High tea with the BFG – Roald Dahl 100 – 1916 -2016
Although I lived in Great Missenden for a couple of years during the nineteen seventies I didn’t really have much knowledge of the children`s writer Roald Dahl until many years later. I was twenty years old and had met a young lady in Cornwall during one of my never to be forgotten long, `summers in the sun`. I decided to move to Buckinghamshire from Staffordshire to be with my new found love.
It was a love, not to last! I had a few jobs as an assistant to a furniture removal driver and as an electro plater, something I had tried my hand at some years before back home, but needless to say the relationship fell apart and I returned to the factories of the West Midlands, but my short time in Great Missenden was forever etched in my mind.
What I didn’t know at the time was one of our countries greatest ever children`s writers, short story writer, poet, screenwriter and fighter pilot was living within the same village. From what I can remember no one in the small Buckinghamshire village ever spoke about him or pointed out his house to me, which on reflection was a huge disappointment.
Roald Dahl was a Welshman, born to Norwegian parents in Llandaff, Cardiff on 13 September 1916. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide including many of which I read to my own two young children as they were growing up. My children particularly enjoyed James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits and George’s Marvellous Medicine.
Dahl has been referred to as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”. He has been awarded the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Time Achievement and the British Book Awards’ Children’s Author of the Year in 1990. Best of all in 2008 The Times newspaper placed Dahl 16th on its list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945”.
Dahl’s short stories are known for their unexpected endings and his children’s books for their unsentimental and ghoulish, darkly comic mood which feature wicked adult enemies of his child characters. His books always tend to support the kind-hearted and display an underlying warm sentiment.
As an adult I remember watching his `Tales of the Unexpected` which aired between 1979 and 1988. Each episode told a story often with sinister and comedic undertones with an unexpected twist at the end. Dahl introduced most of the stories himself giving a short monologue explaining what had inspired him to write them. The series originally adapted stories from Dahl’s anthology books and despite being produced on a low budget the programme attracted some huge `stage`names including John Gielgud, John Mills, Denholm Elliott, Joan Collins, Ian Holm, Brian Blessed, Michael Gambon, Julie Harris, Derek Jacobi, Charles Dance, Robert Morley, Harry H. Corbett, and Timothy West.
What I didn’t know was that Dahl had also been a screenplay writer! During the 1960s he wrote two, one for the James Bond film `You Only Live Twice` and the hugely successful `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang` which were both adaptations of novels by Ian Fleming.
So this year marks 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl and I was lucky enough to visit two of the events which celebrated this occasion.
The BFG in Pictures
House of Illustration, London, N1C 4BH, UK
As an occasional artist of no repute I was particularly looking forward to visiting the House of Illustration, a museum I had never heard of until recently. The exhibition consisted of original Quentin Blake illustrations which had been prepared for Roald Dahl’s classic story The BFG.
The exhibition which had been curated by Quentin Blake contained 40 original artworks including unpublished illustrations of The BFG which have never been exhibited in public before. The illustrations provided a unique insight into the development of one of the most iconic characters in children’s literature, the BFG.
Besides the Quentin Blake exhibition there was also a retrospective one of the most significant illustrators of the 20th century, Edward Ardizzone whose wide-ranging output spanned not only children’s books but also literary classics and war illustrations. It was a fascinating and well-presented exhibition.
I look forward to seeing an exhibition of Shirley Hughes who I happen to be a great fan of. Shirley Hughes OBE now 89 years old has written more than fifty books which have sold over 11.5 million copies and she has illustrated more than two hundred including `Dogger` and `All about Alfie`. My children and I loved the illustrations which accompanied the stories. House of Illustration – please take note!
I was pleased to find that pencils and paper had also been provided for both young and old visitors to have a go at drawing their very own BFG characters, if a little less successfully than Quentin! The drawings were wonderful, many completed with pen and ink with a coloured watercolour wash. I thought that a permanent exhibition space for some of our countries greatest illustrators was an excellent idea and should be supported.
House of Illustration,
2 Granary Square,
020 3696 2020
Roald Dahl 100 Afternoon Tea
The Shard, London, SE1 9RY, UK
I had never been to The Shard before but I had seen it several times on television and in photographs so a celebration of the writer`s birth seemed like as good an excuse to visit for the first time as any. I soon realised that The Shard has many entrances and contains many different enterprises including the Shagri-La Hotel, Al Jazeera Media Network, View from the Shard, Campari UK, Gallup, Tiffany`s, residential residences, Warwick Business School and various other interests across its 95 stories.
The Shard sometimes referred to as the Shard of Glass, Shard London Bridge or London Bridge Tower stands at 309.6 metres (1,016 feet) high is the tallest building in the United Kingdom, the 105th tallest building in the World and the fourth tallest building in Europe. I was there to visit Aqua Shard who were the official afternoon tea partner for Roald Dahl 100.
Aqua Shard promised, `a nostalgic romp through the wonderful world of Roald Dahl following the format of a traditional afternoon tea, with a curious twist, savoury and sweet items all take inspiration from some of Roald Dahl’s most beloved books, all served on bespoke crockery depicting Quentin Blake’s famous illustrations`.
It was a magical afternoon with guests being transported into the world of Roald Dahl’s books with a colourful and transparent installation adorning the triple-storey atrium windows.
Aqua Shard had created a menu that attempted to capture the imagination and fascination Dahl had expressed for food. The playful afternoon tea menu was presented in a book illustrated with the covers of Dahl`s most enchanting stories., You could also sit and eat the menu if you so desired! I saved my menu for the journey back on the train to Northampton.
Each of the savoury and sweet items had taken their inspiration from some of Dahl’s most beloved books and were all served on plates, cups and saucers showing Quentin Blakes illustrations, many of which I had seen earlier in the day at the House of Illustration.
I loved Mr Twit’s bird pie encased in buttery puff pastry complete with ‘birds’ legs’ poking out of the top, it looked a treat and tasted delicious. The ‘breakfast’ sandwich with fried eggs and bacon in between colourful tomato bread fingers was also very tasty but the tea served in what was designed to represent Charlie’s Great Glass Elevator was not so much about how much food was provided or what it tasted like but the overall presentation and nostalgia which it evoked was paramount to the whole experience.
A real delight, magical!
32 London Bridge Street
The gentlemen`s toilet at Aqua Shard must have one of the best views in London. Something I thought would have appealed to Dahl`s mischievous nature hence `The Loo with a View`.
The Travel Locker
If you visit The Shard or the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, or The House of Illustration as a result of this blog please mention The Travel Locker