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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