Finding Wonderland

It was wet and grey in London yesterday and if it hadn’t been for some existing plans I would have been perfectly happy to curl up at Gidday HQ on the comfy couch. But the British Library beckoned and so just after lunch, friend Aussie-K and I stepped out for some literary loitering.

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It was our first visit to the library. Yours truly has been here twelve years and until yesterday, had only managed a passing acquaintance last year by way of a talk at the conference centre next door. Given how much I love literature and reading, I am delighted to have ticked this visit off my London bucket list and to have moved from ‘I must’ to ‘I have’ at long last.

And what, I hear you ask, made me get off my backside and go?

Well, Wonderland of course!

2015 was the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. It’s a story that’s been told in a myriad of formats and iterations over the years, its other-worldly characters and trippy plot making it the subject of much interpretation and debate. I saw Robert Douglas-Fairhurst interviewed about his biography on Carroll – The Story of Alice – last year (which I am currently reading) and the Library has been running a temporary free exhibition which closes in April. So we entered the fray and hustled – with what felt like hundreds of half-term families – along the cabinets and displays.

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The front part of the exhibit was taken up with a series of twelve (or was it thirteen?) decorated mirrors featuring quotes from Alice in Wonderland whilst in a rather cramped section at the rear, there was an opportunity to learn about the author himself, his real-life Alice (who happened to be a brunette rather than the blonde we’ve come to know and love) and see the ways in which this famous story has been communicated over the last 150 years. It was interesting – however the area was poorly-lit with little opportunity to linger and I found it difficult to read all of the information and look at the details of the books and manuscripts on display. I’m not sorry that I spent the time to shuffle through and see it but it’s just as well it was free otherwise I might have been a little put out!

It seemed a shame to leave after such a short visit and as it was still raining outside, we meandered across to the Library’s permanent exhibition, Treasures of the British Library.

Now THIS was my Wonderland and I spent quite some time poring over…

…drawings & notes from Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo…

…musical scores from as early as 1050 and from geniuses like Mozart, Debussy, Chopin, Beethoven, Bach (just to name a few) as well as a page of Puccini’s scribbled stage directions for his opera Madame Butterfly and a touch from the modern era, a burst of scrawled lyrics for The Beatles’ hit ‘Help’…

…pages and pages of penmanship from literary giants: 16th century greats like Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson, acknowledged classics like Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles and even a little something from Ian Fleming, the man behind James Bond – who you could argue is one of the 20th century’s most iconic literary creations – and his short story, The Living Daylights…

…sacred texts, beautifully illustrated, from as early as the 4th century and from a  variety of religions including Judaism, Hinduism, Islam and Buddism…

…and one of the four Magna Carta documents dating back to 1215 which was sitting right alongside the original papal bull that annulled it just 10 weeks later.

It was absolutely awesome – in the true sense of the word – and these were just the highlights.

And after such a deluge of inspirational history, it was time to venture back out into the real weather, make a damp and concerted dash past St Pancras Station…

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…and around to the YumChaa Cafe in Granary Square for a warming hot chocolate and a slice of apple and apricot loaf…

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All in all, it turned out to be the perfect way to spend an inclement February afternoon in London.

The Deer Stalker…

I just finished reading a great book about human paranoia, Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear.  Things like this really make me think about what glorious yet strange creatures we human beings are – not in a ‘gospel truth’ kind of way but more like an Alice in Wonderland perspective on the things that happen every day that go almost unnoticed.

In reading the last chapter on the train today, I was struck by a rather pithy statement, the kind you find on high school exam papers followed by the word Discuss:

We listen to iPods, read the newspaper, watch television, work on computers, and fly around the world using brains beautifully adapted to picking berries and stalking antelope.

It struck me as a great way to sum up life…let me explain:

There are times for gathering berries, lots of berries.  Sometimes it’s the same berry.  Other times, lots of different berries are the order of the day, and it’s important to skip promiscuously between, around and/or over said berries depending on mood, time of day/ month, sobriety and youthful sense of abandonment (the latter not being restricted to the young alone).

Then there is stalking.  You know, when one’s head and heart are filled with dreams of the perfect partner/ house/ children/ job/ car/ holiday/ clothes/ hair/ position in life and this is faithfully pursued with diligence and relentless discipline, silently (or not) and purposefully…

But I have to say that I think there are some wires crossed…I seem to spend my time stalking lots of berries and picking indiscriminately through the antelope!
It explains so much…

Whipping Up A (Sand)Storm…

Every year, Sand Sculpting Australia whip up a real treat for Mornignton Peninsula residents with a display of creative prowess on the foreshore at Frankston Beach.  This year’s theme was Creepy Crawlies so with some trepidation, we tip-toed quietly through the entrance to see what was in store.

Here’s a run down of what we saw:

The Entrance (for what it’s worth)

Flea Circus

Sewer Connection…

…and close up of Sewer Connection friend.
Boogie Man
Bed Bugs…don’t let them bite!

The Exterminator…complete with plumber/builder’s crack?!

Lair of the Spider Queen…not for the faint-hearted!

The Hive…

…and close up of Bee Boy.  Aaaawwwww!
A Closer Look – under the magnifying glass

Enchanted Garden

Little Miss Muffet, looking a little Shrek-ish.

Alice and the Caterpillar

Roach Motel…

…and patrons enjoying a tinnie…

Ant Farm…an homage to Farmville on Facebook.

Frog Pile

and last but not least, the paparazzi in action…

(Big sister S is on the left and that’s Lil Chicky on the right)
Pretty amazing huh?  All made from sand!
So there it is peeps – my last post for the year.  Thanks for coming along on the Gidday from the UK ride for 2010.  Let’s make it a ‘little bewdy’ in 2011!
Happy New Year everyone!

Date Night: Alice & El Peyote…

Being free of any commitments this weekend (beyond chores that is…ugh!), J and I decided that it was time to have a Date Night and what could be a more traditional choice than a movie followed by dinner…

So we hit the cinema for a 3D journey down the rabbit hole with Alice to Wonderland.  All the elements from the original story I remember were there but Tim Burton did amazing things to twist the story and make it more ‘grown up’ and relevant.  It was a darker Wonderland for sure but the cast was brilliant and the 3D-ness really worked with this flick (unlike Avatar in 3D which left me distinctly under-whelmed).  It always was a slightly ‘trippy’ story anyway but it does seem that this particular trip is a match made in Tim Burton’s style-heaven…go see it on the big screen just for the experience!

And then it was off to a new (Mexi-terranean) restaurant in Kingston, El Peyote.  We found out it had only been open 6 weeks but let’s hope it’s open a whole lot longer than that because we had the best burritos…ever!  (And my prawn kebab starter – marinated in chilli and lime juice with a mango puree – was pretty scrumptious too.)  Fab food, quirky decor and great service – Long live El Peyote I say!

So that was date night…and now it’s Sunday and chores still await. So until next time…

Adios Amigos!