An international storytelling question, and a job opportunity…

Apologies if you saw a blog post accidentally posted yesterday. Perhaps you might have imagined it – that’s probably what happened… Here we are, back to the story of our journey Eastwards…

And so, after months on the road, we finally arrived at the Buckinghamshire signwriters we were heading for back in May! Having cycled through a variety of perspectives on our situation, the best I’ve found is that these last two months have been our chance to road-test the truck and get acquainted with its particular and precise ways. And acquainted we are, fully, thoroughly, truly, madly, deeply… I know things now that I never thought I’d know.

Many miles have passed since we last sent word from our particular road. The catalogue of our breakdowns and breakthroughs might be interesting reading for the mechanics and fanatics among you, but for the rest, suffice it to say that we passed through the initiation of the points/condenser swap-out, fixed the brake-drag and shone the strobe-light of the timing lamp upon the dark waters of the #1 firing instant. ‘Nuff said?

We have travelled far and learned much and now, with the truck parked safely in the Buckinghamshire woods, we’re now taking a few days to visit our families in South-East London and Suffolk. It’s extraordinarily hot weather and we’re very happy to not be driving!


Upon our return, the truck shall be signwritten and blinged-up until it positively shimmers and we shall then head Westwards again towards the Green Gathering, Off Grid and Base Camp… (all of which are going to be amazing – you should come to them if you can…)


And what, you may ask, shall we have sign-written upon this wagon of wonder, this truck of trickery and story? Well, gentle reader, this is where we’re asking for your help…

What we’re thinking is that it’d be grand to have some appropriately story-centred words on the facing boards that run around the top of the truck – the front and back arches are accounted for, but the remaining six boards are up for grabs. This is what we’d like from you:

What are the traditional opening words of folktales/fairy tales in your language or a language you know? We’ve got the English ‘Once upon a time…’ and imagine that we might have the Russian of ‘Across thrice-nine lands…’ written in Cyrillic script, but we’d love to learn what the equivalents are in other languages. We’re particularly interested in Romany, Arabic, French, German and Spanish, but we’d be delighted to hear what you know! Leave a comment below or email us at with your suggestions!

That’s the first thing. Send us your words, or a link, or a photo.


There’s a second thing. This is the opportunity.

We spend a great deal of time trying to keep the Hedgespoken show moving forward on the road in various ways – this involves writing these blog posts (which do, contrary to appearances, take some time), making bookings, keeping the momentum going on a number of side-projects and secret things and getting funding bids in and running the Hedgespoken shop and remembering to reply to emails from interesting and interested people and so on and often when we’re parked up, we don’t have a good signal for internet, and…

What’s becoming apparent is that we need some admin help. We’re looking for someone to take on some of the burden of computer work particularly. We’re looking for someone who can help with funding applications, respond to emails, book venues, keep track of the bureaucratic aspects of working with other people, do some upkeep with the accounts and so on…

If you’ve got skills in this area, and particularly maybe have experience of working in the arts world (and perhaps some experience of working in circus and/or travellers’ worlds), we’d like to hear from you. As you’ll know, we’re not a large outfit with money spilling out of our ears, but we believe that the right person can make enough of a difference to effectively create their own job and get paid for doing it. Send us an email and tell us why you’d be good for Hedgespoken and why we’d be good for you, or give us a call on 07984581289.

We really really need to find the right person for this job – if you think that there’s any chance that it’s you, please don’t by shy. We’re imagining that it’d mostly be 1-2 days each week for now, rising to proper half-time by the Autumn… As for pay – we’re serious about people getting paid fairly for what they do. We’ve currently got an Arts Council funding application going in for a show later this year that INCLUDES admin support in its budget. If we get this funding, you’re on the payroll. If we don’t get this funding, we need you because you’re going to help us get funding to pay for your job.

We aren’t looking for a slave or a skivvy – we’re looking for someone who can keep organised, can help us keep organised and can seriously play a very important role in helping Hedgespoken become an extraordinary and sustainable vehicle for amazing arts.


You know what to do (and don’t forget about the ‘Once upon a time’ bit from part 1…)


In the meantime, work continues on that Autumn project. If you know any of the fine folk in these pictures, you might be able to guess what’s on the cards… Stay tuned – it’s very exciting and we’ll let you know what’s happening just as soon as we can.

For now, from London, of all places in this blistering heat, we wish you well and eagerly anticipate your communications…

Tom, Rima and the golden-haired boy.

Carving in the woods by Jason Parr, near Nomansland, Devon

36 thoughts on “An international storytelling question, and a job opportunity…

  1. Dutch: “Er was eens, heel lang geleden,…” (There was once, a long time ago,…)
    French: “Il était une fois…” (There was once)
    Spanish: “Érase una vez…” (There was one time…)
    Russian: “Жили были…” (There lived, there were…)
    Swedish: “Det var en gång…” (There was one time…)
    These are the typical opening words of fairytales in the languages I know :-)
    Wishing you all the luck, from Belgium!

  2. One of the most delightful story intros I know is from the Turkish stories: Bir Varmış Bir Yokmuş. The translation is roughly “maybe it happened, or maybe it didn’t”. Which I find absolutely charming.

  3. Hi, In French they use ‘Il etait une fois’ (the e in etait has an accent over it), it translates as ‘there once was’ . Hope that is helpful :-)

  4. And my German friend tells me that Es war einmal ein kleines Madchen das hieb Rotkappchen means ‘ once upon a time there was a little girl called red riding hood’. Bit of a mouthful !!

  5. I thought of the the Anansi (spider) tales told in Ghana – the Ashanti way of beginning is “We do not really mean, we do not really mean that what we are about to say is true. A story, a story; let it come, let it go.”

  6. Hi Tom I know three English Romani beginnings for you

    “YEAHS an’ yeahs an’ double yeahs ago, ”

    “In ole formel times, when deh used to be kings an’ queens”

    “Centers of yeahs ago, when all de most part of de country wur a wilderness place”

    They begin the three most well known folk stories of
    Bobby Rag
    De Little Fox
    De little Bull-calf.
    I remember so well living in my Bedford , with a threepenny bit cab… And I remember still her ” little ways” hahaha.
    But the best living wagon ever apart from looking so damn fine…
    I’m hoping to meet you on the road this year and share a tale or two .
    Blessings to you two and your golden haired boy x

  7. I’ll offer you “a fost odată ca niciodată” of my Romanian childhood, wich might roughly translate as “there was once like never before or after” – and the German “es war einmal vor langer, langer Zeit” & Icelandic “einu sinni var…” my own children grow up with.

    All the best from the north;-)

  8. In Chinese it’s 很久很久以前. Literally it means “long time long time ago”. It’s pronounced “hen jiu hen jiu yi qian” in the pinyin phonetic system. Good luck with it all!

  9. Hi if you’re in Suffolk this weekend might you pop along to the east Anglian Storytelling Festival in the village of Blaxhall? (see website or fcebook for details) Be lovely to see you there :)

    1. Sadly not – we’ve just been in Suffolk, but on a flying visit to family and we’re back in Bucks now, signwriting – perhaps next year, Suzanne!

  10. Hi Tom and Rima, to the typical German beginning of fairytales “Es war einmal…” I can add the Portuguese “Era uma vez” (there once was” and my favourite in English is: “Once there was, and twice there wasn’t…” Best of luck with your travels, it all looks wonderful!

  11. A long while ago, when the world was full of wonders…

    In the time when the world was young…

    Before humankind forgot how to talk with the animals…

    In the beginning before the beginning we know…

    As far and as long ago as the mind can wander…

    The stories of life grow as a string of pearls; this is a tale from the time of the first pearl…

    In ancient times, in a space of wonder, there was a…

    Back when the earth was new, in the time when the oceans were vaster, the wilds, wilder, a…

    If we dig deep into the pocket of memory, we will find… (this assumes an understanding of collective consciousness)

    Today I will share a story not of time and place, but of heart and space…

    If we travel far enough through the tangles of time and mind, we find…

    I’m a storyteller, and these are a handful of openings I use. Some I made up, some I encountered somewhere. These just spilled to page randomly, I could give you dozens more, but hopefully these will inspire you in the right direction. Love what you are doing!

  12. Za devetimi gorami in devetimi vodami – beyond nine mountains and nine waters in slovene language. Heartfelt greetings and good luck to the Hedgespoken family!

  13. In Armenian it is “Kar u ch’i yeghel”, which translates to – “There was and there was not”. I’ve seen it used recently as the title of Armenian themed plays and books.

  14. Hi Rima, Tom and the Golden-Haired Boy,

    Love reading all the different fairitale openings of the different cultures and languages!

    In my native tongue German – as others mentioned, before – it is:
    “Es war einmal vor langer, langer Zeit…” (It was once, a long, long time ago…)
    or simply:
    “Es war einmal…” (It once was…)
    At the end of a story it often says:
    “Und wenn sie nicht gestorben sind, dann leben sie noch heute.” (And if they did not die they still live, today.)

    Maybe I can be of a little assistance regarding the Little Red Riding Hood line mentioned above, as I happened to notice a few letters that need a German keyboard:
    “Es war einmal ein kleines Mädchen, das hieß Rotkäppchen.”
    (In case this is of interest: The letter “ß” is sometimes used in German language. I believe it comes from the old German scripts like, for example, Sütterlin. It literally means “sz”. However, if you cannot use “ß” it is commonly substituted by “ss” [like, “hiess” instead of “hieß”]. The umlauts “ä”, “ö” and “ü”, if not available, would be substituted by “ae”, “oe” and “ue”.)

    Much love,

  15. hello Rima and Tom and little one with the golden hair xxxx Just hello, from our river gypsy barge, and from us all, somewhere on the Kennet and Avon Canal, we love reading your blogs and imagining your journeying, knowing one day we will wander upon you and your fireside x Our small ones are making a boat shop of strange and crafted imaginings of their own and we feel blessed to be embarking on our river journeying with them……sending love and excitment…..and heartful blessings, Marianne, Ian Maya Frida and Jahari xxxxxxx

  16. I emailed my parents about your question. My mother has always loved stories and languages and will love this. And my dad might be able to translate into Bengali. His mother told me so many stories, but she never started them with such a phrase. I am currently (finally) working on an illustrated book about my favourite of her stories.

    I love it when I hear some people here say a “spell” to enter the story-world, and not to forget the spell to leave it at the end. In French: “Misti-cric, misti-crac, l’histoire va commencer” (the story is about to begin). And at the end “Misti-croc, l’histoire est terminée” (the story is finished) The formulas vary from one storyteller to the other but it’s a local thing.

  17. In Romany I’ve been told it’s -yeckorous aprey ora. I’ve sent you a copy of the message I was given on Fb.

  18. I have a Georgian storybook with tales beginning : “იყო და არა იყო რა”, which sounds like “iqo da ara iqo ra” – “there was and there was not what.” A Bulgarian friend tells me their tales begin: “имало едно време” – “there was one time.”

  19. Thank you all so much! What an extraordinary trove of words you’ve given us – and three times as many again via email! We’re just putting together the designs now for the boards on the truck, so expect some pictures soon on facebook and instagram – and on here in a while!

  20. Tom! The ancient way in Spanish is Érase una vez…I’ve been reading about Hedgespoken – AMAZING! Happy travels xx

  21. Hello Tom, Rima and little boy, if it is not too late, a story-beginning from Germany: Vor langer Zeit, als das Wünschen noch geholfen hat … A long time ago, when wishes still came true…
    Good luck for your journey Petra

  22. What a long time ago this seems now, and yet here we still are. Our signboards need renewing for 2019, and so I’ve come back here to peruse the suggestions. In the meantime, we learn new stories, plan new tellings and bring new life to old bones. If you haven’t found it yet, our new website is at – see you there! Tom x

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