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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