July means summer holidays and freedom, according to Roald Dahl's My Year...
For many people, the start of July marks the final few weeks before the start of the summer holidays. The weather is, hopefully, warm and sunny, and we can look forward to travelling to far-away places or just exploring our local area, free from the usual day-to-day life of school or work.
Roald Dahl loved the freedom that summer brought: for him the month of July represented escape. In My Year he describes in fond detail how in 1934, aged 16, he bought himself a second hand motor-bike and used this to get away from the tedium of his school life at Repton. At the start of term he would ride his bike all the way from his home in Kent to his school in Derbyshire and store it secretly at a garage a few miles from the school. Then, when he could sneak out from school, he would put on his helmet, googles and motorbike coat and go ‘sailing in a state of absolute bliss’ round the roads of Derbyshire. If he had been caught by the teachers, he would have been severely punished, but this, of course, was part of the thrill, and he kept his wonderful bike and his exhilarating rides a secret from everyone, even his closest friends.
Above: Roald Dahl on his motobike, on display in the Roald Dahl Museum
Roald also loved the anticipation of his summer holidays – as a child this almost always meant the long, exciting journey from England to Norway to see his grandparents and the rest of his Norwegian family. Along with his mother, sisters and assorted friends, he would travel up to Hull from Kent, and then sail across the North Sea until they reached Oslo, and from there to where his relatives lived in Tjøme. We know this because the young Roald made a scrapbook, kept here in the Museum archives, which he filled with photos, hand-drawn maps and postcards showing the places he visited.
Above: a page from Roald Dahl's scrapbook
His summers were full of adventure – rowing boats across fjords and lakes, fishing, swimming and climbing rocks. He recounts his idyllic childhood summers in Boy: Tales of Childhood, and his memories of his Norwegian summer holidays were no doubt where he got his inspiration for the depiction of the Boy’s home with his Grandmother in The Witches.
Above: a photo from one of the family's trips to Norway
For Roald, the anticipation of these exciting weeks of travel was clearly one of the best parts about this time of year - he closes this chapter of My Year by telling us
Preparing to go off on your summer holidays is one of the best moments of the entire year when you are young. Have a great time.