Saturday, July 03, 2010

Remembrance of the Dahlesque

As a belated birthday present, the Dr took me to Great Missenden today and the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. It comprises three rooms, plus teaching spaces, cafe and shop. The Boy Gallery covers his early life, the Solo Gallery covers his later life - the names taken from his two volumes of autobiography, which I read in May.

As a result, I was already very familiar with a lot of material, but the museum works well to bring it alive. There's plenty to touch and try - hand puppets, magnets, images and documents you can handle yourself. It's a very family-friendly place, and I can see how a child might be lost there for hours.

Impressively, it's also packed full of engaging stuff for the adults, too - and not just because we tried the puppets. They've an extraordinary archive of Dahl's letters and drafts - Dahl doesn't seem to every have thrown anything away. There's a telegram from Walt Disney and Dahl's first thoughts about writing a picture book for younger children (which became The Enormous Crocodile). There are displays of his own possessions - the sandal that inspired the BFG's footwear, the flying cap he wore as a pilot - and plenty of video clips.

There's not a great deal on Dahl's adult books and screenplays, and though there's nuggets of fact about his life after 1941 - including a year-by-year "Roald Dial" illustrated by Gerald Scarfe - I still feel left hanging after the end of Going Solo. (I asked the young scamp in the shop to recommend me a biography. He thought long and hard, then suggested Boy. I bought a Collected Stories instead.)

Then there's the Story Centre, where we're encouraged to write and draw our own stories, with advice from Dahl and other big-name writers. Dahl was always worried about boring children, and avoided long descriptions and flowery prose.

The museum also contained oddly incongruous props from recent movies based on Dahl's work, including these wondrous copies of Deep Roy:

Deep Roy x2 in the Roald Dahl Museum
The Dr and I did some colouring in: mine's now glued into my notebook; the Dr's is on display.

Snake by the Dr
We thence went to the pub for a pint and a pie, before heading on to the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul to look for Dahl's grave. Some giant footprints led us to the spot:

Giant footprints leading to Roald Dahl's grave
The grave itself was decorated with offerings: onions (Dahl loved to grow them), small change and letters from school groups.

Grave of Roald Dahl
Directly below Dahl on the hill was this rather impressive grave of his step-daughter Lorina Crosland, with a fine illustration of a monkey:

Grave of Lorina Crosland
We then went and found Gipsy House, Dahl's home, which is a private residence with an immaculate garden. We pressed on up the hill, past picturesque farms and onto a woodland footpath. I bravely stamped down the nettles on either side of the path so the Dr could pass in her flip-flops. We wended round into the village again for another pint before catching the train back into London.

1 comment:

Le Mc said...

I always enjoyed stopping by Roald Dahl Plas in Cardiff as well as the Norwegian Church. This sounds like an interesting museum. I'd love to see the BFG sandal!