Thursday, 22 November 2012

Alice In A Winter Wonderland

Wassail! By Mhairi M Robertson
On November 26 1862, Charles Dodgson sent a copy of his handwritten manuscript Alice's Adventures Under Ground to Alice Liddel as a Christmas present. Dodgson famously made up the story while on a boating trip with the Liddel sisters. A revised version of the manuscript was eventually self published as Alice in Wonderland in 1865.

Since then there have been Manchester based steampunk sequels, mythology building comic versions, controversial adult retellings, crazy crossovers with other classic novels and a dodgy 3-D movie.

This is my contribution...Alice's Winter Wonderland, a wee bit from a Christmas Story I wrote for Sharon as a Christmas gift a few years back, which has Alice wandering through Wonderland exploring the folklore and traditions of the 12 Days of Christmas. I keep footering with it, and at some point myself and Mhairi hope to release a complete illustrated version. Fingers crossed. Mhairi and I also created a series of unusual adventures for Alice in The Wonderful Worlds of Alice.

Alice's Winter Wonderland - Ten Pipers Piping

As Alice stepped back over the hill back onto the snowy path, she could see to her dismay that she was right back where she had started, and no nearer the Ministers House at all.
“I’m beginning to forget what it is I am to recite this evening. I know it was something to do with Christmas.” thought Alice to herself, “I had better keep practicing.”
As she walked she sang to herself.

“Angels we have heard can’t fly,  
Are now travelling on trains,
So the Doctor’s coming by,
For to salve their aches and pains.”
Alice was sure this was not quite right, but just as she was about to start over, she realised she was again standing by the fruit tree in the town square, with the little Green Village down the hill on the left and the little Red Village she had just returned from, down the hill on the right.
“Back again?” said The Partridge, “You really ought to listen to your elders and betters.”
“Why should I listen to you?” said Alice. “You sent me off in completely the wrong direction the last time we spoke.”
The Partridge sniffed haughtily, in a way which reminded Alice of her Great Aunt Matilda.
“It’s hardly my fault that you cannot follow instructions. What a dim girl you are.”
The Partridge even sounded like her Great Aunt Matilda.
“And what a rude bird YOU are.”
Alice turned on her heel and marched down towards the little Green Village, only just remembering how much trouble she had found herself in when she tried this approach with Great Aunt Matilda.
“That’s the wrong way.” trilled The Partridge “They’re all mad that way.”
“Well it’s too late to stop now.” thought Alice to herself, “I’ll look even more foolish if I turn around and go back. Besides which, I have already tried going the other way.”
As she drew nearer to the Green Village, she could hear a fantastic din, the little street was full of people of all shapes and sorts, each carrying a different musical instrument, and clearly playing their own tune. 
Alice was most pleased to notice that at the head of the band was her friend The White Knight, he seemed to be having some difficulty with a drum. It being the type of day it was, Alice was not at all surprised to see The Mad Hatter helping The White Knight secure the drum straps around his armour.
“Hello sir!” said Alice “May I ask what this noise is all about?”
“We are the Town Band.” announced The White Knight rather importantly in the incorrect tense “We go from house to house, singing songs and warming ourselves by the winter fire. Or rather, we would do, if we could just all start at the same time.”
Alice looked at the long line of people in the band.
“By the time I’ve started, and word gets carried all the way down to the people at the back, I’m already on a different song.”
“Does the drum not help to keep everyone in time?” asked Alice, who knew a little of how music was supposed to work.
“It should my dear.” said The White Knight, “I brought this drum all the way from eastern climes. Sadly however, I left the sound behind.”
“Don’t be silly. You can’t leave a noise behind.” said Alice.
“Of course you can, I know of at least three gentlemen who are able to throw their voice. One threw it so far than it got lost and could not come back.”
While Alice stopped for a moment to consider this, The Mad Hatter explained further, “It’s all true. So now there’s a street in Constantinople where all day a drum beats without a drum.”
“It is most annoying for those nearby.” said The White Knight “For they have no way of stopping it.”
Alice could see from the sad look on his face that The White Knight was quite serious. 
“Perhaps,” Alice ventured, “You aren’t playing it entirely right. I’ve had quite a number of piano lessons, I may be able to help.”
Here, Alice felt it was not important to mention that her last piano lesson had ended with her Music Mistress sobbing.
“Now,” said Alice with some authority “Where is the drumstick.”
“I gave it to a passing Badger in exchange for an excellent chutney recipe.” said The White Knight.
“What use would a Badger have for a drumstick?” asked Alice.
“I believe he wished to use it to beat eggs. Or chimney sweeps. At any rate, I didn’t need it if the drum wasn’t making a noise. I am not even that fond of chutney, but it did seem like the correct thing to do in the circumstances.”
All the while Alice had been talking to The White Knight, she had been politely trying not to notice The Mad Hatter unsuccessfully attempting to untangle himself from what looked like a sack full of sticks, but as ever, her curiosity finally got the better of her manners.
“Excuse me please, What are those?” asked Alice.
“These are my Regicidal Bagpipes.” said The Mad Hatter, beaming with pride. “They are over four hundred years old.”
“Really?” said Alice, very impressed. “That’s very old indeed.”
“Yes. Though sadly, I have had to replace both the bag and the pipes several times owing to their increased age.”
“Well then they aren’t old bagpipes at all!” said Alice. “They are completely new bagpipes.”
“Which part? They still sound old.” said The Mad Hatter, “Now, would you like to hear our song?” 
If truth be told, Alice was already tiring slightly of people insisting on singing songs at her, but it seemed to be the only way that she might get someone from the band to help her on her way. “Besides,” she thought “perhaps this song will be one I know.”
“Is everyone ready?” asked The Hatter “Excepting of course, those who are not? Let us sing ‘Here we come a-waffling’.”

Here we come a-waffling,
Among the streets serene.
Here we come a wobbling,
We haven’t got a bean.

Our waffle cup is made,
Of the old Tulgey tree,
And we prefer to see it filled,
With finest Earl Grey tea.

Bring us out a table,
And spread it with green cheeses.
Bring us out some cinnamon,
To spare our festive sneezes.

God bless the master of this house,
And all his cats and dogs,
For you we come a-waffling,
And dance with finest clogs.

The company concluded with a little dance, and gave themselves a rather impolite and ill deserved round of applause.
“Well,” said Alice, trying very hard to think of what to say “That was nice.”
“Precisely!” said The White Knight, “But sadly the folk of this village do not entirely agree with you. We have decided therefore to make an expedition over to The Red Village instead. I know of a Piemaker there who will be very pleased to welcome us.”
“If it is The Piemaker I have just met in The Red Village, that is very unlikely.” Alice thought to herself, but she did not want to upset The White Knight.
“I wonder if one of you might be able to help me.” said Alice, who now felt it was appropriate to ask for assistance since she had been so kind about The Town Band’s performance. “I’m looking for The Ministers House, I have a recital to give there this evening.”
“What is the house number?” asked The Mad Hatter.
“You know, I’m not sure.” said Alice. “Seven I think. Or twenty-three.”
“Then he must be a Prime Minister.” declared The Mad Hatter, before continuing to wrestle with his bagpipes.
“The Lords and Ladies would know best where to find a Prime Minister.” said The White Knight. “They are all dancing down by the forest. Come along and I’ll show you.”
Alice and the White Knight walked off through the snow towards the forest as the band marched off out of time, on their expedition to The Red Village.

Lewis Carroll frequently parodied contemporary poems, the nonsense above is more popularly known as "Here We Come A Wassailing", sung by winter wassailers looking for a warm drink by the fire. Similarly, Alice is not quite remembering "Angels We Have Heard On High". But as I'm fond of saying...if ye have to explain it...

I do enjoy scribbling a bit of Christmas fan fiction, here's some lost pages from Wind in the Willows.

Here's Blur's version of The Wassailing Song

And, while we're doing Christmas's The Two Ronnies 'Alice in a Winter Wonderland'...