Monday, 17 March 2008

Roald Dahl's writing den

So I went to give a chocolate tasting at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre the other day - it was me, some Valrhona, Amadei, El Tesoro and a few other delectables...and a load of amazed kids.

I think they were expecting chocolate fountain antics with marshmallows but by the time they'd got their heads round the idea of what chocolate really and truly is...delight. They were buzzing with their new information and gabbling away with sticky brown mouths as they charged off to find their parents.

After I said good-bye I went and popped in on my mum's cousin, Liccy, who was married to R.D himself. She was fielding a hundred different phone calls - organising Proms and open days so I slipped away to Roald's shed at the bottom of the garden for a little peak.

How I would love to be able to post the pics I have of this magical haven. Everything you ever imagined about the man and his style is preserved here, kept entirely as it was up until the day he died. A great big ashtray spills over with fag butts, their legacy seeped deep into the polystyrene ceiling. His writing chair sits firmly in position with a piece cut out of the back from when he had a mysterious growth that would otherwise have pressed up against it.

At the foot of the chair is a footstool with a mangled old polyester sleeping bag for pulling over his legs when the cold came in and looming perilously overhead is an ancient electric heater on a kind of pully system hooked into the ceiling - he would yank it towards him with a big stick so that it's hot, electric fronds might power down on his polyestered lap.

A low table lies to the right of his writing chair - a city of trinkets and pictures: framed photos of children and parents, little jars of questionable content, a large Kit-Kat ball - made entirely from the (RIP) silver wrappers of the old school bars, bits of rock, stone, bone and wood.

The whole place is a proper dark little grotto of intrigue. I inhaled deeply the air that contained him whilst writing all but two of his whole collection. I'm so gutted that I never met him but my cousins whose uncle he was would regale me with tales of post-lunch exoduses to the sweet shop - of jars and jars of treats posted strategically around the house. My head would spin with delight at the thought of it all and I had to be really good when my brother came back from spending a day with him - Roald had taken him under his wing on a boys mission, away from all the girls, off to his dingy, fascinating little den to show my brother his jarred appendix and slip him a five pound note conspiratorially.

I remembered all of this and so was extra interested when I got to go in finally - magical. The most intimate, poignant and untouched little private museum ever!

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