The Twelfth Night Festival at Bankside on Bank Holiday Monday, which began with a Mummer's Play, ended at the historic George Inn, in Borough High Street, to warm up with dancing outside in the courtyard and storytelling inside around the fire.
I was lucky enough to find a seat with my friends at a table near the fire and it was a great place to hear the tales that were told. This is a rather shortened version of my favourite:
A long time ago there lived a woman who was very old indeed and very ugly too. She had deep lines on her face and the scars of years of toil and of many wounds. She was sick, poor, homeless, and no one loved her.Links
No one even liked her very much. Wherever she went, people shunned her. She travelled from city to city, begging for coins or crusts, but people avoided her gaze did not help her.
One day, after travelling across a harsh desert for many days, she came to a remote city. She thought: "Life must be hard in this remote city in the middle of the desert. Perhaps here people will welcome me." But they did not. As before, they ignored her.
As she sat by the side of the road with her begging bowl, a young man entered the city gates. He was young and good looking and was wearing fine robes and a long cloak of the richest fabric. People welcomed him with open arms. They flocked to see him. They gave him gifts of money, good food and other riches. They wanted his company all through the day and late into the evening.
The next day, the old woman left the city. She wandered into the desert, where she sat down, looking at her empty begging bowl and listening to her stomach rumble. After a little while, she saw the young man walking towards her. He sat down opposite her and started sorting through all the riches and treasures he had been given.
The old woman looked him and said: "What are you, that people flock to you and give you such wonderful riches? You must be very important. Are you a great leader? Are you famous?"
The man replied: "No, I am no one special. You can find me and my like all over the place."
"What are you then, that people like you so much?" asked the old woman.
The man replied: "I am a good story. Everyone likes a good story."
The man then asked the woman: "But what are you? Why do people shun you so? Are you infamous?"
"No, I'm not infamous," said the old woman. "I am the truth. No one likes the truth."
The man thought for a while, then he said: "We should team up. I would share half of everything I get with you. You can hide behind me, under my cloak, when people are around."
"Would you really do this for me?" asked the old woman.
"Certainly," said the man. "We would make a great team."
So they did this. Wherever they went, the old woman hid under the long cloak of the young man and he made even more money than before - which he shared equally with the old woman. In this way they both lived happily ever after.
And the moral of this tale is that truth is always hidden in a good story.