My Visit to Gipsy House

The Writing HutAt last we come to the finalĂ© of the trip: the writing hut. Felicity keeps it locked normally, but she let us in after the other guests had left. It’s exactly as he left it upon his death 10 years ago. His cigarette butts are still in the ashtray, and his Dixon Ticonderoga pencils are still in their cup. It was such a surreal moment for me, to be in this place that I had seen in pictures and where he had actually written the stories that started all of this for me.

Some stuff you might not notice: If you look under that cushion, a large square of material has been cut from the back of the chair. Dahl did this to ease the pressure on his spine after a back operation. The blanket at the foot of the chair is actually resting upon a trunk that Dahl would use as a footstool. He’d prop up his feet and pull the blanket up to his waist. He then had a green writing board that he’d put over his lap to work on.

The Writing HutThis desk beside Dahl’s chair is where he kept all of his treasures. If you look closely at the enlarged version, you can see: some WWII model airplanes, the top of his own hip bone (replaced in an operation), a silver ball made from the foil he collected from chocolate bars, some small vials with chips of bone and fluid (removed from his spine in another operation), and many pictures of friends and family. You can even see the gipsy caravan before the renovation in the three black-and-white photos on the wall!

Many thanks to Felicity Dahl, who was a lovely hostess and just as I imagined, and to the Roald Dahl Foundation for coordinating the visit.