30 January 2015
Now you might detect some "tongue in cheek" in this and the photo I posted below. The BBC's documentary tomorrow refers to a photograph they found which they had never seen before. They did not show it to photographic experts and so did not discover that it is not genuine. They drew comical conclusions from it.

So some Lewis Carroll fans are thinking of other "new things" to "discover" from photographs. For instance, here we see photographic evidence that two of the Liddell children appear to have been adoptees from South East Asia. :) So, based on this, we could perhaps describe Dean Liddell as a bit of a "Victorian Angelina Jolie." :)

There is another one below (at http://www.jabberwock.co.uk/blog/index.php?itemid=1304)

Chinese Alice?

29 January 2015
From Facebook:

Mark Richards
2 hrs
New BBC documentary uncovers 'lost' evidence that the Dean of Christ Church sent his daughters out begging for money.
"This changes our whole perception of Oxford life" says some expert no-one has ever heard of.

"The Secret World of Lewis Carroll" due out on Saturday on BBC2.
15 January 2015

What an amazing place! When I was in Tokyo, one of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Alice in Wonderland restaurant. It's called "Alice in Fantasy Book" and it is in the Shinjuku area of the city. You go down a floor, and enter the restaurant through what appears to be a large book. The decor is fantastical and Alice themed - here are countless little figures tumbling down the walls.


My good friend Yoshi took us. Yoshi was an amazing host while we were in Tokyo, and every place we went with him and our other friends was an eye opener to us! A large group of Japanese Carrollian friends came too and we all had a really good time.


The menu is in the form of a pop-up book, and cards are a popular theme.


These little crackers were fascinating. The accompanying dips were in bowls shaped like hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades.


The Cheshire cat was made of spaghetti


A Dormouse almost drowned in a cup of chocolate

And here is Alice, with icecream, in a heart shaped bowl

I've really never been anywhere like this place before. I like looking at the photos and remembering what a happy evening it was.
Thank you, Yoshi, and everyone else who made this such a happy occasion!


12 January 2015

The other night I had a lot of fun giving the monthly talk to SELFS, which is a group of people who are fascinated by unusual and extraordinary stuff. They meet each month in the upstairs room of an old pub called "The Old Kings Head" in an alleyway near London Bridge tube station.

Old Kings Head

The pub probably hasn't changed in fifty years, and I've always enjoyed going and listening to the talks, so I was really pleased when Nigel, who runs the group, offered me the chance to talk to them myself.

I spoke on "Lewis Carroll and the Supernatural." It's a surprisingly wide subject, because Carroll was very interested in many aspects of the "otherworldly" experience and he read extensively about all kinds of magical, supernatural and religious topics. During the talk I suggested that the audience go online to see one of the most interesting books he owned - at least, in my opinion it's the most interesting. It can be viewed as an electronic facsimile, and once you get the quaint writing style and all the "s"s looking like "f"s, it contains some wonderful material, such as an eyewitness account of the celebrated Cunning Man of Kent, Dr. Boreman.

Its title is "A Compleat System of Magick; or, The History of the Black-art" (1729) and it is by Daniel Defoe, of Robinson Crusoe fame. So I thought in case any of the audience are reading this, I'd put a link to the facsimile Do think about taking a look, if you haven't already.

I think more research could be done into this subject, and I'd like to do it. Carroll was certainly interested in all kinds of strange things.

20 December 2014
christmas card

This is my favourite Christmas card this year. It's from Eiko and her nice husband Takamasa. Eiko spent a lot of time with us in Tokyo and was so VERY kind. She took us all around the place, including to the Ghibli museum and the Edo Tokyo museum, and a tour of many Alice places in Tokyo.

Here is one of the Alice shops we saw with Eiko. It had just opened and was so popular that you needed to buy a ticket online to get in! It is an Alice fashion shop and so I probably wouldn't have found anything in there to suit me... but it was a very unusual doorway.... and here is a link in case you are interested in what it has.

rabbithole shop

I will write more soon.

Happy Christmas everyone!

09 December 2014
Carrollians in Japan

I'm still recovering from a long trip that included a wonderful three weeks in Japan. I went there to give a talk at the Lewis Carroll Society of Japan's AGM in TOkyo, and it was a great experience. I can't begin to say how kind all the Japanese Carrollians were that I met. Yoshi (who I will show in my next post) more or less masterminded the trip, and everyone was so friendly to both T and me. They made sure we lacked for nothing and any problems that we encountered (usually to do with reading, writing or finding out way around) were quickly sorted out. Eiko (at the centre in the picture above) also took us to all kinds of places we wanted to see, and on one occasion she achieved the difficult feat of finding an ATM we could draw yen from. We had never expected it to be so hard to draw cash, and were even more surprised when the ATM turned out to have a phone next to it on which you could call an operator to help if you had any problems using it! Thank goodness that Eiko understood it all!

As many people have said, Japan is very different indeed from the West. This is one of the things that makes it so fascinating to Westerners, and one of several reasons why we were not bored for a moment. It is also a very safe country, so we never felt threatened because of our ignorance; although most people did not speak English, everyone seemed to want things to run smoothly. Of course, some of the ways in which the country is different from the West can also take Westerners by surprise. We spent quite a lot of time sitting in one restaurant, for instance, before an English speaking person on the next table kindly pointed out that we should have ordered and paid for our meal from the machines just inside the door. We never gave these brightly coloured machines a glance when we entered, because it never occurred to us that they could be for ordering and paying, and of course we couldn't read the Japanese writing on them which said so. We were also similarly baffled in supermarkets, where food often didn't taste at all like we expected. On one occasion, for instance, I bought fish when I thought I was buying sweets. Well - it WAS stamped with "Hello Kitty"!


Here I am, listening to questions after the talk. Although the biography is due to be reissued and revised next year, I decided to talk instead about the way in which Lewis Carroll's bank account casts a different light on him, showing him to be a person quite unlike his popular image in many ways. I am starting to think that I should say more about that - because it's certainly true, and I'm probably the best person to say it. After the talk, I was glad to have many lovely responses from people who had heard it and said that it had changed their way of looking at Lewis Carroll.

I have literally thousands of photos of Japan and I am still digesting the experience, but I will write more posts, in particular about the amazing Alice restaurant we visited in Tokyo, courtesy of Yoshi, and some of the other good times. I'll also write on my other blog as soon as I can.

03 October 2014

The LCS meeting last Wednesday was tremendously interesting. Sarah Stansfield

introduced two great talks - one by Cristina Neagru who looks after the special books in Christ Church Library, the other by Ella Parry Davies, whom you see here. Ella is a PhD researcher who is also a tutor at the Brilliant CLub.

Both talks were very interesting, but I was particularly drawn to the work of The Brilliant Club. It's an organisation that seeks to widen access to top universities for bright children from non-selective schools, and it does it by fostering extra curricular programmes like the one Ella had devised. Called "Alice Through The Iron Curtain," it was about investigating the the artistic and political significance to Iron Curtain illustrators of Lewis Carroll's work. Not as arcane as it sounds, since "Alice" was considered subversive and illustrators responded in ways which were both personal and anti-establishment.

Ella brought along three pupils from Plashet School in East Ham, and they talked about what they had learned from the course. We saw a few slides of their projects, but personally I'd have liked to have seen even more of their work. They were obviously very bright girls who well deserved the chance to attend a good university.

As for the building, it's called @Waterloo, and it's a block of trendy serviced offices themed on Alice in Wonderland.

I didn't photograph everything there is to see by any means, but the boardroom where Bob was checking his watch (see previous post) has a nifty reflective section in the ceiling - or is it the upside-down lawn of Looking Glass House?

There's a rather strange shelf with bar stools along it in the entrance hall, in just the right location, it seems, to take a cheeky look up Alice's skirt.... assuming that IS Alice - she disappears into the ceiling before you see far enough up to check that it really is her.

The boardroom where we held the meeting was themed on giant playing cards which zigzagged around the walls and above our heads in a disconcerting way. I don't know if the bag belonged to an LCS member, but it looked just right.

01 October 2014

So Bob looked at his watch, and it was exactly six p.m!

Being a member of the Lewis Carroll Society, Bob knew what Lewis Carroll would have said about relying on a stopped clock.

"If you have the choice of two clocks, one which has stopped and one which loses a minute a day, which do you choose?"

"The losing one," you answer, "without a doubt."

"But," says Carroll, "The one which loses a minute a day has to lose seven hundred and twenty minutes before it is right again, so it's only right once in two years. But the other is right as often as the time it points to comes round - which happens twice a day."

So the stopped clock is evidently the best!

But, you might go on to ask, "How am I to know when six o'clock does come? My clock will not tell me."

To which Carroll replies, "Be patient: you know that when six o'clock comes your clock is right.. Keep your eye fixed on your clock, and the very moment it is right it will be six o'clock."

"But--," you say.

"There, that'll do; the more you argue the further you get from the point."

So just to be on the safe side, Bob had a working watch too. But when he checked it, he found that the stopped clock WAS exactly right. Six o'clock, and time for this evening's Lewis Carroll Society meeting. And very interesting it was too, in a most unusual building which I will tell you about next time.

20 September 2014
Jpan Rail pass

The Japanese translation of The Mystery of Lewis Carroll is nearly finished, and next month I will be going to Japan to talk at the LCSJ's annual conference in Tokyo. I'll be seeing Yoshi, Rie, Reiko and their families, Eiko, Katsuko and Yoko and we will also be seeing as much of Japan as possible. I'm specially looking forward to seeing "Alice" themed places in Tokyo!

Today, Japan Experience has just sent the Japan Rail Passes. How exciting!
02 September 2014
Well, I know it isn't really - at least, I don't know of Lewis Carroll ever visiting this garden. It's at Bridge End, Saffron Walden, now in the care of the local council, which does a great job. The garden was created about 15 or 20 years before Alice in Wonderland. I can't help feeling that Lewis Carroll must have had something in mind that looked like this - and the roses are all red, white or a mixture of the two!