Writing and Reading group co-coordinator, Catherine Davidson, reflects on the group’s recent visit to the Charles Dickens Museum. The poetry the group has been working on together this spring can be read here.
Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade. ― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
On Thursday, March 14, the Writing and Reading group from West London Welcome went on an outing to the Charles Dickens Museum in central London. This was organised by Anna Perera, who leads the group with Catherine Davidson. She printed out some beautiful colour timelines and background sheets for us to read on the day.
Shirin, Elizabeth, Jalal, Adia, Catherine and Anna met at the museum at lunchtime. We brought a picnic and ate in the café, next to the garden and fountain. Afterwards we walked through the rooms, taking pictures, taking in memories.
A week later, we wrote and shared some of what stood out in our minds.
We noticed the intimate details of the lives of the Dickens’ family, like the tiny bed where the writer’s sister slept; the bell cord to call the servants in the master bedroom, where we found the dress Mrs. Dickens wore. Elizabeth said it made her appear “like a ghost, all dressed in white, but you couldn’t hear her voice.” The dining room, “all brightly laid out” with plastic food (to quote Elizabeth again, who added, “luckily we’d all had our lunch”). She imagined “the candlelight there in harmony, a link to the past.” In the living room, we noticed the luxury, the line of silver punch spoons all in a row, the rocking chair and smoking supplies, giving us a strong sense of the young writer on the rise in his society.
We went down to the basement, where the engine of the house could still be seen almost at work: the hand press irons all lined up in a row , “just like my mother used” (Elizabeth), the stuffed hedgehog showing us an unusual system of Victorian pest control. Shirin remembered seeing the dried herbs hanging in the pantry. The laundry room “gave us a feeling of physical work of washing up.” Elizabeth “remembered using a stone to hit clothes with rocks by the river, really pounding it.” Shirin remembered us telling Jalal to be careful on the narrow stairs. Not just the bed but all the rooms and furniture seemed so small.
Shirin had the final word when we were there: “the atmosphere made such an impression on me. I will never forget it.”