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Roald Dahl - the World’s No. 1 Storyteller

The widowed Sofie Dahl, and her three children and two step-children, then moved to Cumberland Lodge at 134 Cardiff Road, now part of Howells’ School, and two years later young Roald went to his first school, a kindergarten called Elmtree House.  He rode to school every day on his new tricycle and remembered the joy of speeding around corners on two wheels and ‘whooping his way to school in the centre of the highway’.

Then, aged seven, he started at Llandaff Cathedral School, then on the site of the new houses overlooking The Green.  Only two moments remained clearly in his mind about his time in the School, one was watching a senior boy (12 years old) riding at full speed on his bicycle.  As he passed by he started backpedalling very quickly, making a loud whirring sound, he then  took his hands off the handlebars and folded them casually across his chest.  Roald told himself that one glorious day he too would have a bike like that, and wear long trousers with bicycle clips, riding at speed with his cap sitting jauntily on his head.

His other memorable moment concerns the Sweetshop that he passed every day before and after school.  But, of course, he didn’t pass it, he stopped and lingered.  He gazed at the delights inside, the Humbugs, Strawberry Bonbons, Acid Drops and Pear Drops.  But his favourites were Sherbert Suckers (Fountains) and Liquorice Bootlaces.  His young pal, Thwaites, delighted in the knowledge that liquorice was made from boiled up rats – and that eating it gave you ratitis.  But it couldn’t stop Roald buying them, along with gobstoppers, sugar snorters and butter gumballs.

The owner of the Sweetshop was immortalised by his character, Mrs Pratchett.  ‘A small skinny old hag with a moustache on her upper lip and a mouth as sour as a green gooseberry’.   The odious owner wore an apron that was grey and greasy, her clothes were filthy and her hands were black with dirt and grime.  She was also mean and customers wouldn’t get a bag unless they spent a whole sixpence in one go.  Otherwise their sweets would be twisted in a scrap of the Daily Mirror that was left lying on the dusty counter.

So, it was understandable that the mischievous seven year olds were keen to hatch a plan, and get their own back on Mrs Pratchett.  And so The Great Mouse Plot that he wrote about in his book ‘Boy’ was devised.

As a result of this misdemeanour, his mother moved him to St Peter’s School in Weston-super-Mare as a boarder.  At just nine years old, he suffered from acute home-sickness and wrote home to his mother once a week.  He was thirteen when he started at Repton in Derbyshire, and, due to its proximity to Cadbury’s, he became a chocolate tester and continued his love of sweets that began in Llandaff.

The Llandaff Society has recently unveiled a plaque in honour of Roald Dahl, click here for more details.

More on Roald Dahl can be found on the Roald Dahl website.

Roald Dahl was born at Villa Marie (now Ty Gwyn), in Fairwater Road, Llandaff on 13th September 1916.  His parents were Norwegian, and his father Harald set up a shipbroking business – Aadnesen & Dahl – in Bute Street.  In 1918 they moved to Ty Mynydd, an imposing country mansion in Radyr (now demolished), but sadly two years later, Harald died of pneumonia, aged just 57.  He is buried at St John’s Church in Danescourt.

Roald Dahl books