Scrumdiddlyumptious! Celebrating the brilliant Roald Dahl
It’s Truly Swizzfigglingly Flushbunkingly Gloriumptious! And that’s official! It’s written on the wall!
And this year - 2016 - when we mark the centenary of the birth of perhaps the best known and best loved children's author of all time - Roald Dahl - there's even more reason to wend your way to the place which he called home!
Step from the quaint High Street in the leafy English village of Great Missenden, through the archway of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and prepare to leave reality behind as you enter the weird and wonderful world of Dahl.
The gang’s all there including the BFG (Big Friendly Giant) Danny the Champion of the World, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Esio Trot, Fantastic Mr Fox and of course, James and the Giant Peach!
You can dress up as your favourite Roald Dahl character, get crafty making a mask of, as the museum literature says, ‘a crodswoggling creature’. Just like Roald Dahl, who invented hundreds of new and whacky words and phrases – over 200 just for the BFG ‘gobblefunk’ dictionary apparently – you can even let your imagination run riot and create your own crazy words.
It’s fantastagorically hands-on and fabulously intriguing, even if you’re not 6 to 12 years old!
Not just for children!
Roald Dahl wrote not only for children, but also had a successful parallel career as the writer of macabre adult short stories. Briefly in the 1960s he also wrote screenplays including two adaptations of works by Ian Fleming - the James Bond film ‘You Only Live Twice’ and 'Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang'. His first ever book for children The Gremlins (published 1943) was written for Walt Disney Productions as a promotional device for a feature-length animated film that was never made.
Famously Fantastic Facts
In the ‘Boy’ Gallery find the famous ‘mouse in a gobstopper jar’ and learn more about Roald Dahl’s schoolboy days and pranks! There’s loads more about his life as a Welsh-born lad with a Norwegian heritage and as a husband, father and grandfather as you read original letters and delve into the Dahl family photo album.
Step through into the ‘Solo’ Gallery and discover more about Dahl’s life as an RAF (Royal Air Force) fighter pilot in the Second World War and his unique literary archive. You might have to fight a 4-year-old for a place by the touch-screen monitors, but if you are forced to wait your turn, you can always sit back and enjoy extracts from some of the films which have been created from Roald Dahl’s books.
Then, if the kids haven't already beaten you to it, it's into the Story Centre and Crafts Room. There you'll find the aforementioned dressing up box, and that word creation area, tables where you can be all messy and crafty, and there's even a space where you can make your own stop-frame animation film.
Roald Dahl originally wrote his stories for his own 5 children and encouraged creativity in all the kids he met, so it's not surprising that his Museum is a place where the words ‘Don’t Touch’ are banned!
Here there are items to play with, spin and manipulate, holes to peer into and wonder what lurks beyond, things to prod and poke. Anything that is not for touching is out of harm’s way or under glass. In fact, touching and feeling and getting into a little bit of mischief is positively encouraged!
Whizzpopping, strawbunkies, hippodumplings, hushyquiet, natterbox, wonkavator, snozberry, Oompa-Loompa, Wangdoodles, fingersmith
Can you translate?
The Writing Hut
However, my favourite spot at the Museum is the replica of Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut - it's in the Story Centre and it's fascidoodly - here I go, making up words already!
This year we're celebrating the centenary of the birth of this most brilliant of writers.
Born in September 1916, Roadl Dahl, was a British novelist, short story writer, poet and screenwriter whose books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide. Before turning to full time writing, in a former life he was among other things a fighter pilot and worked int he oil industry.
It was in the 1950s when Roald settled down with his family in Gipsy House in the little village of Great Missenden in the county of Buckinghamshire (sort of north east from London). He was then married to his first wife, the American actress Patricia Neal, and it was here in the quiet and idyllic countryside that they raised their family.
At the bottom of the garden at Gipsy House, Roald had a little hut to which he retreated to write most of his unforgettable stories. Research tells us he couldn’t type - he always used a pencil to write for several hours a day locked away in his hut, sitting in a big old shabby chair, leaning on a ‘writing board’ which he fashioned to fit perfectly around his body. Apparently the hut wasn't warm or particularly clean and tidy, but it was here, in his special writing place, that Roald wrote for two hours each morning and two hours every afternoon, using exactly six freshly sharpened, yellow, Dixon Ticonderoga pencils which he popped into a small Toby jug on the desk next to his chair. He'd worked out that he needed six pencils for a two hour writing session and always started each session sharpening the pencils!
It’s just one of the rituals which Roald had when it came to writing and, as you sit in the replica chair in the replica Writing Hut, surrounded by the fascimiles of the author's special objects, you feel something of the man and the genius. Well, at least, I did!
Small Kid or Big Kid - whatever age you might be, there will something for you!
The Museum and Story Centre regularly hosts Revolting Rhymes sessions from roving storytellers in the Courtyard around which the museum nestles. In Miss Honey’s Classroom there are ‘fantabulous’ weekend and holiday workshops with storytellers, authors, crafts experts, scientists and chocolatiers (Roald Dahl ADORED chocolate which makes me admire him even more!)
For an extra special treat for adults and slightly older children you can enjoy a special tour of the Dahl Archive, a behind-the-scenes experience where you get to meet an archivist who will show you some of the locked-away archive material, providing an even deeper insight into the mind, life and work of the author. When I went, we discovered that Miss Honey (the perfectly lovely teacher in Matilda) was originally intended to be an alcoholic and Miss Trunchbull (the hideous headmistress in the same story) started out as a much nicer person!
For those wanting to do more research on Dahl, the Archive and Museum Reading Rooms are also open to researchers by appointment and they also welcome researchers who can't actually get to Great Missenden - via the website.
Finish the visit with a stroll through the Shop where you can buy everything from books and pictures to Dahl themed games and weird stuff like a ball made entirely of elastic/rubber bands.
Finally, grab a drink and ‘delumptious’ cake in Cafe Twit. If it's a fine day sit in the Courtyard and just watch how much fun everyone - young and old - is having. And forget any diet - because the cakes are perfectly Scrumdiddlyumptious!
While you're there...
....Why not discover a little more about the places that inspired Roald Dahl and his writing?
Walk Roald Dahl’s Village Trail – including the BP Pumps in the High Street (which inspired the description of the garage in Danny the Champion of the World), and the Great Missenden Library visited by Matilda when her Mum went off to Aylesbury to play bingo. Finally, as the trail ends, follow the BFG's footprints to find the author’s final resting place in St Peter and Paul churchyard, Great Missenden. Or wander through Roald Dahl’s Countryside Trail and learn more about the beautiful Chiltern countryside around the author's home
Roald Dahl Day
..... takes place every year on 13 September, the author's birthday. Special events are always planned and this year - 2016 - being the centenary of the author's birth super super BIRTHDAY celebrations are planned!
The Museum runs 'special days' which celebrate various Dahl characters. But some of them are a bit weird...as you'd expect!
Take, for instance ...Veruca Salt Saturday ... July 19th! On this day the Museum celebrates 'the biggest brat of Buckinghamshire.' There is a chance to 'meet the Salt family, make craft from recycled materials and join in with our Rubbish Orchestra!'
A great day will be had by all I'm sure!
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England, is open 10am to 5pm, Tuesday to Friday and 11am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday. Closed on Mondays, except (public) bank holiday Mondays and Buckinghamshire school half-term Mondays
You can travel to Great Missenden by train direct from London – catch a Chilterns Railways train from Marylebone mainline railway station in central London. The Museum and Story Centre is a short walk from the village station