The Barking and District Historical Society and Chadwell Heath Historical Society had a very enjoyable Coach Trip to Dickens World at Chatham Marine on Sunday 16th September 2012. Sadly the river tour of the site was not available, but we had great fun in the Victorian classroom where a number of our members were forced to sit in the corner wearing dunces caps. Many thanks to Richard for organising the outing. Katie Avagah has penned her personal account of the outing to Dickens World.
Richard –'I told Doris 8.30, but be at the bus stop on Sunday at 9 o'clock'. Me – 'Are you sure, doesn't give us much time.' 'Yes, plenty of time!' We stroll down the road, mobile rings, John – 'Where are you? Richard has been waiting 10 minutes!' Doris phones Heidi –'Gasp ... gasp, Richard is waiting!' Arrive at Heathway, no car; no Richard; no Heidi? Car drives out of Langhorne onto the Heathway, Heidi already inside... Richard this is a 'No Exit onto Heathway' road! Another Richard 'joke' hits the dust!!
Soon we are safely at Sainsbury's, then on our way to Kent for 'The Dickens World'. As we drive along Richard stumbles up and down the aisle giving out leaflets; ouch! he bumps his head on the luggage shelf. Later he again attempts the hazardous journey along the coach, selling raffle tickets; ouch! he bumps his head again. Arriving in good time, we are apparently the only group visitors today, we are greeted at the entrance then set off like excited kids on a school outing. Up some stairs we enter - well, what have we entered because it is pitch dark? Sliding our feet fearfully along the floor, reaching out trying to make contact with the walls, peering to see the person in front. Will we confront steps -going up! going down! Perhaps this lasted just a few moments, but it seemed a worrying, endless experience! What next! Then at last, there is light! We stumble around the corner into 'Old London Town'.
Anyone who has read or watched Oliver, The Old Curiosity Shop, A Tale of Two Cities, doesn't need me to describe the scene. Jumbled streets, crookedy buildings, decay, poverty; the design and layout is quite fantastic. However, first things first, we all need some sustenance, so it's a cuppa all round. Here in the courtyard we then see our first drama; a shortened version of A Christmas Carol. Later we are entertained with a quite good rendering of Oliver Twist. In both dramas young child visitors are encouraged to play parts in the 'plays'.
As a group we are persuaded to visit Dothe Boys Academy by the very bullish, Victorian Teacher who strides around, long black robes flowing, even longer cane brandished on high, with even louder voice upbraiding one and all. Rather slowly and reluctantly, like any schoolchild, we enter the bare classroom, timidly taking our places at the wooden desks. We are to have a lesson in 'Rifmatic', £.s.d. in particular. Sir pounds the room, cane at the ready, shouting questions, eyes front and don't forget to say, 'YES, SIR!' John shines when he is able to tell Sir that the 'd' stands for the Latin 'denarius; even Sir is impressed with this. The 'D' also stands for 'DUNCE' and who ends up in the corner with the Dunce's Hat on –why our only teacher present – Heidi. We all vote Sir as the star of the whole show.
We eat lunch in the 'Whatever you fancy we have run out of, but what we have is tasty' restaurant; and the staff are lovely. After watching 'Oliver' we spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the many nooks and crannies of this great experience. In the Theatre we sit in the front row; Dickens is visiting America and doesn't appear to like the folk in 'Deep South'. We view a bar where an unsavoury customer aims at a spittoon; the screen goes green and we are showered with ... well we think it was water!
Soon it is time to return to the coach; everyone has had a great day and we are all in good humour, if a tad tired. Richard again decides to walk up and down the coach – why does he come by coach, he always walks anyway. Throughout the journey up and down he stumbles, constantly bumping his head on his travels. There are many suggestions put forward – an ex-army tin hat; a miner's helmet; a padded knitted balaclava. However I have now given this subject some serious thought. Some folk wear a St. Christopher; some will cross their fingers; others send up a prayer; in Africa they pour a little spirit onto the ground as libation to the Gods. Richard is this your way of seeking 'a safe journey' whenever you travel by coach?