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LITERARY STYLE INSPIRATION: THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN

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ROLLING WITH JAMES JOYCE ON AN IRISH HILL

bookish girls

ODE TO THE BOOKISH GIRLS

Tea time story

tea time vogue

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I had tea with the mad hatter and company yesterday.

I was having an unsettling day and I felt in dire need of a warm cup. In my Armani haute couture midi dress, I walked barefoot in the woods for a while before I found them. It was quite cold, but I did have a hat on. I expected something awful to frighten me but nothing happened and I found the hatter, rabbit and dormouse sitting together on a long table, while a young girl was heading to the other side of the woods.

“No room no room!” said the rabbit when he saw me approach, while the other two looked at me wearily.

“There was enough room for that girl who just left. I just need tea; may I join you for a cup?”

“No you may not!”

“Thank you,” I sat down next to the hatter.

“Is every one of you going mad?” the rabbit asked.

“Oh cake! May I?”

I would have preferred to sit at the head of the table, you know how keen I am about this, but the three of them were huddled in one corner and I would have needed to shout to make conversation which is far from appropriate during tea, I was a guest after all.

Strips of fog surrounded the long table, I felt like I was having tea on a cloud. There were hand painted teapots, sugar cubes stacked into Egyptian pyramid models and frosting on every cake, cupcake and biscuit in sight; vases filled with dried flowers, hand watches at a standstill and candle wax dripping onto candelabras, which were scattered all over the table. It was warm here, despite the cold tinge of the twilight, except night never did come. Everything was sitting on a variety of table cloths — embroidered, patterned with paisley, quilted, and a velvet one — where I sat and had my tea.

“You should really hold the saucer under your cup,” I told the rabbit, he was just about to have a sip.

“I know how one should drink tea; I’ve been doing this for longer than you have.”

“Well you haven’t been doing it correctly.”

I had never seen a rabbit grow red in the face, so I apologised and asked him why he doesn’t move on to dinner. At this, the mad hatter sat up, the dormouse had fallen asleep by now, and he explained how time here had stopped at six o’clock which was good to hear; I’m always complaining that the hour of tea passes by so quickly.

“So if time has stopped, are we enduring the present or relative time?”

“I don’t know,” said the mad hatter, “but it does make you go mad.”

“That’s because we’re used to enduring the present turning into the past and trying to catch up with lost time.”

“Would you like to dance, red haired girl?” asked the hatter while he touched the wisp of hair that had slipped from under my hat.

“I don’t dance in the woods. I only dance on long tables.”

“What is your name?” he asked, as he moved closer.

“My name is the same as those biscuits right there. Why don’t you dip one in your tea and see if you are plunged in an involuntary memory, maybe then you’ll find that time has flown inadvertently by.”

He smiled, and raising his cup of tea at me, he said, “cheers Madeliene.”

“Cheers.” I clicked my cup to his, and to the rabbit’s, who seemed to have warmed up to the idea of my presence, and as I did so I broke my cup and woke up the dormouse.

“I spilled, I’m so sorry, would you mind if you moved one place?”

They did, and we resumed our tea ritual. We spent all of tea time together; I cannot really measure for how long, but I did feel better by the time I left them to their hour of tea.

Story credits: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland; Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past; Vogue; Armani haute couture.

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