Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Finding Alice



Very much enjoyed a nostalgic weekend back in Oxford, and meeting a wonderfully responsive audience at the Sunday Times Literary Festival. The only disappointment was that the bookshop ran out of copies of Chanel (apologies to all those who queued, only to be turned away; it was as frustrating for me as it was for those who had been kept waiting).
Calm was restored when I found the secret door to Alice's garden (see above; needless to say, it remained locked) and the portrait of Lewis Carroll/ Charles Dodgson in the Christ Church Great Hall (now world-famous as Hogwarts, but hugely impressive for its own extraordinary academic, literary and political history). Time for tea afterwards at the Randolph hotel, and a chance to admire Osbert Lancaster's illustrations for Max Beerbohm's novel 'Zuleika Dobson'. (Not my favourite Oxford novel -- Brideshead Revisited can never be bettered -- but Zuleika, for all the damage she wreaks, deserves some celebration, as the femme fatale approaches the age of 101).
From the Randolph, back to Christ Church to hear Andrew Marr's talk on The Diamond Queen (as entertaining as his television series on the subject), and then a fortuitous meeting at dinner with Bettany Hughes, who told me about her new documentary on the hidden history of women and religion (apparently there were female bishops in the early Christian Church, and a deaconess named Phoebe, mentioned only briefly in the Bible, but intriguing nevertheless).
Alice, Zuleika, goddesses, and the Queen; what more could one ask for? All that was missing was a chance to dance the Lobster Quadrille, but walking across Tom Quad at midnight was almost as magical...

7 comments:

kairu said...

It sounds like a wonderful weekend, Justine. (Is that a gleam of white moonstone on your hand, caught against the dark of your jacket like the moon reflected in a midnight pond?). You certainly look much happier than Dodgson in his portrait!

xo.

enid said...

What a great report back and lovely photo of you. I too spotted the white moonstone on your hand. You are so lucky to travel to so many interesting places and we are lucky to join you via the blog . I was thinking of rereading Brideshead as it was such a wonderful read.

Ellen said...

I have blogged about your talk http://imellenc.blogspot.com Thank you once again, thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm now an avid reader of your blog!

Justine Picardie said...

Perhaps I should have tried the gleam of a moonstone as a key to the secret garden? Does anyone remember Tom's Midnight Garden? I loved that book as a child.
Thanks, Ellen, for your blog; and welcome to this one.

enid said...

Tom's Midnight Garden was a group reading book when I taught and I loved it but the kids didn't identify with it. Another book was Green Knowe by Lucy Boston. I think it's sad that most kids would rather read about vampires and books like The Hunger Games. When I did find a child who liked Secret Garden or Tom's Midnight Garden I was really happy. The Narnia series was always so popular. Oh how soothing our favourite books from childhood can be in times of trouble.I loved Girl of the Limberlost and still reread it. Happy Easter.

Lilac In May said...

Love Toms Midnight Garden, just thinking about stepping out into the moon (stone) light brings me out in shivers. Love the new photo Kairu.

Minerva Black said...

Love Oxford, so magical and timeless.