27 April 2015
I got so sick of my birthday being on January 14 that I changed it to May 14. Both my parents died within a few days of Jan 14 and of course Lewis Carroll also died on that date, although I couldn't compare that with my parents in any way. And January's a cold, miserable time of year too. So now, I celebrate my Unbirthday on May 14 and I feel much better for it, not to mention 5 months younger!

And next Unbirthday, I know the cake I would love to have... it is THIS one!
Chrshire cat.

Unfortunately the person who makes these cakes is in Ireland. But if you live in Ireland, you might like to contact her for your cake needs. Her name's Ruth Keogh and she has a bakery in Letterkenny called Tiers of Joy.

I don't even know the woman and I've never been to Letterkenny but I don't mind recommending her. This lady is obviously a genius with the icing-bag.
22 April 2015
So... if you want to learn English, what better way than with the BBC and studying Alice in Wonderland online here....

14 April 2015
Revised edition

The revised edition of "The Mystery of Lewis Carroll" is now on Amazon. It contains some new information, including a revealing newly discovered letter from a member of Lewis Carroll's family, which casts a fascinating new light on what his relationships with little girls meant to him, together with other additions, corrections and updates. The UK link is here, and if you don't live in the UK it will be on your local Amazon site ... unless you live in the US or Canada, where I am afraid Macmillan is still selling the earlier version. I do not know if or when they will sell the updated version.

We'll be organising a physical copy of the second revised edition very soon. So if you're interested, drop me a line via the contact formto say so, and I will not only put you on the list but give you a 10 percent discount on the list price.
13 April 2015

Every June, the residents of Hampstead Garden Suburb in London put together an amazing festival called The St Jude's Proms. Local residents donate their time and expertise for free. And on Midsummer's Day, 21 June, at 7 pm, they will be staging the London premiere of "Wonderland" at St Jude's church.

St Jude

The piece is a combination of words and music - the words scripted by Louis de Bernieres (author of "Captain Correlli’s Mandolin") with narration by Maureen Lipman, and music by several successful composers from the fields of chamber music, film scores and rock, who have donated short pieces for violin and piano.

It won't only be performed in North London; the "Wonderland150" project is being rolled out across Europe during 2015/16 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of "Alice in Wonderland" - and so do check to see if it will be on in your area, too.

I don't live too far away from St Jude's, so I've been looking at some of the other good things on the festival's website. I was pleased to see that the Brodsky Quartet, one of my favourite string quartets, will be performing on 22 June.

It is all in a good cause, too, for after covering expenses, surplus profits go to help Toynbee Hall, supporting disadvantaged young people, and also the North London Hospice.
03 April 2015
If I lived in the US I'd have wanted to do a biography of Walt Disney years ago, when many who knew him well were still alive. Sadly, I didn't get that chance - and now I never will, because many of those who worked with him have died off now. Still, when we were in California last November we spent more than a full day in the Walt Disney Family Museum.

This museum, in San Francisco, is almost like a real-life biography of Disney; a biography that you can walk through. There are enough interactive exhibits, films and things to read to fill several hours, and a shop which sell sits own unique merchandise, quite different from the merchandise in the Disney Parks.

The museum, which you can see below,

is in the Presidio Park, very near the ocean and Golden Gate Bridge. (Please forgive this rather blurry photo. My own photos of the Presidio were taken under very dark skies in the pouring rain, since we managed to hit the period when California's latest drought ended!)

As I wandered through the museum, I thought how interested Disney must have been in "Alice in Wonderland." His 1951 film of that name is well known all over the world, but I was surprised to find that it might have been very different in style. Here are details from a few of the preliminary images for a very different Disney Alice cartoon. The drawings are by David Hall, who was illustrating a script by Al Perkins, but Disney felt that these drawings were not "cartoony" enough - and he also didn't like the somewhat grotesque tone of the collaboration. (By the way, Tim Burton's 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland is said to have drawn inspiration from this earlier "Alice" concept. There are a few more pictures on this blog.)

Still, I liked this jaunty Cheshire Cat showing Alice the way

And here is Alice knocking at the door; but I am not sure what I think of the skulls.

There is something rather magnificent about this Fish Footman though. He is seen from below as he stalks away from Alice

In fact, Disney had been thinking about Lewis Carroll's work for many years by this time. Even though he hadn't been able to raise the money for a feature in the studio's early days, he did make a Mickey Mouse version of "Looking Glass" called "Thru the Mirror" in 1936.

And before even this, at the very start of his career, when he was running a company called Laugh-O-Grams, Disney had decided to make a film called "Alice's Cartoonland" which combined live action and animation, and featured a talented little girl called Virginia Davis. To me, she seems as gifted as the young Shirley Temple (in fact, the film was made in 1912, well before Shirley's time). Alice's cartoonland adventure became so popular that it gave rise to a whole series.

"Alice's Spooky Adventure" clearly isn't THAT spooky, as you can see from the poster!

And if you want a trip in time to a hundred years ago, take a look at this:

There is also this delightful edition of "Alice" featuring Tenniel's illustrations

For some reason I really coveted this book. I liked the homage it pays to the original versions which Carroll designed and specified himself, but I also like its soft cover, lovely dusky red colour and the nice assymmetrical placement of the Duchess motif.

For the first time, I've realised that she looks rather like the late unlamented Robert Maxwell, Do you agree?

The Disney Family Museum has good reviews, and its address is 104 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94129, United States. The telephone number is (+1) 415-345-6800
30 March 2015

Here are promised are some of the images from "Apricot"'s book on responses to Fukushima from the children who lived there, a kind gift from my friend Katsuko in Abiko, Japan. I really hope this book will be translated into English one day - I am sure I would gain something by reading the words. "Apricot" must be an interesting woman, very geared towards the inner world of children.

It's hard to choose individual images, but I find this one particularly powerful, with its grotesquely towering wave - there is something monstrous about it, as if it is an animal

towering wave

Here are details: the surfer, riding the wave of his life - is he happy?


But these people are cowering in the wave's path

The violently coloured red tunnel in the next picture suggests fear

and this small picture seems to me a wonderful representation of the agitation of wind and waves, curiously beautiful.

I hope it helped the children to portray their feelings in art. When something this big happens, art is often a way to deal with it. In fact, I'd suggest that creative self expression is one of the best ways of dealing with difficult issues in life - and that includes writing and music.

20 March 2015

I love this beautiful video which is part of artist David Delamere's Alice project. The book will be published this year. Here is the the link
18 March 2015
Japanese portrayals of "Alice" have a characteristic style, often rather stylised and with teenage girls rather than the child that I always imagine Alice to be. Sometimes Alice looks sad or "dark" but I prefer to stick to a more childlike style when I am reading about a child. Do you?

These two colourful postcards by Seiko Kusada make me feel relaxed and happy; they have a colourful and innocent air about them, and an intricacy that seems very "Japanese" to me.

I also like this - although it's definitely more sophisticated and arty. All these postcards are a kind gift from my friend Yoshi in Tokyo.

I never cease to marvel at the different ways in which Alice is portrayed.

Just to return to Apricot's book (here) I do think this pulls us into a child's world - and I have now received her Fukushima book, which I'm going to feature on my other blog. This contains the drawings of real children, depicting their experiences of the earthquake and tsunami.

13 March 2015

When my friend Eiko came over from Japan recently she gave me a copy of this book as a present. It contains both "Looking Glass" and "Wonderland" bound together in opposite directions. (So when you have finished "Wonderland" you turn the book around and read "Looking Glass."

I really like thsee bright, original, artistic illustrations. They are by an interesting artist known in Japan as "Apricot." ( haven't been able to find out why). Her real name is Anz Kanie, who trained in London as a woodblock artist. (here she is)


She has been involved in the aftermath of Fukushima and has set up something called 3.11 Children's Library and has curated an exhibition of paintings by children affected by the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Another friend is getting a copy of the book for me in Japan and I'm looking forward to reading it. (Or rather, should I say, looking at the pictures).

Here are a couple more of the Alice images. Being a bit of a train fan I specially like this one


Although I liked the book from the start I found it interesting that I had to look at it for a while before I began to get the feeling of "Alice." Now, I think the pictures reflect the book very well. Strange how Alice seems to change as you read about her....I've always thought that.

11 March 2015
Ripon Trail

Lewis Carroll's father was Archdeacon of Ripon, Yorkshire, and he knew the town well. There will be a White Rabbit trail through the city at Easter, beginning on n 28 March, and running till 12 April. Multi media works will be presented from 27 artists in various parts of town - you can see some them here I think some of them are really great, specially the dodo. Trail maps and printed info from Ripon Library, Ripon Tourist Info Centre and Gray Finch, 13 Kirkgate, Ripon, HG4 1PA.

Ripon's a beautiful city with lots of things to do and see, with some quirky shops. We visited years ago when we were walking near Fountains Abbey nearby. We also visited the beautiful gardens at Newby Hall but didn't manage to see the Ripon Hornblower or the extraordinary Druid's Temple folly. I hope to get back there next year when I return to Yorkshire - though sadly I doubt there's time to get there before Easter.