I have always felt quite positive about Wonderland. Catterpillar with hookah; doormouse in teapot – what wildlife! Between the Walrus and the Queen Of Hearts there’s even enough character-based entertainment to distract the casual reader from the fact that Lewis Carrol had no sense of plot. Indeed just as it’s looking as though he can’t really get out of developing one, he wakes Alice up and declares the whole thing a dream.
But seriously, who cares about plot when you’ve got the Cheshire Cat? No, what spoilt Alice in Wonderland for me was not the author at all. It was the heroine: bloody Alice.
Even as an eight-year-old I found Alice irritating, not just because she preferred cats to dogs, read books over people’s shoulders and so failed to grasp the nature of wonderland that she was still using expressions like ‘queer’ and ‘how curious!’ half-way through the story.
No, these failings I could forgive. The real reason I hate Alice is that she is judgemental, small-minded, self-important, bossy, reactive and RUDE. Anyone who doubts this should read back through the Mad Hatter’s Tea-Party scene ( http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/alice-VII.html ) Furthermore, her intellectual snobbery is appalling: if she cares so much about reciting the words of poetry correctly at her age, then she’s going to be worse than my grandmother by the time she hits eighty.
Apart from this, I reckon that Alice is probably alright. So this post is not a dig at my friends who completed the Scottish Literary Festival personality test ( https://frozen-everglades-6644.herokuapp.com/ ) and found that they closely resembled her (I know of eight of you). I have to say though, that I was quite gratified to be the lovely Scout Finch.
There is however one thing that Alice and I do have in common: “Alice generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it)”.
I do that all the time. All the time.
“Liz, go for a run now, this morning, or you won’t get one at all today”.
“Don’t have one of the Quality Street: I know a grateful owner sent them in, but you’re bound to get the carbs all wrong and run too high or hypo later”.
“Put down that paperwork you’re trying to concentrate on. Toddler knows you’re trying to concentrate and will keep sticking Where’s Spot under your nose until you give up and read it to her.”
“Clean the bathroom now, while the blighters are asleep: you’ll feel better for it later.”
What happens to this advice in my head? Why do I always have the Quality Street? Why do I always curl up on the armchair and snooze? My motivation has taken a real dive in recent years. The air might be cold on my skin as I walk out of work in a morning, but I know that if I go for a run I’ll enjoy it – and sleep better – how is it that seven times out of eight I still don’t go?
I know a lot of people with good self discipline, whether this manifests as E5 climbing grades, waists that are tiny due to diet and exercise rather than chance, 6am mountaintop sunrise photography or decent half-marathon times. I was never very disciplined, but used to be a little bit – but hubby was a little distracting and children are terrible. You know, people just don’t expect mothers to high-acheive.
“Be kind to yourself,” call out the baby books in unison, “you’ve just had a baby.”
It’s hard to know who they’re referring to. The sort of woman who gets distressed becasue the fourth false eyelid from the left isn’t right? Or because they haven’t completely emptied and swept the cupboard under the stairs for the third month on the trot? Or are they talking to me. I mean sure – I’m listening – but I can’t help feeling that if they met me they wouldn’t be so generous. Instead they’d be saying ‘We really epect you to do more personal grooming than your husband in a morning’ or ‘haven’t you SEEN that patch of mildew next to your bedroom curtains?’ or No exercise again all week? REALLY? Never going to get those 10k run like this, are you?’
The point is, that they never specify the level of lameness we should forgive ourselves…. And I often find myself taking the piss.
Other people aren’t always helpful either. ‘You’re doing your best!’ they say.
And I think, ‘Am I really? I haven’t been out of breath all week but I’m doing my best? How marvellous! Well, I’ll try my best to resist this chocolate biscuit, too’ and I’ll help myself to another one. Is this it now? Am I Middle Aged? Have I reached a point at which it’s OK to ‘let oneself go?’
Alice wouldn’t stand any nonsense. She’d call a spade a spade.
‘Elizabeth, if you carry on like you are you shall become a terrible slut.’ (Alice, you remember, was eight years old in 1875 so such language is allowed; I can always appeal to some senior ex-UKIP members to check that she is using it correctly).
If she is, then she would probably be right.
I told you I didn’t like Alice very much.