Virginia Barton

26 July 2015: Wonderland


26 July 2015


Nearly the end of July and not a line about Alice! How could she have been forgotten on her 150th anniversary?

Well she wasn’t, of course, it was just a question of where to place her. In the Fellows’ Garden at Christ Church, where she met the Cheshire Cat? Or on the banks of the Cherwell where it all began?

background2The Old Sheep Shop, in the lea of the Oxford college where Lewis Carroll lived and taught, is as good as anywhere. You would recognise it from Tenniel’s illustration, for it has hardly changed in externals. It’s opposite the Memorial Garden in St Aldate’s.

Steep and tiny steps lead down into a shop in which about four people can stand upright at the same time. The window displays the usual overpriced tourist stuff; mugs, tea cosies, aprons, table mats, bookmarks and spoons. The sales lady is very far from sheepish, for she does a roaring trade with the Alice afficionados. There are Alice books, of course, but it’s not the best place to buy them.


I missed the actual anniversary in Oxford on July 4th, when the book was published a century and a half ago, merely observing some of the festivities from a bus. There was a ballyhoo of balloons and bubbles and youngsters in costume; White Rabbits and Mad Hatters and Alices by the dozen. It looked fun. It was hosted by the Story Museum which I intended to visit on Friday last, but went for a purler instead.

Always more popular with adults than children, I have no idea how Alice rates these days. Do Potterites read her? What about Pullmanites? She must have been among the first of the scary fantasies.

(A quick text to 11-year-old grandchild elicits politely evasive reply; apparently we gave her the book when she was five.)


DVD-2_bridge-river-kwai_2Almost certainly I have referred elsewhere to my having given BH the Alice books for a wedding present, and how he disliked them. His pet name is Beloved Snail, and somewhere on this website are the two lines from the Song of the Mock Turtle where the snail is mentioned.

Today is our wedding anniversary for the 57th unbelievable year and I am giving him not the Annotated Alice, which I wouldn’t mind having myself, but yet another DVD –Bridge Over the River Kwai this time.

He doesn’t know yet, but he is giving me a compact food processor. I long to make him a smoked mackerel mousse with a Scandi cucumber vinaigrette, chopped fresh beetroot, and a little creamy penne salad.

Actually, it’s so cold here we might have podkalodka instead. It’s a totally fabulous Belo’russian “soup” with sausages, pancakes, potatoes, and sour cream! Oh my goodness, am drooling at the writing of it.


Gardens, books, music, food, Church, and children. My marriage.

Work, travel, writing, more work, wife, children and Church. That’s his. Not necessarily in that order.

Bundled up in laughs with just an occasional sprinkling of tears and the odd cleansing row.

“Indeed we have been very fortunate, Mr Bennet.”                                                                                 (Did Mrs Bennet really say that?)






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