I first met you when I was very young. I learned of all your amazing encounters when my mother read to me from her precious 1929 edition of your book. She had won it as a prize simply for ‘good conduct’ at the local state primary school which she had attended. They did such things in those days!
You, the white rabbit and people like the maddest of hatters accompanied me on my life’s journey. My father was one, as were various uncles and, in my 30s, there was a lecturer at teacher’s training college. He even wore a yellow cravat and green and red check trousers! He was not quite so aggressive as your hatter but just one of the people who persuaded me that things were not always as they might at first seem. Further, that normality was not easy to define and life in general was often full of some kind of madness or other.
The house I lived in as a child was a bit like wonderland. A marionette studio, pictures from top to bottom on several walls. There was a dark corridor leading to a door which opened into a small walled garden to which one could escape. It was a strange affair with white roses and raised flower beds made of big rocks so that Grandmother, who had damaged her back in war when our house was bombed, could do her planting.
As my parents were marionette makers and performers they could pull strings to make you and your adventures come to life. I listened to you and the caterpillar and your poetry about ‘Father William’ often three times a day while they performed endless summer seasons filled with your antics.
It was sad when Peter Pan and the Puppet Circus became popular and you and Humpty didn’t appear in the show. But the white rabbit, with his giant pocket watch running against time, was always in the programme somewhere.
When my mother was alive one of the last things we did together was to make a film about you, dearest Alice, so that she could relive the joys of her earlier life by bringing you and your companions together for the last time.
Now, 65 years after I first made your acquaintance you, in your white dress and neat apron, are looking out of the window of a house on the south coast. Not the environment you are really quite at home in, but I rebuilt the garden to make it a little more conducive to your nature.
You were always resourceful and I have always loved you. I know this year is simply a celebration of your influence for over a hundred and fifty years and you were a wonderful role model to both my mother and myself. I, too, sometimes feel that life, with it’s vanities, pretensions and ridiculous expectations, can still be considered to be no more real than a pack of cards.
Now in later life I write a lot of poetry which perhaps is not surprising!
With much love Ann
Did you ever get a book as a school prize and did you treasure it? I was never clever enough and missed quite a bit of school anyway, but I still have my copy of a book all London children were given to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation.