08 February 2017

"Mad Hatter Tea" is a useful Alice related gift, (although as tea goes it is quite expensive). It's good quality tea, though, so I thought I'd pass on the news that they have a Facebook competition running till 10 February to win some Mad Hatter string-and-tag teabags, a pack of Café Wonderland 'Alice House' ground filter coffee, a packet of waffles and a Mad Hatter Tea mug. The link is here If you win, please let me know!
23 January 2017
I just heard from Mark Davis, (who runs excellent Alice river cruises in Oxford) and he sent me this press release.


OXFORD AUTHORS' AUCTION – Wednesday 8 February

A remarkable collection of Alice in Wonderland books and memorabilia, among the largest in the world, goes on sale in Oxford next month. The Oxford Authors Sale at Mallams on February 8 includes more than 3000 Alice items acquired across a 25-year collecting odyssey by the late Thomas Schuster and his wife Greta. 
Thomas E Schuster, who died in 2013, aged 76, was an international antiquarian books and prints dealer based in Maddox Street in Mayfair. His interest in English children’s literature were first ignited by a client in Japan and he became a recognised expert in the works of Kate Greenaway, Beatrix Potter and the Enid Blyton character Noddy. He published the Kate Greenaway catalogue raisonne in 1986.
But it was the Victorian writer, photographer and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, who proved a lasting passion for both Thomas Schuster and his wife. Buying at auction, at antique fairs at home and abroad, and through specialist dealers, Alice in Wonderland was the couple’s shared hobby for more than a quarter century.
Highlights from the massive collection (to be sold in 300 lots) have been exhibited publicly on two previous occasions: at the Schuster gallery in the late 1990s and at the Tate Modern Liverpool in 2012, as part of an Alice in Wonderland exhibition that later moved to Italy and Germany. However, Mallams’ sale will provide the first opportunity to view the collection in its entirety - the myriad books, porcelain, artwork, posters, toys, dolls and ephemera that have surrounded the cult of Alice since the earliest years. They range from the rare and academically important to the downright bizarre. 
Greta Schuster and son Chris have chosen to sell the collection in Oxford for its intimate associations with the Alice story. It was famously during a boat trip on the Thames in 1862 that Christ Church College don Charles Dodgson first entertained the 10-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters with the tale of a girl who fell down a rabbit hole into a world called Wonderland.
Dodgson was persuaded to write down the story, with the book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland first published in 1865. Every year Oxford celebrates all things Alice, with the annual Alice's Day celebrations scheduled this year for July 1.

For further information contact department specialist Mary Lloyd: 01865 241358

The catalogue will be online at www.mallams.co.uk on Monday January 23 (although it's not on as yet, I have just checked)

The sale will be on view at Oxford saleroom from:
Saturday February 4 - 9am-1pm
Monday February 6 - 9am-5pm – followed immediately by a short talk by local historian and author Mark Davies, who will highlight some of the Oxford realities which informed Lewis Carroll's imagination, and make reference to some other famous Oxford authors featured in the auction.
Tuesday February 7 - 9am-5pm
Wednesday February 8 - morning of sale from 8.30am )
23 December 2016
Goanna eat some Alice cookies ....

And hope your Christmas is majestic!

12 December 2016

Just been sorting out the photos of the Alice in Wonderland coffee shop in Tokyo- must be one of the most unusual "Alice" themed places around and we had a really nice visit there, with a group of Japanese Carrollians. That is my friend Yoshi outside, and the ceramic sign says "Koseto" which means Old Seto pottery. So as well as being about Alice, it's also about pottery.

As you see, the interior is quite traditional in style, with the dark wooden walls, horizontal lines and calm atmosphere. There is pottery of all types - from the multifarious teacup designs to some one-off items like a splendid curved pottery plant holder which is at least a metre high! But the potter had a special love of Alice, so that is the main theme.

We had fun choosing the cakes

...mostly of the sweet and sticky variety...

And the staff created a complete work of art - just as well we had a bit of time to sit and chat - this place is the opposite of fast food, which is part of which gives it such a relaxing atmosphere

When the food came it was fun - complete with a cheerful little ceramic dog.

I was puzzled by this, though - a little bottle with a golden stopper...

I was amazed to find that it contained brandy - to go in my tea. At first, I thought it must be to go on the cinnamon toast I had ordered.

I've never heard of brandy in tea, (although it went very well) and the Japanese hadn't heard of whisky in coffee, so perhaps next time any of them come to London we will try that!

01 December 2016

Ooh my ears and whiskers!! Zoonation hiphop dance company are having a Mad Hatter's Tea Party in the Roundhouse! This unusual Camden Town venue, once an old railway turntable shed mouldering away in NW London, is always fun to visit. And Zoonation's crazy show is definitely bringing Alice up to date. It's suitable for all ages, they say, so get yourself over to this link and take a look at what they say - there is a trailer on the site, too. Tickets are £15 and the first performance is on 30 December. It runs till 22 January.
29 November 2016

So who is this lady with the sunshade, and what is she doing?

You'd be forgiven for not knowing. But she is supervising the door into one of the most unusual shops in Tokyo. It is called "Alice on Wednesday."

When I first visited Tokyo, in 2014, I didn't manage to get into "Alice on Wednesday." It had only opened two days before my visit, and the initial demand from customers was so high that anyone who wanted to go had to reserve tickets on the internet before turning up.

I have just returned from a second trip to Japan, and this time I did get into "Alice on Wednesday." Obviously, the internet tickets aren't necessary now that the novelty has worn off, but, two years on, the shop has done very well and now seems to have become one of the fixtures of Tokyo life. It's in the attractive Harajuku area of the city, down a side street, and when we arrived there were only about ten people waiting, so we joined the queue...

It's a very tall, thin shop, and you have to enter through that rather tiny door you can see on the right, and begin by climbing all the stairs to the top floor. It's not unlike going up the rabbit hole, in fact, for there are all kinds of curious things on the way. I didn't notice cupboards with jars of marmalade in, but there were toadstools towering above your head...

and strange illuminated pictures on the walls...

When you reach the top floor, it has quite an "attic" feeling. It's very small and Victorian in style, and most of the daylight filters through a stained glass window...

whereas the lampshade, as you see, is a large top hat.

There really seems everything that an "Alice" collector might want. I don't collect myself but even I bought myself a cool little Mad Hatter handbag mirror.

Most of the mechandise is specially designed for the shop, and is not just a collection of things you can get elsewhere. The website, here, is only in Japanese, but this gives an idea of the kind of items they normally sell.

If I hadn't been watching the weight of my luggage, I would probably have bought a mug - I like the one to the left, with the door and a handle like a key.

And I always fall for fancily packed eatables or drinkables. These are mostly to be found on the bottom floor, where you pay.

These rather luridly coloured bottles look as if they really might alter your perceptions a bit.

And the biscuits are most beautifully lettered.

I haven't seen a rabbit-hole cake before, but the ones here seemed to be selling well.

"Alice" is popular and well known in Japan, but it's interesting that here in England nobody has had the idea of producing a shop as creative and original as this. I wonder if the Japanese company will set up a branch in Oxford?

....maybe, one Wednesday, they will.

18 November 2016
It's so sad to hear of the death of David Delamare. I have remembered his wonderful video "Beware the Jabberwock" ever since I first saw it. Here it is below.

If you want to read a tribute to David, go here.

15 November 2016
It's interesting to see how popular Alice is in Japan, and how everyone knows her. Perhaps there is something about Alice and her world that strikes a special chord with Japanese people. It would take a social psychologist to figure out why, though, so I won't offer any opinions myself!

My good friend Yoshi in Tokyo has just sent me a very interesting book, which was issued by Takarazuka University on the theme of Illustrating "Through the Looking Glass."

It's a well produced book with full colour and metallic printing. Taking a tip from Tenniel, perhaps, the front shows Alice going through the Looking Glass, and the back shows her coming out of it.

There are far too many illustrations to show, and I'm sorry that they're not very well photographed - it's one of those books that doesn't easily lie flat. But I hope these give you a flavour of how much variety there is.

The photographs below each image show the artist. Again, sorry they're blurred, I really tried, but short of holding the book flat with a large sheet of glass (which I don't have), I just can't get everything in focus at once!

Izumi Kyoko's Humpty Dumpty has echoes of 18th century English caricatures.

This has a formal graphic quality

And this is more the kind of Alice I'm used to seeing in Japan

Fujishiro Misaki's illustration, below, has something of the film poster about it - not sure who the hero is, or the solemn lady on the left - but quite a few manga and graphic series do cast Alice as a romantic heroine.

If I had to choose a favourite, I would perhaps go for the three dimensional work below, mostly sewn and knitted

Here is a close up of some of the 3-D work - creepy, isn't it?

I did like Ikeda Momoka's work, which focuses on animals - specially the cat looking at the chessmen. Her other illustrations are also cheerful and intriguing.

Here's a closer look at another of her takes on cats and chessmen

I really liked looking through this book and seeing all the different interpretations of the same story.
07 November 2016

Hector Hugh Munro, or "Saki" as he was known, was a famous short story writer who satirised society and politicians in the early 20th century. One of his successes was "The Westminster Alice," published in instalments in "The Westminster Gazette"and attacking politicians of the day in the style of "Alice." Now Penrith-based Withnail Books has rediscovered a follow-up instalment which was published in 1902, some months after "The Westminster Alice" parody appeared. Entitled "Alice Wants to Know" it has never been reprinted till now.

Withnail Books has now reissued it in an edition of only 45 copies - so it is quite a collector's item (and quite reasonable, too, at only £7.50). More information on their website, here - take a look at the excellent illustration on the right.
24 September 2016

A few new things have come my way lately. The picture above shows a recording I can definitely recommend. There are so few recordings of some of Carroll's comic poems, particularly the juvenile works which date from as early as 1845, when he was thirteen. These include "Brother and Sister" and "My Fairy" which satirize his home and family. I was pleased to that Naxos has released a CD of some really excellent performances, including these gems as well as better known works like "Hunting of the Snark". They're very well read by Roger May, who has done at least eighty radio plays, so it is not surprising that his tone and timing are so good. You can buy or download the CD on Amazon and read more about it here.

To be honest, I'd have liked to have seen the option on Amazon to hear tracks before downloading or buying the CD, but in fact there's an "Audible" sampler so you can hear how well May reads. And if you like his work, I see from his biog page that he's also read "Frankenstein" - unabridged!

Next, how about this amazing video? Artist Gene Kogan has run clips from the Disney "Alice" through software which shows it in the style of various well known artists. It was made using computer code developed by Justin Johnson,which was based on work last year by computing researchers at the University of Tuebingen, in Baden-Wuerttenberg, in Germany. I don't think I can say anything about it that beats watching it, and I think you'll agree it's well freaky.

Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk? from Gene Kogan on Vimeo.

Finally, a London graphic designer, Anthony Pike, created this for his daughter's birthday party. The basis of the cakes is vanilla and lemon sponge with buttercream icing, and he took 8 days to make and assemble the whole thing. Mr. P describes baking as his "paid hobby" and says he is an amateur (though this looks pretty professional to me) and when I asked what he would charge to make one for anyone interested, he said, £450, and it would keep for a week after delivery. Here's a link to his Facebook page, in case you are an affluent person who feels like having an Alice teaparty. All his cakes are bespoke, so it doesn't have to be Disney's cartoon Alice, I suppose - he might even be able to do Johnny Depp - though I can't promise.....

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