07 February 2018
A good friend, Yoshi, visited us at the end of January for a few days, and during his stay we went to have an Alice afternoon tea. As I've mentioned in the past, Yoshi has taken us to a couple of charming Alice themed restaurants in Tokyo, but we hadn't found anything exactly similar here. This, though, was very a great find, and very interesting.

The Sanderson Hotel has an unusual decor featuring quirky and unusual furnishings in the public spaces, including an animated reception desk, a delightful twinkly bar serving Alice style cocktails, and a splendid elevator whose walls are clad in a three-dimensional depiction of outer space. Many years ago, the hotel was a giant showroom for the Sanderson furnishing fabric company, and I have dim memories of roaming through fascinating full sized room sets showing off the company's wares. Built in modernist style, it featured a spectacular and very large stained glass window which I was glad to find was still in existence.


The tea was outside - although the heaters were very efficient and we were sheltered from the wind. We loved sitting amidst the trees and listening to the fountain. We were really impressed by the quality of the food, which included five delectable blends of tea. I would have bought a box of Cheshire Cat to take home, if it had been possible to buy one.


Here's the menu


And here is how the tea was presented - with pretty green cucumber sandwiches, all types of cakes, scones and some eye catching mushrooms (complete with a blue chocolate Caterpillar.


Here's a closer view of some of the cakes. My favourites were the tiny chessboards complete with silvered chocolate pawns, but I also liked the cartoonish pocket watch macaroon which was topped with a specially made Malteser "crown."


It is not cheap, but it was certainly charming, and would make a lovely birthday treat for an Alice fan. Go here for more details
28 January 2018

18 December 2017
I was in Belfast recently and as I walked along a dark street of old office buildings, my eye was caught by this.


I looked a little closer


It was Alice!

Someone has cleverly created the illusion of Alice by using different sized squares of office paper.


An idea for making the office more creative - and I'm glad they chose Alice.
27 October 2017

I've been wondering to myself how the Blue-Ginger Gallery in Malvern got its name. I'd never heard of it until I heard about their Alice exhibition (which began on 21 October and runs till 27 November).

On checking it out, I found that some fun events are coming up in November. On 6 November there's a talk by illustrator John Vernon Lord with an introduction from Mark Richards, ex Chairman of the LCS. (Unfortunately I was unable to publicise a whole talk by Mark on the 21st October, but it's taken me this long to fix technical problems with the website)! JOhn Vernon Lord's talk will include a drink and tea with the Mad Hatter - I'm not sure if that means a drink of tea but I suspect the tea is "extra."

You can needlefelt a Dormouse in a teacup, and make Alice themed silver jewellery in two further workshops, on 11 and 19 September respectively. Full details of how to book are here.

Some interesting artists represented at the exhibition include Tamsin Abbott, Mike Abbott, Graham Arnold, Eleanor Bartleman, Sue Carr, Annie Ovenden, Hannah Willow, Jo Verity, Carol James, Mollie Meager, Jo Dewar, Mariette Voke, Janis Waldron, Gen Belgard, Sue Brown, Karin Celestine, Jemima Jameson, Sue Williams, Sasha Rae, Maggie Hobbs, Gwen Vaughan, Rachel Padley, Heather Sweet-Moon, Ben Willis, Dave Cockroft and John Coombe

I particularly like Tamsin Abbott's work. She's very busy and isn't taking commissions at present, but has done some wonderful stained glass work which can be seen on her website here.

And that's one of her images at the top of this post.
26 September 2017

I wish I'd had a pound for every article or blog post I've read which aims to explain "what Lewis Carroll really meant." By now I'd have amassed enough to stay in a really very nice hotel in Oxford!

Sadly, I'm rarely the slightest bit convinced by the theories - so it was a thrill to me today to hear from Neil Bant with his thoughts on the famous riddle "Why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?" In his piece, here, he says some interesting things about the Mad Tea Party too, but you have to go to the end to get to the bit about the riddle.

As Mr Bant points out, Carroll did offer a comment on the matter. I have never believed he was giving anyone the answer, but I did think he was offering a clue.

So in case you never knew, this is what Carroll said:

"Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter's Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: 'Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!' This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all."

The devious old thing.

I'll let you read the piece so you can see what you think of Neil's thoughts. I don't agree with every detail of his reasoning, but it instantly hit me that the answer he suggests to the riddle has the characteristic blend of quirkiness and apparent simplicity that so characterises Carroll.

Everyone has taken over a hundred and fifty years to work it out, but it is actually as simple as can be.

AND Carroll gave a clue.

01 September 2017
I think Grayson Perry is one of the most interesting artists working in England right now. He's fascinated by all shades of opinion in this country, its groups and moods, and so his work - most commonly pottery, sculpture or tapestry - usually gets smiles and nods of recognition.

His latest show, at London's Serpentine Gallery, is coming to an end, and so I'm glad I made it there. If you click this link you will see large images of some of the work from the show, and at the very top are what people were calling the Brexit Vases. Actually, their official title is "Matching Pair" Both were decorated with suggestions from people who voted for either Leave or Remain, and the two vases, one for Leave and one for Remain, stand for what Britain means to these two groups.

I quickly spotted something familiar.


Tenniel's White Rabbit appears in several places on the "Remain" vase. I wonder what this represents? A feeling of being too late? A feeling of wonderment or craziness? Or simply that "Alice" is one of the most quintessentially English books? If so, I wonder why nothing from "Alice" appeared on the Leave vase.
Whatever the reason for that, Perry says he finds it reassuring that the vases are actually so similar, despite their differences. And it seems that the country is apparently united on liking Marmite, at least!

The vases appeared on "Grayton Perry : Divided Britain" on Channel 4 last spring. If you missed that, you can read more about them here

21 August 2017

I've been away for a while but back now! A friend told me about this show at the Edinburgh Festival in which Alice meets philosophers. High school students they came all the way from California to perform it. Apparently it was great, and I love the art work. I'll look out for another performance.
27 May 2017

Lewis Carroll certainly read that Victorian giant of literature, George Eliot (the pseudonym of Mary Anne Evans). His diary notes in 1858 that he began "Mr. Gilfil's love-story" from "Scenes of Clerical Life," although he doesn't say what he thought of it. After that, if he read anything more of her work, or noticed the mathematical references in it, we don't know about it.

So it doesn't seem as if her work grabbed him at the time. But, perhaps, if his shade is looking down on us, it would be interested to attend the next free Lewis Carroll Society talk which takes place next week on 2 June - and then perhaps paying Ms. Evans a call afterwards in Paradise to discuss it.


(Yes, it's only a fanciful thought, but I like it.... )

In the talk, Derek Ball of Leicester University shares his work about Eliot's sometimes outrageous mathematical imagery, which he has found to be almost invariably associated with the tragicomedy in her novels.

The talk is free to attend, but if you want to come, please email secretary@lewiscarrollsociety.org.uk to say you will be coming so that they can get an idea of numbers. The talk will be held in the Gradidge Room of the Art Worker's Guild, which is a fascinating place in its own right, being one of the few unrestored Georgian houses in an 18th century Bloomsbury square, and full of the most beautiful work created by its members.

The Art Workers Guild is at 6 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AT and all LCS meetings are held at 6:30 for 7:00 pm. Just ring the doorbell.

24 May 2017

"Alice" is well known in Russia, and there are now more than 30 Russian translations of Alice. Perhaps that is not too surprising, since Lewis Carroll's overland trip to Russia and back was the only foreign journey he ever took in his life, and he was entranced and fascinated by the Russia he explored in the late 1860s.

Carroll, as a mathematician, was also particularly fond of geometry. Now, picking up on both these themes, artist and anglophile Yuri Vashenko reveals some of the geometry latent but invisible in Tenniel's original drawings, as well as introducing his own, in a new exhibition in London#s Pushkin House. (see address and details below). It runs from 1 June to 10 July.
Along with the exhibition the following events are taking place in June and July:

On 2nd June the artist Yuri Vashenko is in conversation with Liza Dimbleby.
On 16th June, in "Growing up in Wonderland" Daria Kulesh and Marina Osman explore the ambiguous wonderland of their Soviet childhood through song.
On 18th July (after the exhibition finishes) there is a talk by Kiera Vaclavik of Queen Mary college, on: 'Alice Grows Up: Russian Emigrees and the Making of a Style Icon'.

There will also be a screening of ‘Alice’ (1987) an animation masterpiece from the end of the Soviet Period by Polish filmmaker Jan Švankmajer.

Further details are to be confirmed.

Pushkin House is at:
5A Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2TA
Tel: 020 7269 9770

There are more details of these events on the Pushkin House website, which can be accessed here
12 May 2017

A few weeks ago I went to see Alice's Adventures Underground, in the Vaults beneath London's Waterloo station. This promenade performance is a tidied up version of a show that was a smash hit in 2015 (see reviews here and here)


This time round, some effort has been made to insert a plot - no easy task when the point of the performance is to make sure that you never have the same experience twice. Audiences of some 50-odd are cleverly split into groups of no more than 14, each weaving their way in a kind of intricate choreography through a maze of sets ranging from the Gardeners' potting shed (full of red paint, of course) to the Duchess's crazy kitchen, with much more besides - the Caterpillar's shisha lounge, for instance, or weedledum and Tweedledee flying overhead as alarmingly as any Monstrous Crow, while arguing all the time...

I found it hard to follow the plot, but it really didn't matter at all. The whole experience is pretty psychedelic, so it's best to go with the flow - or, turn on, tune in and drop out. As for Alice, she was hardly to be seen, except for a few glimpses in mirrors, and a dancing figure on a zoetrope, and an unexpected appearance at the very end, just before the entire trial scene shut itself up like a pack of cards.

It's a clever, amazing experience, best for those who are fairly active and reasonably sober (you wait in a bar beforehand, and emerge into a cocktail lounge/games room at the very end.) The surfaces are rough and constantly changing, there are flights of stairs and rubber floors and narrow, awkward tunnels. No photos are allowed during the performance - not that there is really time to take any - but here are some of the photos I took in the bar. I left out the ones of me playing flamingo croquet or downing cocktails!


If you want to go, head over to this website and click the big green door. The little door leads to a different show aimed at kids - and that looks fun too. Tickets are from Ł39, a reasonable price for such an elaborate, immersive experience with such a multi talented cast.

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