Scrooge Alive and Miserable at Tredegar House

A golden gateway to a Victorian Christmas framed the Tredegar House, located in Newport.  The walls surrounding the 17th century mansion concealed Christmas trees, decorations, presents and an odious gentleman.  “Bah,” said the angry gentleman, wearing a white nightgown and cap.

Scrooge sat in Tredegar House counting gold, and bringing a distinct chill to the room. The embers in the fire did not warm Scrooge’s welcome. He stared, in disgust, at his guests and did his best to make them feel unwelcome.

“I hate Christmas! There’s no point in all that nonsense,” sneered Scrooge at the suspicious children passing by.

A young boy stamped his foot on the oak floor.  “I like Christmas.  I’m getting a new bike,” declared the fair-haired boy.  He looked up at his father for reassurance.

Scrooge placed his arms lovingly around his piles of gold. ‘Humbug!’ he repeated constantly in his ‘grating voice’.

I heard the guests’ ‘laughter and good humour’, and this melted the frosty reception of Scrooge.  I heard parents retelling A Christmas Carol and explaining the character of Scrooge.  It was wonderful to observe literature brought to life through this interactive approach.

A child, called Beth, joined in the fun and declared, “Bah, humbug” to all the members of staff positioned in each room.  A toddler playing with a wooden train set, in the nursery, was reluctant to return it.  The cook invited everyone to stir the Christmas pudding, as she explained the glorious Christmas feast the family would have enjoyed. The quantities of food consumed in the grand house did make me wonder how that would have contrasted with the average Victorian Christmas. But the thought didn’t linger too long, because I was distracted by the sight dark-haired fellow, pacing up and down the court yard.  Later, I saw the gentleman at the writing desk. I peered in his notebook and it said, ‘Scrooge to honour Christmas’.

Many thanks to the National Trust, staff and volunteers for organising the festive experience.  Archways, gates, gardens and rooms were decked with Christmas cheer.  Not even Scrooge could freeze the glorious atmosphere at Tredegar House.

Following the visit, I decided it was time to decorate my own home.  I confess I watched Miracle on 34th Street, as I decorated each Christmas tree. I heard Valentine Davies say:

“Well, this is the Imagination. And once you get there you can do almost anything you want.”

I do hope the children visiting Scrooge found their imagination in that cold room, and will tell the story of their experience.


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What the Dickens?

Holiday adventures…

Broadstairs was the fifth seaside town we had visited on a glorious, Arctic summer’s day. Nostalgia fatigue was attacking my senses beside the seaside, and I didn’t have any ‘Great Expectations’.

A sickly scent of palm oil signalled the end of lunchtime.  Ignoring the proud white villas, I noticed the litter on the beach.  I snubbed another ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ presenting the British souvenirs from China.  Branded eateries and coffee houses were shoehorned into the old buildings, and the walls seemed to be bulging with despair.

I couldn’t find any inspiration.  The stark, white house in front of me was as blank as my mind.  A tourist, wearing shorts and flipflops, pushed past me.  An optimistic tourist was buying a sunhat. My husband was pointing to another plaque above a door. I considered retrieving my thermal gear from the car.

The plaque was attached to the indistinct Royal Albion Hotel.  The sooty coloured plaque indicated that Dickens had lived there and written part of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ during his time there.  Now, I marvelled at the view that would have inspired him.  The Royal Albion Hotel had sheltered ‘Our Mutual Friend’. Turning to my phone, I googled information about Dickens in Broadstairs. My twenty first century phone found a gateway into the mind of the nineteenth century Dickens who spoke to me of:

‘prowling about the rooms, sitting down, getting up, stirring the fire, looking out of the window, teasing my hair, sitting to write, writing nothing, writing something and tearing it up.’

Dickens teased those ‘Hard Times’ faced by authors into the long sentence, each thought slamming into another comma, then another comma and another.  What the Dickens?  If the master suffered writer’s block then it must be fine.

On returning home, I ‘lit the fire’,’ teased my hair’ and began to write. The ink bottle remained unopened as I tapped on the keyboard. I pressed delete, delete, delete and rejoiced that there will be some ‘Hard Times’ before the story flows.  Indeed, Dickens knew that:

Hungry for more inspiration from Dickens. I searched for the places he had stayed in I found out that Dickens had also stayed in Folkestone.  Dickens stayed at Albion Villas, Folkestone and wrote part of ‘Little Dorrit’ in the house. He also used to frequent The British Lion.

What the Dickens? We used to live on The Leas, in Folkestone, and I had never known about the connection.  My travels revealed that:

‘Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight when it comes.’


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