Happy birthday, Alice
HE drinks and food get curiouser and curiouser. And I feel more and more underdressed. I’m surprised they let me in. I don’t have a bespoke walrus moustache or whiskers of any kind. I don’t suit gingham and I’m not wearing an outsized fob watch. But I do have a themed gryphon nose. And, under certain lights, my profile apparently looks a little like that of a dodo.
I sip my “Wonderland” cocktail. Some tables have “Green Mo-tea-to”. Alice is passing around a teapot of dark rum, grenadine and goldenberry juice. The Mad Hatter is pouring “Drink me” cocktails and the March Hare acts as the sommelier at the Alice Pop-Up Experience.
What’s this? As the King said gravely, “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop”.
This is the year of Alice. October marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and there’s a range of events planned to celebrate the author’s madcap genius, including an Open Day in his hometown of Oxford on July 4 and an Alice exhibition at London’s V&A Museum of Children in Bethnal Green.
In Llandudno, in northern Wales, there are two new apps ready for travellers to download: Follow The White Rabbit Trail and Alice Origins tours. Virtual characters guide fans around a town particularly
Flanked by the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, Kevin Pilley celebrates the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland.
rich in Alice meaning, as the place where Alice Liddell, the girl who inspired Carroll’s famous character, spent her childhood holidays. The tour takes in Madoc St with its oak White Rabbit statue, and St George’s Hotel where Lewis is thought to have written some of the story, to St Tudno Hotel, where the Liddell family stayed.
Travellers can learn Welsh en route, with the Mad Hatter coaching everyday phrases. His first question is whether you like pineapple. Conversations are also available with Playing Card soldiers and Live Flowers.
Followers of these walking tours can play croquet in Happy Valley, have a pint of “Mad Hatter” in the Lily Restaurant and have their photograph taken alongside a cedar Cheshire Cat statue or the Tweedle Twins in Haulfre Gardens. The town holds an annual jam-eating contest. Last year, 2469 tarts were consumed on Llandudno’s official Alice Day on May 1. Attending this year’s ceremony will be an official town Alice – 10-year-old Melissa Jane Hall from the local Ysgol Tudno school, who will accompany the town mayor on civic engagements.
Among the celebrations are two Alice Pop-up Experience supper parties on April 24 and 25 in London’s East End, similar to the trial event I joined last year. Organiser Tomo Kemeby takes his inspiration from the 2010 film.
During my supper party, there are madcap performances accompanied by live music between four courses.
The courses include wild,
wild wonderland risotto and turtle egg turnip mousse in a rich mock turtle egg broth. Dessert is a raspberry Queen of Heart’s Tart with caramel treacle ice-cream.
“We guarantee your experience will be much more muchier than anything you’ve ever imagined,” quips Kemeby.
Originally entitled Alice Underground, the famous story was allegedly hatched in 1852 during a rowing trip down the Thames from Oxford to Godstow and Nuneham Courtenay. Carroll told his story to Alice Liddell, the daughter of the dean of Christ Church College, where the author studied and taught maths. There are Alice cruises along the route leaving from London’s Folly Bridge.
The author, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodson, was an interesting bloke. Born in Cheshire, the son of a parson was deaf in one ear and stammered. He probably suffered from epilepsy and many believe this condition inspired some of his books. His grandfather was an Irish bishop.
He devised crosswords and
MADCAP CAPERS: (clockwise from main) Mia Wasikowska and Johnny Depp in the 2010 film
and on the trail of a tall tale in Llandudno, Wales.