The Fuel To Be Found In The Belly Of A Kelly Kettle
Do you know what a Kelly Kettle is?
If you are a camping, outdoorsy type you will probably reply, “Yes, Bethan. A Kelly Kettle is a portable device for boiling water outdoors using twigs and other small combustible materials; these devices consist of a water jacket surrounding a fire chamber which creates an upward chimney draft and rapid boiling even in windy or wet weather.”
Until I went on my expedition leaders course in May, I did not know what a Kelly Kettle was.
But over that glorious week, I became quite a fond friend of this tea and coffee making tool.
At the end of the training, our tutor talked about the final assessment and how, in several months we would be returning to the wilderness of the Wight Isle. During this assessment weekend we would be expected to do a presentation on something expedition based, ie. demonstrating to a group how to put up a tent, cook steak, navigate etc.
I winked at the Kelly Kettle and she winked back.
We already knew we were going to work together and she would be the subject of my talk.
But, as often happens when you meet someone on a course and have all good intentions to keep in touch, life took over and I forgot about the Kelly Kettle.
She got on with her water boiling life.
I got on with mine.
It was only a few weeks ago, when I realised how close the assessment weekend was, that I even remembered that the Kelly Kettle existed.
Suddenly, I didn’t feel so confident to talk about her to the group.
In fact, I wasn’t sure we were still friends or that I even knew how to pick her up anymore.
I really, really wanted my presentation to be good, but everything in me was saying, “Kelly’s not ya girl”.
And I was saying back, “Well, if Kelly’s not – who is?”
I then rooted my head firmly in the sand and went off to buy some Kendal Mint Cake (as all good expedition leaders do).
Arriving at our site, on the first day of the assessment, I was greeted by a few guys who were already stoking up the fire-pit.
One of them, a very lovely ex army dude, was particularly capable around the fire. Watching his flame-wielding finesse, my last Kelly Kettle confidence was weakened and when he then told me a story of how Kelly could occasionally explode and hot water would fly everywhere, it shattered completely.
I glanced at Kelly cagily.
She was no longer the bubbly water-boiler I’d seen her as.
Now she looked volatile.
And a bit charred up.
Just then there came the sound of voices and looking up, I saw that the others were beginning to arrive.
We all spent a lovely, gorgeous day doing everything we needed to do around the practical assessment.
Every so often I felt a prickle of anxiety around doing the presentation on Kelly but I pushed the feeling away.
That night we cooked our food on the fire and then leant back to enjoy that contented peace that descends on a group of wilderness lovers who have just eaten their tea.
Someone suggests some ghost stories.
Someone else – who was prone to getting spooked – unsuggested ghost stories.
Someone teased the group with a gory story but that was nipped in the bud.
Then a gristly true story was told about grave burials in Portugal.
Another story was told about a slice of childhood life in a township of South Africa.
Each time a story was told, a tangible silence descended upon the group. The stories seemed to stitch the listeners to the very air in which the teller placed their tale. Some people were confident to tell their stories. Some remained quiet and listened.
That night as I zipped up my tent, I mused, “I’d love to do a presentation on storytelling.”
My eyes widened.
My heart missed a beat.
Suddenly, every cell of my body was singing out in recognition of the perfect presentation! I imagined how wonderful it would be to share with the group how powerful stories are to entertain, educate and impart wisdom and knowledge. I wanted to talk about how, in our culture, we have become passive observers of soaps and Hollywood and stories created by others and yet, it’s in our ancient bones, our blood, our DNA, to tell stories around a fire.
My mind burned and churned, thinking about how so much of our communication is story based; explanations, excuses, “how’s ya day been” descriptions that we give our beloveds when we come home at the end of a busy day, marketing in business, tales told on the BBC news …
They are all stories.
I was so inspired by the ideas that were flooding in to my noggin that I couldn’t sleep.
Instead I ate Kendal Mint Cake (clearly an exceptionally wise thing to eat when one is struggling to doze off in a tent).
“Don’t people eat Kendal Mint Cake to give them energy to climb mountains?” someone remarked the next morning. And she was right …. but in my head I was climbing an Everest of storytelling wonder.
The beauty and magic of oral story-telling (and possibly the sugar in the Kendal Mint Cake) rushed through my body. I lay awake until three working out a range of activities I could use to help the group develop their own story telling confidence and prowess.
The next day, our outside assessor arrived bright and early.
I was quite exhausted through lack of sleep …. but strangely at ease.
All anxiety had gone.
After a few of the others presented their pieces, it was finally my turn.
My storytelling delivery flowed. I didn’t even have to think much. It just streamed naturally up and through me like flames of a Kelly Kettle, fuelled by my passion for stories.
During the break everyone stopped to grab some drinks and I found myself going across to the Kelly Kettle to fill my cup with hot water.
“So,” she said.
“So,” I replied, glancing around to check no one was looking.
“You got the lesson?” she asked.
“What lesson?” I muttered. I picked up Kelly by her wire handle and cork chain and began to pour the boiling water from her belly.
“The lesson about doing the thing that fires you up?”
“What do you mean?”
She tutted like I was acting stupid, then said very slowly, very clearly, “When you thought about talking about me, you felt cold and heavy and uninspired by the prospect. You could have continued to push through and your presentation would have been tepid and strained and dull as dank water.
But instead, you struck upon the idea of storytelling – something that fires you up, gets your heart racing, your blood pumping. As a result your presentation had energy, movement and passion in its belly. That is the magic of doing the thing you are supposed to do and something that captures your heart.
The alchemy is set and something hot, and steamy and warming to the mind and soul cannot help but be delivered.”
Kelly Kettle paused. Then she added carefully, “Imagine if you trusted your passion to guide more of what you do in your life. Imagine how easy and flowing and simple everything would feel.”
I poured the hot water from the belly of the Kelly Kettle.
Carefully set the wise old witch back down on the side.
Slowly let the curve of my spoon spiral around the tea bag in the water and let the wisdom of the old cylinder steep in my mind.
“You are right,” I said. “I understand the moral of the story.”
“Ready everyone?” called our tutor.
“Thank you,” I whispered to Kelly, smiling at her charred silver belly and wonky old handle. “Let’s get together for tea very soon.”