Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens !

Yesterday was the 200th birth anniversary of Charles Dickens, and not surprisingly Google came up with a doodle to commemorate the occasion.

Google Doodle on 7 February 2012, in memory of Charles Dickens’ 200th birth anniversary

This charming doodle evoked the era and times of the world that the characters from Dickens’ books inhabited. Surely one can see the ghost from A Christmas Carol as well as Fagin from Oliver Twist, and Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop in the doodle? And is that an adult David Copperfield in the curve of the second ‘g’ in the doodle? Or is it Nicholas Nickleby?

I love and loathe Charles Dickens or rather his characters in equal measure. David Copperfield is one of my favourite books, and I love the curmudgeonly Miss Copperfield, just as I loathe Fagin from Oliver Twist. When I read The Old Curiosity Shop, I cried over Nell’s fate and her loneliness. I found Great Expectations tedious and Nicholas Nickleby boring and worthy of a Bollywood film ! A Tale of Two Cities was incomprehensible the first time I read it; it took me a second reading of the book to appreciate the nuances and the plot. Love him or loathe him, one can never be indifferent to Charles Dickens.

That is the reason that there are so many museums and festivals dedicated to Charles Dickens across the world. One such place is  Rochester, in the Kent region of England, which hosts a Summer Dickens Festival every May, and a Dickensian Christmas every December. The Festivals give an opportunity for the townspeople to dress up in Dickensian costumes and have a good time. There is a lot of street entertainment, folk music, Punch and Judy shows, and readings from Charles Dickens’ books. In addition to this, the Swiss chalet like house that Dickens lived in while based in Rochester is open to the public.

All this makes Rochester a perfect place for tourists to visit. I was fortunate to visit Rochester in May 2009 on the last day of the Summer Dickens Festival. Some memories from that visit: Continue reading “Happy 200th birthday, Charles Dickens !”

The golden city of Bath

Bath is a rather funny name for a city, isn’t it? I first came across the city of Bath in Charles DickensThe Pickwick Papers, and later in Jane Austen’s novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Over the years I “visited Bath” through other stories, essays, films, paintings and photographs, and discovered a deliciously decadent life of leisure and luxury, fashion, intrigue, matchmaking, music, dance, poetry… I further discovered Bath’s history of healing and curing through its mineral rich, hot water springs. In fact, archaeological evidence exists of the waters of Bath being used for healing purposes since pre-Roman times. In 1987, Bath was declared a UNESCO Word Heritage Site.

When I spent a year in London in 2008-2009, Bath was on my list of “must see places before return to India”. And on one beautiful July day in 2009, I set off for a day trip to Bath, organised by London Walks. It was a day that the English, rather mistakenly, call an Indian summer’s day—pleasantly sunny with a cool breeze and intermittent light showers. A lovely day to travel and have a bath in walk around Bath. 🙂

Located in the green and gold Somerset countryside of England, my first impression of Bath, or Bath Spa as the city is called now, was that it did not look or feel like England at all—it had a very European air about the place. The River Avon flows through Bath and it is the first thing that you see when you come out of the station.

The River Avon at Bath

Continue reading “The golden city of Bath”