“Come away, O human child: To the waters and the wild with a fairy…” – William Butler Yeats
Spring has begun this month, and with it, the Once Upon a Time Challenge on Stainless Steel Droppings (my launch post here)…and so I have fairyland on my mind. I’ve never climbed through a wardrobe, been abducted by the Green Wind, or fallen through a rabbit hole, so I can’t share photos from the various places those routes would take you 🙂 and cameras probably wouldn’t work anyway. But as regular readers know, I have gone rambling about Kensington Gardens, where Peter Pan flew to when he “ran away from home and lived a long, long time with the fairies.”
Part of the fun of the Gardens is that there are no plaques or ceramic fairies or touristy things to point out the different sites of interest. You have to take a quest, with J. M. Barrie’s The Little White Bird as your guide, and find the magic spots yourself.
Fortunately, the fairies seem not to object to cameras!
If you look closely, you can see one of the “paths which make themselves”–at night, of course, which is when everything really magical happens in the Gardens.
These are flowers along the aptly-named Flower Walk. Barrie tells us that fairies caught abroad by humans will pretend to be flowers. His advice on the best way to spot a fairy is to stare at a “flower” until it can’t help winking at you. (I don’t know what that would look like either!)
This is the branch of the Weeping Beech in the Flower Walk, where Peter Pan spent the night immediately after running away from home.
If you can’t find some fairy dust, and reliable directions on how to fly past the second star to the right, you can at least go see the island in the middle of the Serpentine. Peter spent some time living there too, until he built a boat and (eventually) learned how to fly.
The Gardens are not the most exotic or showy of fairylands, but they’re certainly the most accessible–and they are every bit as charming as J. M. Barrie.
Whew–I don’t know about you, but 2013 seems to be starting crazy busy! With very good things…but BUSY! So for Saturday Snapshot today, I thought perhaps a few peaceful pictures from one of my favorite places.
You were already guessing Kensington Gardens, right? 🙂
The inscription reads: “Pam Weisweiller was here – do sit and enjoy life”
So this weekend, I hope you take some time to just sit and enjoy life!
It’s raining all this weekend. I thought about sharing rain pictures, but found out that it’s not so easy to photograph rain. But rain makes me want to curl up somewhere cozy and drink tea, so I thought I’d share tea pictures–particularly fun tea pictures, from my London trip.
This is the Orangerie in Kensington Gardens. If you’re ever there, it’s off the Broad Walk near Kensington Palace. They’re known for their excellent afternoon teas–two different friends who had lived in London recommended them to me!
This was my experience of tea–not actually the fancy version, which they serve on a pretty tiered tray and has cakes and sandwiches and enormous amounts of food. But I wasn’t that hungry and they kindly let me just have very tasty tea and scones, even though the option wasn’t on the menu.
This is the view from the Orangerie’s patio. Somewhere beyond that path is Kensington Palace.
I also had breakfast at the Orangerie another day–the eggs tasted better than they look in the picture! That day I ate inside, and got this picture…
It’s a beautiful place–and not as busy Sunday mornings as it is for afternoon tea. If you’re in Kensington Gardens (where you MUST go if you have any interest in Peter Pan), then the Orangerie is an excellent place for a very charming breakfast or tea!
I’m participating in the Book Blogger Hop again this week, which invites book bloggers to answer a bookish question and visit each other’s blogs. Hosted at Soon Remembered Tales this week, here’s today’s question:
With Autumn upon us and Halloween drawing near, what books remind you of fall? What ones do you enjoy reading that are about autumn?
My first thought was that Autumn doesn’t seem to get that much play in fiction. Summer and winter, with their more dramatic temperatures, seem to be more usual choices–and then of course, spring is the traditional setting for love stories. (Also for L. M. Montgomery books, which while not all in the spring, all have that feel.)
But perhaps I don’t think of Autumn as a frequent setting because I don’t read the right books. Perhaps Autumn comes up all the time in ghost stories and horror novels. I wouldn’t know.
Anyway, I thought a bit more, and I did hit on two favorite books where Autumn plays a role. First, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente features a heroine named September. While not entirely set in Autumn, there is a scene where September turns into a tree–and begins to dry and crumble as Autumn comes in. It’s truly frightening, and one of the most striking moments of the book.
Second, I thought of Peter Pan in Scarlet, Geraldine McCaughrean’s sequel to J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. I imagine there are all seasons in Neverland (probably delightfully crammed together), but in a metaphorical sense, Neverland exists in a perpetual summer time. This book explores what happens when the magic begins to crumble, and Autumn comes to the island.
I was in Kensington Gardens this September, where Peter Pan lived before going to Neverland. True to the magic of the Gardens, Autumn seemed to arrive over night. My hotel was nearby so I was visiting daily–and one day it was warm summer, the next it turned cold and drifts of leaves covered the ground. It’s not hard to imagine that the fairies decided it was time for a season change, and went to work!
This may sound strange, but I love British food. It gets a bad reputation–but what’s not to love about fish and chips, meat pies, yorkshire pudding and jammie dodgers? I made a particular effort (and it wasn’t that hard) to find British food while I was in London. After I got home, I started thinking about where I could find British food here–and what I could try making myself.
Meat pies seem complicated, but I thought I could handle fish and chips. On my trip, I had fish and chips for lunch one day at The Black Lion. First picture, here’s the pub:
It’s a great old place that dates back to the 1700s. It’s on Bayswater Road, across the street from the Black Lion Gate, which opens onto the Broad Walk in Kensington Gardens. I like to think J. M. Barrie may have eaten here, considering he lived just a few blocks away.
Here’s The Black Lion’s fish and chips:
The book, incidentally, is Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig, and very good. So was the food!
And here’s my version of fish and chips–which also turned out tasty. 🙂
A quick update today, to say that I just got back from my trip to London and Paris. I scheduled posts ahead, but if you noticed a distinct silence in the comments, that was why. The trip was amazing 🙂 and you will be hearing (and seeing) more about it soon! While I’m getting back on top of things, I have another classic review today, very relevant to my recent trip.
My hotel in London was near Kensington Gardens for a variety of reasons. It really was a practical choice. But I also stayed in that part of town because of J. M. Barrie. The author of Peter Pan, he lived near Kensington Gardens, where he met the Davies boys, the real life inspirations for Peter. He wrote another book inspired by the Davies, featuring Peter in a cameo. It’s really that book, The Little White Bird, that’s given me my fascination with Kensington Gardens.
It really all began in the The Little White Bird. It’s very possibly my favorite J. M. Barrie book, even over and above Peter Pan.
The Little White Bird; or Adventures in Kensington Gardens is a tale about a man who befriends a little boy, and has adventures with him in London and Kensington Gardens. If you’re not already suspecting the autobiographical nature of this novel, the little boy’s name is David. Historically, J. M. Barrie befriended the Davies brothers in Kensington Gardens. Not too subtle! He also has a dog named Porthos, as did Mr. Barrie. The man in the story is left unnamed. He’s referred to as Captain W–. I somehow picked up the habit of calling him the kindly old gentleman.
A review in The Times said of the book when it was first published, “The peculiar quality of The Little White Bird…is it’s J.-M.-Barrie-ness…whimsical, sentimental, profound, ridiculous Barrie-ness…Mr. Barrie has given us the best of himself, and we can think of no higher praise.”
I couldn’t put it better. The Barrie-ness is often the best part of Mr. Barrie’s books. The charm, the whimsy, the flights of fancy, the sweet sadness…the book is funny and tragic, absurd and heartbreaking, and sometimes all at the same time. The tragedy, for the kindly old gentleman at least, is that David doesn’t really belong to him, and will one day grow up and leave him.
And there we come to the Peter Pan connection. Besides thematic connections, there are also four chapters in the middle of the book that are about Peter. They’re almost oddly unrelated to the rest, other than by geography, but I think they’re meant to be stories that the kindly old gentleman tells David. In Peter Pan, Peter tells Wendy, “I want always to be a little boy and to have fun. So I ran away to Kensington Gardens and lived a long, long time with the fairies.” And this is that story.
We read about Peter’s running away from home, find out why he doesn’t grow up, see him meet the fairies, and also meet a girl he knew long before there was Wendy. This is before Peter went to Neverland (although an island features) and the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell are yet to come on the scene, but there are other wonderful magical creatures and adventures. The four chapters about Peter, along with one chapter giving a Grand Tour of the gardens, have been excerpted and published as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with lovely illustrations by Arthur Rackham.
The Grand Tour (and map) is especially wonderful, because if you’re ever in London, I highly recommend spending an afternoon in Kensington Gardens with The Little White Bird in one hand. It’s what I’ve done, and I spent a couple of hours going, “Oh, there’s Mabel Gray’s gate! And the Round Pond! And that must be the Baby Walk! And this is probably the weeping beech where Peter sat!” Even a century later, I was able to find almost everything J. M. Barrie described. And it’s a little easier to get to Kensington Gardens than to figure out which star is the second one to the right.
One more note on The Little White Bird–George Davies, who was the chief inspiration for David, took a copy of the book with him to the trenches in World War I. I think that’s one of the saddest and sweetest things I ever heard.
Even in much less dire reading circumstances, it’s a lovely and enjoyable book–and, of course, magical too.
I’ve mentioned before that I love visiting places that figure in books, and I’ve been lucky to do that fairly often. Once in a great while, I get to visit a character from a book–sort of!
These are the original Winnie-the-Pooh characters, the dolls owned by Christopher Robin Milne, A. A. Milne’s son. Rabbit and Owl were slightly more imaginary, and Roo was lost in an apple orchard around 1925, but you can go visit Kanga, Tigger, Edward Bear, Piglet and Eeyore at the New York Public Library. There’s a lovely display in the children’s section. You can’t see it in this picture, but Eeyore’s tail really is held on with a tack!
This is the Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens, which is where Peter ran away to when he left home. I don’t actually know those two little girls, but they happened to be there when I snapped the picture and I liked how it came out. And I’m fascinated by the base of the statue–I see something new in it every time I look at it.
There aren’t very many bookish characters available to be visited…but at least there are plenty more bookish places I still want to go…