back to feeling like himself again, I would get him something to look after.
I toyed with the idea of a bunny or a hamster or something, but as, as a family, we seem universally to be allergic to fur. I suggested fish.

My son seemed  pleased with the idea, and as we already had an unused fish tank, we set it up with some water and headed off to the Aquatic store to see about getting some inhabitants.
I’d taken a sample of the water with me to get the fish guy to check if the PH was ok for fish, and while he was testing the water, my son was walking round the store looking at the tanks.

The testing of the PH seemed to take a bit longer than I planned. While I was standing waiting for the results, my son called me over. He’d found THE fish. The EXACT fish for him.
He pointed to a small eel type thing that was hiding in a little pipe.
My son said he knew how that fish felt.
He said he understood why the fish was hiding.
And he said that because he understood, he would be the right person to make that fish happy again.

Actually, of the little I know about eels, I do know that they are perfectly happy to hide in pipes – for them it’s like the eel version of a sofa – but I didn’t tell my son that. I also didn’t tell him that the tank we already had was freshwater, which is no place for a saltwater eel.
What I did tell him was that the fish guy had checked the PH of our water and it wasn’t ready yet and that we had to come back in three days.

Over the next three days my son talked about the eel: How we were going to rescue him. How we would buy him a little pipe to hide in when he sometimes felt sad. How one day that little eel would remember what had hurt him, but it wouldn’t hurt him any more, because he would feel safe and loved and not alone.

And all the time I am saying nothing and silently wishing I’d suggested a hamster, because I knew this EXACT fish wasn’t going to work out.
Salt water fish are a completely different ballgame from freshwater fish and so any attempt at looking after this ‘exact fish’ would be a little risky. And this was not the time to buy a fish only to have it suddenly shake off its mortal coil.

On the way to the fish store, I say to my son that we may not be able to get that exact fish – that we may have the wrong water, or the wrong tank and that we just might not be right people for that exact fish.
And my son’s face whitened and he tells me that the little fish needs him, and that we have to look out for each other when we are broken.
And I am kicking myself that I never considered putting across a the case for a gerbil.

As soon as we got to the store, my son ran off to see his eely friend, while I stood as the fish guy tested the PH of the water, hoping above all else that the water wasn’t ready.
But it was not to be. The man announced with a smile that the PH was perfect, so  I headed off to find my son, bracing myself for the conversation that lay ahead.

But when I got to the tank, my son was smiling. Look, he said, pointing to the eel – which had come out of the pipe and was swimming around the tank.

“I don’t think it would work for us to take that fish, honey.” I said. “Our tank’s not right.”

And despite my worries, there were no tears. Nothing. My son turned to me and said, ” No it’s not right. He’s happy here. It would be cruel to take him away from his friends.”

So we got guppies. 4 of them. Two silver – with fancy tails, and a blue one, and an orange one.
I thought we were set.

What I didn’t know about guppies is that the silver ones with the fancy tails tend to be female, and the colored ones are male.
So now, we are not the proud owners of 13 guppies, and because the orange fish is the randiest aquatic creature in existence, we had to buy another tank so not to be overwhelmed by fish.

Little by little, things have settled down at school. Over the past few weeks, we’ve talked more about the growing number of fish and less about the possibilities of what might happen in the playground.

I don’t think my son will ever forget fully what happened to him, but he is distracted by the many little mouths he has to feed, and has started to trust friends again.
His story is moving on. He is not stuck in the pain of it all. A new chapter has already begun.
This weekend as I watched him playing with a friend and laughing uproariously, I thought about the little fish coming out of his pipe.

One of the things I notice when teaching is how many people still sit in some part of an old chapter.
We each have points in our lives, where something unfathomable happens, and for many of us it is the story that we feel defines us. But actually it’s a false truth.

Life is a space between two dates.
In that space is a timeline of continual stories.
They are all ours. They are all chapters, and the definitive one should be the one we choose for the time we choose to tell it.
We decide whether each story is from inside the pipe or not.

In the moments between creating Guppy Kingdom, I’ve been talking about this with my friend, Jim Hjort  – coach, psychotherapist and founder of Though our work is completely different, we see the world, and the importance of story,  in a very similar way.  So we decided we’d like to work together for students who have stories that need to be told, but don’t necessarily need to be told to a live audience in a theatre.

Our plan is to offer a two day intensive course over a weekend, where we would work together with a small group of students. Then, at the end of the second day, instead of telling stories to a live audience, we’d tell them as a group, around a fire pit underneath the stars .
We’re in the planning stages at the moment, so if you are interested in taking part, or have any thoughts or questions, please let me know.

Anyhoos, my lovelies, obviously I would love to carry on chatting with you, but I’ve gotta go. I have fish to feed.

Peace and love,


Ooh and if you have teenager, we still have a couple of places left for the Summer Teen Camp.

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