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THE FIRST WORD; UK Regional Press Awards Supplement of the Year.

Byline: Ceri Gould

I'M not quite sure how I missed him but Roald Dahl was absent from my reading childhood. I flicked my way through the forms at Mallory Towers and enjoyed midnight feasts at St Claire's. I pretended I lived in the countryside through chapter upon chapter of Cherry Tree Farm not realising that, as we lived next to a farm, you didn't really get more countryside than that, (doh!). Then again, I've always preferred books to real life. However, I never once bit into a giant peach, made friends with a girl called Matilda or discovered just what was so fantastic about a fox. Having children has changed that. It was The Twits that did it. I bought it as an audiobook for the car. It exerted a mesmerising, sobering, silencing effect over the squabbling duo in the back. As for me, I was the one gagging in the front seat, as Dahl described, in stomach-churning detail the hygienedefying habits of the "foul and smelly old man" Mr Twit. My children, raised in the "kind words" philosophy beloved of us over-anxious parents were round-eyed with wonder at how you can say such "rude words". I'll let Dahl explain, way better than I can: "If you looked closer still (hold your noses ladies and gentlemen), if you peered deep into the moustachy bristles sticking over his upper lip, you would probably see much larger objects that had escaped the wipe of his hand, things that had been there for months and months, like a piece of maggoty green cheese or a mouldy old cornflake or even the slimy tail of a tinned sardine." Then he delivers this detail, which, even writing it now, twists my insides: "Because of all this, Mr Twit never went really hungry. By sticking out his tongue and curling it sideways to explore the hairy jungle around his mouth, he was always able to find a tasty morsel here and there to nibble on." Just like Mr Twit, we've continued to find tasty morsels in the Dahl library, so much so that here I've pulled together some of my favourites. Imagine, I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, imagine Mr Dahl as a series of inspirational life quotes; the kind of sage advice you may be tempted to stick like a magnet to your fridge.

? When you're feeling down and worry that nothing will ever go right in your life again, remember this: "Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." ? When you're in need of some straight-talking parenting advice, act on this plea: "So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall." ? When you need reassurance yourself, or if you need to reassure an insecure child about their looks, recite this beautiful idea: "If a person has ugly thoughts it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it. "A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." ? Having a "fat" or "ugly" day? Then read this and feel like a million dollars: "It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you." ? When you just need to trust your instincts, recite this: "I understand what you're saying and your comments are valuable but I'm gonna ignore your advice." ? Here's one to keep away from your children at all costs: "I shall never have a bath again," I said. "Just don't have one too often," my grandmother said. "Once a month is quite enough for a sensible child." "It was at times like these that I loved my grandmother more than ever." ? When you're struggling for an insult that really cuts the mustard try this: "You ignorant little slug," the Trunchbull bellowed.

"You witless weed! You emptyheaded hamster! You stupid glob of glue!" I've just remembered that I didn't live my childhood completely without Roald Dahl as I played Veruca Salt in a production of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory in ? When you're feeling down and worry that nothing will ever go right in your life again, remember this: "Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." ? When you're in need of some straight-talking parenting advice, act on this plea: "So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall." ? When you need reassurance yourself, or if you need to reassure an insecure child about their looks, recite this beautiful idea: "If a person has ugly thoughts it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it. "A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely." ? Having a "fat" or "ugly" day? Then read this and feel like a million dollars: "It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you." ? When you just need to trust your instincts, recite this: "I understand what you're saying and your comments are valuable but I'm gonna ignore your advice." ? Here's one to keep away from your children at all costs: "I shall never have a bath again," I said. "Just don't have one too often," my grandmother said. "Once a month is quite enough for a sensible child." "It was at times like these that I loved my grandmother more than ever." ? When you're struggling for an insult that really cuts the mustard try this: "You ignorant little slug," the Trunchbull bellowed. "You witless weed! You emptyheaded hamster! You stupid glob of glue!" I've just remembered that I didn't live my childhood completely without Roald Dahl as I played Veruca Salt in a production of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory in
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 13, 2014
Words:1085
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