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 !”