Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Great Missenden (Featuring A Particularly Great Author!)

After a good night's sleep, we woke up bright and early to disembark from Oxford to pay a visit to the village of Great Missenden, home to the one and only Roald Dahl. We arrived in the village after about an hour of the sunniest bus ride you could imagine in England, which gave us just enough time to explore our surroundings before we headed to the museum. Our walk through town led us to a beautiful church sitting atop the hill, St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, which is home to the village's cemetery.

In fact, this is where Roald Dahl himself is buried!

Great Missenden is certainly still considered the home of Roald Dahl - he still receives hundreds of letters from children across the world who read his book through the Great Missenden post office, which are bagged up and delivered to his daughter.

The group split up from here: some of us stayed to explore the graves (the oldest one we found dated back to the mid-1800's!), while others explored the nature trail and still others headed back into town. Great Missenden was quite charming, full of little cottages and overflowing gardens.

We finally arrived at the Roald Dahl Museum to begin our tour, which (after a quick exploration of the gift shop) started with an informational session about Roald Dahl's life in the museum's story center. We learned many facts about the author. For instance, did you know that Roald Dahl once crashed his fighter plane into the deserts of Lybia? This was actually the inspiration for his first publication, though he and the editors cleverly omitted the fact that Dahl had actually run out of fuel for his plane! This plane crash left him with an injury to his back - a lump that was never removed, so he cut a chunk out of his writing chair to accomodate it. Dahl was also incredibly tall, towering over Kat at 6 feet, 5 3/4 inches.

After concluding our lesson about Roald Dahl, we were given free time to explore the museum, which houses the entirety of Roald Dahl's archives. Dahl wrote many, many drafts for each of his stories, and he insisted that his archives remain together after his death. Because of his expansive archives, we know that "James and the Giant Peach" was once actually "James and the Giant Apple"! Dahl also considered an orange, a pear, and a cherry as the transportation for James and his insect friends.

We also saw the original models for Wes Anderson's adaptation of "Fantastic Mr. Fox":

Most excitingly, the museum also features a recreation of the hut where Dahl spent 4 hours every day writing his books. Here he kept his writing chair, his writing table (made specially for him and covered with billiard felt because it was easier on the eyes), and his desk, which held memorabilia from throughout his life. See if you can spot: a silver ball made from wrappers from every chocolate bar he consumed for a year, a vial containing shavings of his own spine, and the sawn-off top portion of his own femur.

After touring the museum, we stopped for a spot of lunch at Cafe Twit, and hopped on the bus back to Oxford.

When returning to Oxford, some of the class went on a tour of Brasenose College before gathering for our discussion of "Boy," Roald Dahl's book about his own childhood. After our group discussions, many went to the Turf Tavern for dinner and wrapped up the evening with a game of trivia hosted by The Eagle and the Child.

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