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It all began with this man, Dickens. David Copperfield was the first novel I ever read. I was in school, waiting to be inspired, to go on imagined journeys and fall in love with something truly great. It was Dickens and all things about him, the London he described, of chimney sweepers and artful dodgers, of narrow lanes and busy streets, bakers and shoe makers, flower sellers on sidewalks, slender women and very kind gentlemen – what a world! I read the novel over a month during summer holidays. It was a very busy summer of imagination. Imagining Dickens London was like my full time job.
When I finished David Copperfield, I craved for more Dickens and more of the London he seems to know so well. Hence picked up Oliver Twist, followed by Nicholas Nickleby, Christmas Carol, Bleak House etc. I was a young school girl in an underdeveloped Indian town that was lost in her books by Dickens. I lived a Victorian life in my head, imagining taking myself to ball dances, walking through Hyde Park etc. I knew my heroes very well and loved them with all my heart but my biggest love was Dickens until I discovered Charles Lamb a little later. Since then, my love for Dickens was never lesser (just that it grew monumental for Lamb). Through school I read a lot of biographical notes on Dickens, certain snapshots have remained me with me solidly.
The Dickens Museum on Doughty Street is where Dickens lived for two years and wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby, both novels very close to my heart. This museum, they say, is Dickens’ only surviving house. And though I knew that the Museum was closed for renovation until the end of December, I learnt that the Museum Café was open! Also, the Dickens walking tours were happening too. Catharine had read some Dickens and was interested too. The most exciting news was that the Museum shop was open too. My love for Museum Shops deserves a separate blog entry but this is perhaps proof that I had browsed the shop’s website several times and had 30 pounds worth merchandise on my list to buy. I couldn’t wait to get them! I wanted the ‘Please Sir’ mugs, Old Curiosity Shop Model, Dickens Dreams posters, and Correspondence cards. The Museums ceramic magnet is super cute but expensive.
My lazy morning saunter left us out of the tour – we were late by ten minutes but that was completely acceptable to me.
Catharine, is awesome. She can read maps like no one else. I have no clue where she lead me through but I remember sprinting behind my friend with long, golden hair and in her Klimt art skirt. Minutes ago we were on a main street but then Catharine slipped into a tiny, very narrow lane which opened into a big park and residential area and through several of these office buildings, we arrived at a small garden outside which was a group of people listening to a very interesting looking man who seemed to be telling a story – surely we missed the walking tour. That seemed okay. I can take the walking tour on my next visit maybe, even if that should be after 50 years or I could make my own tour and walk around happily, finding the many sides of Dickens that I know.
We arrived at 48 Doughty Street but alas! It broke my heart to know that the café was closed for that day, there was just no way I could get into Dickens’ House but I was very happy to be there, to touch the door he must have passed through and to walk the sidewalks he possibly walked too. I requested Catharine for some pictures of me looking happy.
The only sad part was not being able to buy any Dickens merchandise, the shop was closed too.
We walked around the area and noticed more Blue Plaques, sadly, I recognized none of them! I must research on the names I found, my ignorance is a pity.
With the walking tour missed and the café closed, we were already thinking about the next place on our list – Hyde Park Corner. Home!