Alice In Llandudno

by Sherry L Ackerman

After having logged many magical miles with hosts Keith and Liz Wright, visiting sites of Carrollian interest around Great Britain, the day came to “cross the border” into Wales. And, not just Wales, but Llandudno—a Wonderland in its own right. I knew the moment that we had crossed into Wales, because the road signs were in Welsh. There was a hint of Jabberwocky in it, if you know what I mean!

    My daughter had owned…and loved…a Welsh Cob pony as a child. The pony had been my first introduction to Wales. She had been imported from North Wales, sporting the prefix Penrhyn, and had been straight out of a fairy tale. Every time we were around Charlotte, the Welsh pony, we were transported to a different land. So, I was eagerly looking forward to seeing Charlotte’s birthplace first-hand.

    The landscape was captivating….and a bit mystical. It was lush and green, misty and cool, and decidedly mythical. We continued on a bit toward the Great Orme, from which we got an amazing view of the terrain below. Nestled in that terrain was Llandudno, where we were to meet Alice for lunch. It seemed like the perfect place for this type of meeting! Not only were we having lunch with Alice, but also with the mayor of Llandudno. It certainly seemed like something straight out of Wonderland.

Llandudno has a Carrollian link because the Liddell family regularly spent holidays at their vacation-home Penmorfa, on the West Shore of Llandudno. The question as to whether or not Carroll ever visited Penmorfa is controversial. Llandudno has a plaque – unveiled in 1933 by David Lloyd George no less – which states, “On this very shore during happy rambles with little Alice Liddell, Lewis Carroll was inspired to write that literary treasure Alice in Wonderland which has now charmed children for generations”. But, peeling back through history, it is impossible to conclusively discern whether or not Lewis Carroll ever really visited Lluandudno.

Researching the question of whether or not Carroll ever really visited Llandudno, I stumbled upon a little (82 pages) book called Did Lewis Carroll Visit Llandudno: An Investigation, by Michael Senior, published by Llygad Gwalch Cyf  in 2000. The book is a mini-case study in just how hard it can be to track down the truth - or at least a fully documented plausible version of the truth. It is said that a letter exists, written by one of Alice Liddell's sisters when grown-up, saying she had no memory of Carroll ever visiting the girls in Llandudno. But, according to Senior, "It turns out that not only does nobody know where it (the letter) is but that none of the people who quote from it so assertively have ever seen it.” Curiouser and curiouser!"

Anyway, after wandering about town a bit and taking in the sights of Carrollian importance, we made our way to our lunch date. Alice was demur, albeit a bit overwhelmed by having lunch with so many stuffy adults! The mayor was animated and full of interesting conversation. She, in fact, reminded me of the White Queen. I half-expected, at any moment, for her to announce that she had done six impossible things before breakfast! Conversation revolved around the town of Llandudno and upcoming Carrollian activities planned for the area. There was talk of planning an event to be held to mark the 160th anniversary of birth of Alice Liddell, including a massive Mad Hatter-themed tea party on Llandudno's promenade. It is my understanding that the event went off this year without a hitch and that, in fact, people are waiting to see if they have earned a world record for the largest number of jam tarts eaten at an Alice event.

    I could just hear the White Queen (or was it the mayor?) cooing, “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day.”

Thank you for sharing my adventures in the UK with my generous hosts, Keith and Liz Wright. This article concludes my series on the visit. It was one that I will never forget and always hold dearly in my memory.

Dr. Sherry L. Ackerman is a retired American philosophy professor who has had a lifetime interest in—and love affair with—Lewis Carroll’s literature. She can’t explain it (like so many of us!), but is just spell-bound by Carroll’s children’s literature. Her book, Behind the Looking Glass, will be released in paperback Second Edition by Everson Press this Fall.