Friday, 1 May 2015

Whitley Students Visit Roald Dahl's Home

Telegraph article here

The following is a recollection of the visit from Joe Lea, an '8A' Student Reporter.
07:00 – 70 year 7 students meet at the front of school and get sorted into groups.
07:15 – We make our way down to and board the coaches. We are off to Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire!
It is a bit earlier than our normal school day but it seems everyone is too excited to remain silent for more than five minutes. You could hear the laughing and the talking across the coaches. We are very lucky to be on the big black and very comfortable coaches. And again the talking and the laughing continues until we arrive in Great Missenden village.
09:35 – Destination at last!
Upon leaving the car park where we are dropped off, we have to climb over some metal bars as we go the wrong way! There are only some of us who have to do so. The other students go in the right direction though.
On we go….towards the High Street….
Everything around us is very clean and green.
We see many beautiful houses with blossoming flowers on display outside the houses.
We see the Great Missenden Library on our right-hand side and the red petrol pumps on the left hand-side. We will learn a lot of facts when we start our self-guided tour by our teachers.
10:00 – We split off into two big groups: one group with Mr Hudson and Miss Wilson and the other group with the remaining 3 teachers.
As the Museum workshop could accommodate maximum 35 of us at one time, our group A does the morning workshop and group B goes for the afternoon one.
All of us are so excited.
We go to the Great Missenden Library first where we get to speak to a lovely lady who works at the Library as a librarian. She tells us about the little girl named Matilda in the book Matilda. She showed us the area of the Library which is now named Matilda’s Library.  She also tells us how she met Roald Dahl when he was still alive. She used to work in the Village bank and he used to be the customer there.
Then we bid farewell to the very nice librarian and move on towards the Church of St .Peter and Paul.
On this journey we stop by the Great Missenden Post Office where around 4000 letters were sent to Roald Dahl per week! (We reckon it could have taken Roald Dahl a bit of time to go through all the letters from his fans all over the world!).
We also spend a bit of time listening to Mrs Nguyen’s explanation about the red petrol pumps on the other side of the High Street. Actually this very precise petrol pump was the description of the Garage in the book Danny the Champion of the World. Then we learn that Roald Dahl used to work for Shell Oil after he left school! No wonder why the petrol pumps are now a landmark of the tour!
Not far from the red petrol pumps is the Crown House (on the same side of the road with the pumps). The House is actually a private house. We have to treat it with respect. We are also told that this House was Roald Dahl’s inspiration for Sophie’s ‘norphanage’ in the book BFG! ( I hope you are aware of the new word of Roald Dahl ‘norphanage’ in the story BFG.)
Finally we reach the Church of St Peter and Paul!
Chris – the volunteer – greets us and tells us that the church is over 800 years old! He also shares with us the stories how the old bells were restored in 1990 and the Holy Water Font. We are intrigued. Chris also tells us that some parts of the church are ‘invariable’ – meaning that it hadn’t changed at all over 800 years! Wow!
Then comes the very solemn part…. We walk up the path round the top of the graveyard and down to the memorial bench under a big green tree. The tree has benches around it which each has the names of Roald Dahl’s five children and three stepchildren.
Then we follow the BFGs big footsteps and go to see Roald Dahl’s actual resting place where someone placed two yellow daffodils down crossing over each other…This is such a nice touch.
12:00 – Lunch Time!
We walk back to the Museum. It is a Grade 2 listed building. Later on we learn that Roald Dahl moved to Great Missenden in 1954 and until after his death in 1990, in 1996 the building was bought and his wife (called Lissy) worked very hard to fund-raise to make the Museum as it is today. Wow!
Back at our two groups…
We meet back up and have lunch together as a group until around 12:30 where we get back into our groups and swap the activities.
12:30 – The afternoon activities begin.
The workshop starts with a discussion, then a chat in a remake of Roald Dahl’s writing hut.
We then get a chance to look around the Story Centre and visit the two galleries ‘Boy’ and ‘Solo’. More things to learn and enjoy…
We come to realise how tall Roald Dahl was! Very and very tall of 197 centimetres!
Grace – the Museum Assistant tells us a brief history about Roald Dahl’s life, how he came into writing and beautiful small artefacts around Roald Dahl’s writing hut. They are amazing! We did not know that Roald Dahl used to be a pilot in Africa during WW2, how he hated school life and how he tried to get away from his life in St Peter’s boarding school in Weston Super-Mare!
The students then all collaborated together and headed for the coach.
14:30 - We are all on the coach and ready to leave for Coventry!
16:30 – Back in Coventry! The perfect end to a perfect day!