Thank you Roald Dahl
Updated: Sep 13
It's Roald Dahl Day on Sunday.
I am particularly grateful to Mr Roald Dahl. For, although I love stories, I have never loved to read . I'm horribly slow at it, the words dance about on the page for me and once the pictures dwindled and the words increased, I lost interest very quickly and frustration set in fast. Except, with Roald Dahl's books, and in particular, Matilda. I got a copy of Matilda for my 9th Birthday. I truly don't know how many times I read it, I lost count. I had quite a long phase at school where I would do my best to take out Matilda every time we would be sent into the library to pick a book for 'silent reading' (horrors). I knew the story so well, I could easily write something about what I'd read, and I just hoped the teachers didn't clock that I kept taking the same book - which eventually of course, they did. I never tired of Matilda, or any Roald Dahl books, and thankfully I knew I could turn to his books and feel ok. I actually got banned from my high school library in the end, I would take out a book for English and it would take me so long I'd hang on to it, I was also a little disorganised in my teenage years and my book would sit unread at home and become overdue (I was a librarian's nightmare!). After many times renewing the same book, and missing the return dates, my own school library confiscated my library card. Denied! It was totally fine by me and gave me a good excuse not to have to go back in. I got through GCSE English and never wanted to go back to it. I chose to study French at Uni. I popped along to Cambridge to take a look around and I asked the question "do you have to read many books on this course?"... The lady's face was a picture. I was deadly serious. And she said if that's how I felt then Cambridge absolutely wasn't the place for me. So I went for lunch with my Mum and we called it a day! I chose Newcastle because their course had minimal literature modules, although a small error in scheduling meant I actually had a semester where I had to take French Literature which was horrifying for me (plus the selected books were so dark and depressing!) Thankfully though, by the time I reached Uni, I was tested for my reading and got some help in the form of coloured overlays and glasses which was such a relief. It wasn't really a thing when I was growing up, but I think they're quite common for kids now which is great. Even in maths exams there might be a really wordy problem and it would take me so long to digest the words - especially under pressure - that I would have much less time to do the maths.
But back to Roald Dahl. I have always been tickled by the fact that I'm a girl who loves to create books, but hated to read them, but who loved to read a book about a girl who loves books!!
Once libraries no longer equated to being forced to pick a book, I actually love the vibe they have, and bookshops too. I find the presence of books really calming. My wonderful Mum used to save me the little audio books that would come free with papers - usually Winnie the Pooh or Alice in wonderland or something like that. I loved it when she did that. And thankfully now, audiobooks are so much more common and I love them too.
Roald Dahl's tories still give me so much laughter, joy and inspiration. There have been so many brilliant film and theatre adaptations of his stories which I have enjoyed as much as his books. I went to see Matilda The Musical with my Mum and Dad for my 30th birthday - because nothing says 'hey I'm a grown up' like a night out like that! Hehe! It was amazing, and an absolutely perfect evening! The 90s movie of Matilda also never fails to put a smile on my face. The stopmotion Wes Anderson movie of Fantastic Mr Fox is so wonderfully stylised and I love that too.
And then, there's the BFG.
Well, to a someone who always had very vivid dreams, idea of being blown some friendly ones in through your window is just heaven. When this film came out in 2016, I was living in Wanaka, New Zealand. This is important to the story because the cinema in Wanaka is the very best cinema I have ever been to. I would happily go and see a very average movie, just so that I could be there.
Cinema Paradiso is a small tiered theatre, full of old comfy sofas and on a quiet day, you could have a giant three seater sofa all to yourself... or a car, if you fancied the uncomfortable novelty!
So when the BFG came out, and I was in Wanaka, the stars had aligned and I couldn't wait to go. None of my friends were keen, so on a rainy afternoon, I headed along on my own. It was the first time I had ever been to the cinema on my own and I thought it might be a little bit weird, but it was amazing. The cinema make their own cookies which are freshly baked for half time (there is always a rush for them and always worth the rush!)
They also make their own ice cream with an array of flavours that Roald Dahl would be proud of. If I was ever feeling indulgent I'd get ice cream and a cookie - the Lollie Scramble (Vanilla Ice cream with lots of jelly sweets frozen into it).
When I got into the cinema, there was just me, two girls and their Mum. I ordered a coffee, and the lovely guy who worked there said he'd bring it in to me. I curled up on my favourite sofa and as the trailers started he wandered in with my cappuccino. I couldn't have been happier watching the twinkly film unfold to the sound of the John Williams score with my coffee in hand, it was just magical. After a little while, the guy from the café popped his head around to see if I'd like another coffee to go with the cookie I ordered for half time, I smiled and gave him a thumbs up. I felt like I'd been on a week long yoga retreat (...I'm guessing... I've never actually done one!). I didn't want to leave when the credits rolled.
One of my favourite scenes in the film, is when Sophie and the BFG blow a dream for the little boy. The president calls to speak to him to ask for his advice about some very important business. You can see the warmth on his face as he smiles confidently and picks up the phone. It embodies everything I feel when I dream an idea - awake or asleep. It pops into your mind and you smile at it while it tells you everything it could be if you get on board. The warm buzz of excitement in your stomach that feels a bit like you've had a hot chocolate but you're also about to ride a rollercoaster. Whenever I get those feelings, I listen to those dreams.
Having listened to a lot of Tim Ferris podcasts, I became really interested when he would say with absolute confidence that anyone can learn lucid dreaming. I followed a few of his main tips for a while (writing down your dreams being one of them) and sure enough, I was able to be aware when I was in my dreams sometimes. I didn't get as good as Tim Ferris talks about, but it was definitely enough to become my own BFG. And since then they have often been the kind of dreams I'd like to bottle into a jar.