Sunday, 7 January 2018

Birthday Visit to Roald Dahl Museum

Dear Readers & Friends, 

I was blessed to be taken along to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre as part of my Birthday treats this weekend.  I grew up with Dahl's dark humor and quirkily whimsical characters as a child, so to get to visit this museum felt like a fun sort of inspiration as I push deeper into my goals of writing & illustrating published Children's books.

The little village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire (England) was the home of Roald Dahl and his family for some 36 years and now it is the site of the museum dedicated to his work.  

As you walk along the High Street you'll come across a tall pastel purpley-blue building adorned with outlines of characters from his famous stories. Upon entering a small entranceway, you'll see the Willy Wonker Chocolate Factory gates, donated to the Museum by Warner Brothers from their film set.

I delight easily, so my smile widened instantly by the zany wrist tag we were given in the gift-shop-entrance, with the quote "Never grow up... always down." along with a little "My Story Ideas Book" and tiny pencil - just in case we were struck by a moment of genius there and then, that needed quickly capturing.


Of course I had to take the height test to see where I measured up against various characters - in the Solo Gallery - which told the story of Dahl's time as a pilot during World War II and images of his family and home life.

I particularly adored the photos of the Gipsy Caravan he had in his garden....




....and the backstory of how he collected photographs of celebrities' and politicians' eyes in cut-out strips and kept them on a scrapbook page to help him describe his characters eyes in detail.  All magic and intention he felt could be seen through the eyes. 


 This idea formed the basis of his short story "The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar" about an Indian Mystic who could "see" without his eyes, based on the real-life tale of the Pakistani Mystic Kuda Bux.  This story was first introduced to me by my extremely clever brother Geoffrey back in the 1990's, so it held a special significance to see this book in the display case. 

Dahl was interested in how to portray magic and the unknown, and was greatly influenced by the folklore and fairytales from his Norwegian parents' lands, where he holidayed every year during his childhood.



I couldn't wait to see the famous chair.  I was thoroughly charmed by this video which for me, portrayed what a wonderfully British eccentric Roald Dahl sounded to be, as he talks about his work space and his daily routine / ritual (the sleeping bag, chair, the thermos) :
[these are Facebook videos - but I don't believe you need to be a Facebook member to view them - simply click on the link]  



(way to work in his hut)


The entire interior of his hut has been carefully moved into the Museum gallery.  Including pieces of geode agate crystals, photos, notes and memorabilia from family, the heavy molten-pewter, silver ball of Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate inner (wrappings) he had squished together - he ate one chocolate bar a day, every day, while working. 


Here is an amusing short clip where Roald Dahl talks about chocolate - he is known as a 'Chocolate Historian' in his author bio and clearly it's the kind of impassioned obsession that made Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so beloved.

Then, finally, it was my turn.


... not for the chocolate, but to sit in the replica chair. 


This wonderful box set was gifted to me for my birthday (along with paints and red roses) How lucky am I?  And so the magic and the stories continue....


Till next time...... Catherine xo