I never cease to be amazed by the number of places with links to Charles Dickens.
The other weekend my wife Jan and I had a weekend in Bath, a place we had not been back to since the first night of our honeymoon 35 years ago.
First stop for us were the Roman Baths, pictured below, which together with the Grand Pump Room attract more than a million visitors every year.
We walked round firstly the well-preserved baths to which Romans came from all over the empire to enjoy the waters and then the Pump Room where we found a reference to Dickens and a quote from one of his books.
I confess I had never read his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, but in the book Mr Pickwick asks his faithful servant: “Have you drank (sic) the waters, Mr Weller?”
To which Sam replies: “I thought they were particularly unpleasant. I thought they’d a very strong flavour o’ warm flat irons.”
We tasted the waters and were not as critical as Mr Sam Weller. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to this fascinating tourist destination which was full of visitors, even in November.
However, we were surprised to read in the local paper, The Bath Chronicle, that the town was worried that the Olympics Games in London might devastate their tourism figures next year.
So it was interesting to read that Bath is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth just as The Lion Hotel in Shrewsbury is.
On Tuesday, February 7 next year in Bath at 7pm in the Pump Room there is a one-man double bill by Doc Watson as he tells The Pickwick Papers story and The Signal-man, Dickens’ famous ghost story.
Tickets £8- £6 concessions from: Bath Festivals Box Office, 2 Church St, 01225 463 362, www.bathboxoffice.org.uk/
In Shrewsbury the bi-centenary is celebrated by the author’s great, great grandson, Gerald Dickens, with a weekend of readings.
On Friday, February 3, 2012, at 8pm he performs Mr Dickens is Coming, which is a light-hearted and varied look at the life and character of his ancestor.
On Saturday Gerald reads Sikes and Nancy, which Charles Dickens introduced to his repertoire of readings in 1869 and judged the success of the evening by the number of ladies who fainted in horror.
Tickets for those shows are £8.50 each or £15 for both nights from The Lion Hotel on 01743 353107 or go to www.wegottickets.com/f/3039