Broadstairs on Sea

On the first Friday of February after leaving St Edward’s Presbytery and dropping my sister off at Ramsgate Station I headed to the little seaside resort of Broadstairs. It’s practically part of Ramsgate but definitely a separate place. I liked very much what I saw. I’d always been intrigued by views of the town which show Charles Dickens’s Bleak House on a cliff looking  out to sea. You can see it in the middle of the picture below. There are several Dickens connections in Broadstairs and I probably didn’t see all of them. At that early hour in the morning I was able to park easily near the sea front. As near as you can get by car, anyway. There are pleasant gardens and paths separating the beach from the road and the main streets and narrow lanes behind.

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Broadstairs Beach

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Report of a Sunday in Lancashire

Last weekend I ventured over to Lancashire. I’d been invited to a garden party at a friend’s allotment (dress code: fascinator and wellies) in Higher Walton, near Preston. It was raining as I left home in Yorkshire but by the time I was across the Pennines it had stopped and we enjoyed a Jacob’s Join lunch in the open air. I must say that allotment gardening, and gardening in general, look like an awful lot of hard work … but the gain is tremendous; Kath’s plot exceeded all expectations.

Plot 98 7

Welcome to the Party!

Wildflower bed

Wildflower Bed

Plot 98 1

Plot 98 6

Kath's Bee Hotel

Kath’s Bee Hotel

The Pottering Shed

It may be a shed

Trespassers

It turned out that the allotment is just a few minutes from Hoghton Tower so after lunch two of us made our way to the Tower where we came across a reenactment of the Battle of Preston (1715). Amongst the reenactors I was surprised to see the Leeds Waits a group of musicians specialising in medieval music and, incidentally, my next-door neighbours!

Leeds Waits

The battle of Preston at Houghton Tower 2015 : a short film showing the musicians that used to play at executions!”

We booked a tour of the house at 2.30 and made for the tea room for refreshments beforehand.

Hoghton Tower

Some significant people are associated with Hoghton. In particular our guide was impressed by the James I connection. James is reported to have spent a few nights at the Tower in 1617 and it was here that he was so pleased with his roast beef dinner that he knighted the joint Sir Loin. James was apparently a small chap and instead of dismounting outside in the courtyard he rode his horse right into the house and up the stairs.
It is also reported that William Shakespeare spent some time here during the period known as his ‘lost years’.

Charles Dickens was also familiar with the house and wrote a short story centred around it including a description of the building as a farm house: George Silverman’s Explanation.

And so, by fragments of an ancient terrace, and by some rugged outbuildings that had once been fortified, and passing under a ruined gateway, we came to the old farm-house in the thick stone wall outside the old quadrangle of Hoghton Towers.

Courtyard today

The “quadrangle” today

Read here about another blogger’s visit to Hoghton.

The Battle's over

The Battle’s Over – Time to go Home

 

 

Acting Ebenezer, in which Mr Dickens assuming many a character of his own devising will attempt to render dramatically his recent ghostly book : A Christmas Carol

Leeds Library at Christmas

Christmas at The Leeds Library 2013

Xmas Leeds Lib

Christmas at The Leeds Library 2011

On Friday at lunchtime David Robertson of Theatre of the Dales brought his excellent one man show ‘Acting Ebenezer’ to The Leeds Library and performed his abridged version of ‘A Christmas Carol‘ very much in the style of the inimitable Mr Dickens. In addition to his powerful acting of the part of CD Mr Robertson has the distinct advantage of looking the image of Dickens himself!

It was the perfect start to Christmas week and the perfect venue for such a literary performance.

Poster

I didn’t like to take photos during the performance and at the end Mr Robertson disappeared in whoosh! So here are some quotes from the book itself and from the flyer left on our seats before the performance.

Christmas Carol

PREFACE

I HAVE endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. 

Their faithful Friend and Servant,

C. D.                  December, 1843.*

” “A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!” *

[* Source of quotations from ‘A Christmas Carol’]

And David Robertson writes :

“After the success of Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, Dickens quarrelled with his publishers, whom he suspected of taking too much of the profits, and rashly told them he himself would bear the cost of their publishing A Christmas Carol.

He wouldn’t scrap the gold embossed cover or the four coloured etchings and insisted on keeping the price to 5/- to be affordable to almost everybody. As it turned out, he landed in considerable debt because so many pirate editions, claiming to be ‘improvements’, reduced his sales. Of course, in the end, A Christmas Carol proved the most popular of all his works and has remained so this day.

I’ve been playing Scrooge in one form or another for twelve years now, starting with a recording I was commissioned to make for students learning English (in which Bah, humbug! was watered down to Oh, nonsense). But I recently met Gerald Dickens, the great great grandson of Charles, and was so impressed by his one-person enactment of Nicholas Nickleby that I’ve been tempted to (gingerly) follow in his footsteps.

I hope you’ll enjoy the result.

David”

We certainly did, thank you, David. And a Merry Christmas Everyone!

Christmas Carol

A Complete Face Lift at Dickens House Museum

On my first visit to The Dickens House Museum a few years ago I came away thinking what a very disappointing experience it had been. As a Dickens fan I had had high hopes of the visit.

Dickens House Museum (Jan 2008)

Dickens House Museum (January 2008)

Dickens House (Jan 2013)

The Dickens House Museum (January 2013)

On Friday 4th January after our stay at Hampton Court Palace we decided to visit the newly re-opened Museum to see whether matters had improved.

The Dickens House Museum is the only remaining London home that Dickens occupied and that was for only about two years. It was at a time when he was not long married, was making a name for himself and it was here that he wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. The address is 48 Doughty Street in Bloomsbury, WC1.

Number 48 Doughty Street was an important place in Charles Dickens’s life where he resided from 1837 until 1839. Dickens described the terraced Georgian dwelling as ‘my house in town’.

Two of his daughters were born here, his sister-in-law Mary died aged 17 in an upstairs bedroom and some of Dickens’s best-loved novels were written here, including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. However Dickens required more space for his growing family and moved to 1 Devonshire Terrace in 1839. The house remained a residential property, but was threatened with demolition in 1923, when the Dickens Fellowship acquired it. The Museum was opened in 1925 and has become the home of the world’s finest Dickens-related collection.” From the Dickens House Museum website.

I have to concur with what fellow WordPress blogger “Visiting Houses and Gardens” said about it here. However, the house has been closed for renovations [The Great Expectations Project] for a good part of 2012 – the Dickens Bicentenary Year.

It reopened in December last year and a great amount of work must have been done during that time. With the help of National Heritage Lottery Funding the adjacent house was purchased and that now houses all the offices, the shop, cafe and other requirements for this modern age of “Heritage Visiting”. Number 48 is now purely Dickens’ Home as it might have looked at the time that he lived there – 1837-1839.

We are invited by the Museum to : “Step this way”

“Visitors to 48 Doughty Street can see the house as it might have been when Dickens lived here.  Rooms are decorated in the early Victorian style that Dickens would have favoured and personal posessions of Dickens from his lifetime as well as manuscripts, letters and portraits are on display.”

So, on entering number 49 we were directed into the front room of this house where there was a shop and the cash desk. We were handed a guidebook each with instructions to return it on leaving the Museum. From there we stepped into number 48 and toured the house that Dickens knew and we enjoyed (and learned from) the experience.

Dining with Dickens

Dining with Charles Dickens

This Way!

This way to the Sitting Room, Everyone!

First Floor Sitting Room

The Dickens Family Sitting Room at Christmas

Dickens on the train and Dickens in the shop – a visit to my neighbour

Members of my online reading group are scattered far and wide around the world. I have been lucky enough to meet many of them here in the UK and also when I’ve been on holiday abroad. My nearest group ‘neighbour’ lives in Carlisle about 100 miles away and luckily we have the famous Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line to assist us in our efforts to meet up every so often.  On Thursday I made the trip north. As you can imagine it’s a full day trip – but well worth it just to visit Carlisle but the added bonus of meeting up with a friend makes it doubly so. I was lucky in other respects as well.  The weather could not have been better, blue skies and sunshine showed the scenery at its best – you could even see snow on the Lakeland peaks in the distance.

All the trains ran to time, although on parts of the journey the L-S-C train moves very slowly. During all this time with just the odd glance out of the window I was engaged reading Claire Tomalin’s ‘Dickens: a life”.

We met up at the station and went straight for tea/coffee at John Watt’s. Watt’s is primarily a Coffee Shop but I was pleased to note that they serve loose tea by the pot. Having just checked the website again I notice that they are tea blenders as well as coffee roasters. The over riding smell in the shop/cafe is roasting coffee and although I don’t drink it I have no objection at all to the smell. Teas and coffees are only half the game – they sell every kind of tea and coffee requisite accessory imaginable plus high class chocolates of all kinds. I couldn’t resist asking where the Christmas decorations had been hung – there didn’t appear to be any free space at all.

We visited two bookshops. Handily placed was The Oxfam Bookshop (most towns have one now) just two doors down from Watt’s. And then we moved on to Carlisle’s piece de resistance for bibliophiles The Bookcase. It’s a many-roomed shop filled to overflowing with books. The owners are up to date with secondhand book prices but we found lots of the old orange Penguins in pretty good to excellent condition for just a couple of pounds each. I bought an unread copy of Monica Dickens’ ‘My Turn to Make the Tea’. (The copy on the far left of the picture.)

My friend and her husband have not long lived in Cumbria. They moved over from Northumberland in 2010. I was taken back to their new home for a lovely lunch and inspection of house and garden. Suddenly it was time to head to the nearby quaint old station at Armathwaite where we said our ‘Goodbyes’ and I headed back to Leeds arriving with just one remaining chapter of the life to read.