Here is another extract from my new novel – with a bizarre poem.
Alice was suddenly feeling very alone. Indeed she felt a bit like that mysterious woman. Which mysterious woman? With a bit of thought, Alice remembered what she meant. The idea that had popped into her head was about The Lady of Shalott, a poem by Alfred Tennyson. This had inspired an atmospheric painting of the same name by a painter, and his name had been….“J M W Turner….no not Turner….J M W Watercolour….no….and it was not Watercooler….oh I remember now, he was J W Waterhouse.” The Tennyson verses about unrequited love drew upon a tale featuring Elaine of Astolat – linked in some way (Alice could not quite remember….how?) to King Arthur. The lady in the poem experiences a sad existence, watching the reflected activity of other people in a mirror (“shadows of the world appear”), and weaving stories she observes into a tapestry.
Trying to re-orientate herself, Alice said “Do I know the things I used to know? Let me see. Try Geography. Britain is England, Scotland, Wales – yes that seems okay. Now try to remember the states that made up Yugoslavia. What were they? Croatia, Serbia, Titograd, Yugotours, Sveti Stefan, Spassky, Bonsai Eva Herzigova, Macedonia, Alexandria, Cleopatra, Albania. No I do not think that was quite right. What about the provinces of the Netherlands? Should be simple. There is Holland, North Holland, South Holland, New Amsterdam, Edam, and New Zealand. Maybe not? Will try to recite some of The Lady of Shalott.” Alice began her favourite poem but, like a northern song, the words appeared to be going wrong:
Weaving a tapestry, the Lady of Shalott
Visions reflected through a glass onion
Catch a glimpse of a fair maiden
Her feet sore from bunions
Fixing a hole in the ozone
Nearly ending the verse, that’s your lot
“I’m sure those are not the right words”, said poor Alice, and her eyes filled with tears again as she went on, “I am so very tired of being all alone here!” As she said this she looked down at her hands, and was surprised to see that she had put on one of the Rabbit’s little white gloves while she was talking. “How can I have done that?” she thought. “I must be growing small again.” She got up and went to the table to measure herself by it, and found that, as nearly as she could guess, she was now about two feet high, and was going on shrinking rapidly. She soon guessed that the cause of this was the flapping of the fan, and dropped it hastily, just in time to avoid shrinking away altogether.
“That was a narrow escape!” said Alice, a good deal frightened at the sudden change, but very glad to find herself still in existence. “Now for the garden!” and she ran with all speed back to the little door. Alas, the little door was shut again, and the little golden key was lying on the glass table as before. “Things are worse than ever,” thought Alice, “as I was never as small as this before.”
As she said these words her foot slipped, and in another moment, with a splash, she was up to her chin in salt water. Her first idea was that she had somehow fallen into the sea. “In that case I can go back by railway,” she said to herself. As a young child, Alice had come to the general conclusion that, wherever you go on the English seaside, you find some children digging in the sand with wooden or plastic spades, then a row of beach huts, and behind them a railway station. In later years, Alice understood the symbol of the steam train thrusting into a dark tunnel. Now she made out that she was in the pool of tears, which she had wept when she was nine feet high. “I wish I had not cried so much!” said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. “I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears! That will be a queer thing, to be sure! However, everything is queer today.”
Alice was wearing a rather fetching blue and white dress, bought for a fancy dress party as far as she could recall, and found swimming in this a bit of a challenge. Alice was also wearing a pair of black and white chequered hold-up stockings, and a pair of high-heeled black shoes.