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.’