Our ‘weekend’ expedition took us further afield than we would normally travel. Desperate to see the elusive British summer sunshine and to be the surprise guests at a family christening, we hopped on an A330-300 airbus to jet our way at 36,000 feet to sunny England.
And yes, it was indeed sunny!
However, we complained bitterly to ourselves about the cold; the sun may have been shining but anything less than 35 degrees C. brings us out in goosebumps and dashing for our winter-woollies. Well, we are Omani you know!
The West Sussex countryside was glorious and very, very green. The parish church was picture-postcard perfect and the radical vicar who tried so very hard to entertain us in a modern, happening, crucial sort of boyz ‘n the hood way, failed miserably to hold our attention past the first sing-song. In respect of the christening, it was truly a lovely affair and the digital cameras clicked away to capture each moment for posterity.
Tea and biscuits then off to the pub to partake of ‘forbidden’ fruits, namely alcohol and pork products!
It was, at this time, I must now confess to spending an inordinate amount of time over the question of the existence of certain things that we have generally come to accept as part of our lives. It may have been the long journey and the inevitable jet-lag or the unusual sunny weather, the alcohol perhaps or some undercooked pork belly but I suspect, in hindsight and with more wasteful thinking time, it was due to our attendance in church, the religeous service and the whole spiritual nature of faith. This then, led me to question the existence of, well…
You know the one. It’s in the classic book by A.A. Milne and beautifully drawn by E. H. Shepard.
Without referring to the actual book, I am confident in saying that said bridge is somewhere in a place called Hundred Aker Wood (sic) and it is generally accepted as being the birthplace of the stunningly exciting and absorbing, traditional game of ‘Pooh Sticks’. The question is, or was, does this ‘Wood’ actually exist and if so, is there an actual ‘Pooh Bridge’?
With so little time in the U.K. to do all that we wanted to do, we abandoned our busy itinerary to go in search of Winnie the Pooh, his homeland and that remarkable bridge. Could it also be true that this was the actual bridge that inspired Simon and Garfunkel to sing Bridge Over Troubled Water. Or did I just make that up?
I doubt whether there is anybody alive on the planet who is unfamiliar with this particular rotund, anthropomorphic, fictional yellow bear, his friends and the Disney money-spinning adaptations – except those living in the middle of nowhere, of course. There has always been an uneasiness associated with A.A. Milne and his obvious misspelling of simple words, i.e. aker (acre), rnig (ring), plez (please), rnser (answer) and as much as this might play to the notion that Christopher Robin was dyslexic, I must question this sort of word modelling that we introduce our children to. As for the Americanisms that have subtly crept in to the stories, such as ‘gotten’ and then ‘jump-rope’ for skipping rope – not to mention playing ‘chequers’ instead of chess or draughts. Well, what more can we say about our American friends that has not been said (through gritted teeth) already?
But I digress. Down in deepest, darkest East Sussex is an expanse of wood and greenery called the Ashdown forest and it is here, so I was reliably informed by Wikipedia, that the Pooh Bear adventures took place. We headed East with postcode punched into the sat. nav. and came across a quaint tea and trinket shop by the mane of Pooh Corner. Selling all things Pooh, we browsed and browsed and browsed and browsed. In fact, we browsed right into page 24.
Page 24. Funnily enough, the place we were looking for was not at Pooh Corner so we headed a smidgen further into the forest to park up at a signpost directing us to a ‘P.Bridge’. Having forgone the opportunity to purchase a 50 pence laminated copy of a road map to the forest as well as a laminated foot map to Pooh Bridge, we took to following our noses, along with the wooden marker poles, in search of a surprising discovery.
Now, just because it may have been read about on Wikipedia and there are one or two marker poles with letters on them, this doesn’t mean to say that I’m a believer. I’m the sort of person that requires the facts and a couple of words on an untrustworthy website doesn’t swing it for me. I’m a scientist and I want hard evidence. I suspect that a bridge, any old bridge, has been dubbed Pooh Bridge, the home of Pooh-Sticks, as being the one referred to in the Pooh story books. No more than a clever ploy to pull in the tourists I imagine. I considered the drawings were merely constructed from Shepard’s own imagination with no reference to anything real, living or dead!. Just in case however, and by no means an indication of a wavering in my staunch disbelief, wood was collected along the way so as to replicate, or indeed play, the actual game of chucking a stick into some water to watch it float by. My excitement could not be maintained! With a growing sense of boredom we plodded on, deeper and deeper into the deep dark wood (forest).
I was reliably informed that we were getting close as there was a distinct lack of sticks (twigs and branches included) strewn about the forest floor. This, in fact, was absolutely true and gave the place an uneasy feel about it, an apocalyptic feel where aliens may have invaded our beautiful planet for our endless supply of sticks and fallen branches. No sticks were to be found anywhere on the ground, nothing fallen and nothing cracking under foot. Luckily, we had picked up our supply from way back in the car park.
Not one to be easily shocked, or indeed overawed by anything at all, it came as a huge surprise to see before me, like a vision in the dappled sunlight that weaved through the tree canopy, a sight of almost spiritual wonder. There it was, in all its glory, revealed before my very eyes, the wonder and beauty of…
My dear friends, I am living testament for I have seen it with mine own eyeballs, the true existence of Pooh Bridge. It does exist and I have witnessed it. There is evidence of a hundred childlike footprints in mud that has baked hard over the summer months and the sight of a thousand sticks that clog the muddy waters below. There must be others who have had this moment of revelation, bore witness to what so many others still refuse to believe in. I take solace in the knowledge that I am not alone in my beliefs – there are others too and together we will come together to form a community and talk about this place, this time and the wonders that have yet to come (probably on a second visit).
And what of Pooh himself? I rniged and rniged (sic) but nobody appeared to be at home. Probably up at the bee tree or hanging out with Piglet at Eeyores Gloomy Place(sic) where it’s rather boggy and sad.
Though I say it myself, a 7,500 mile round trip well spent!
Could this have been my epiphany moment? It is true, it did reveal itself to me. I did experience a moment of euphoria. I now have a quiet, inner peace. My search for truth is over. I’m a different person, a zealot some may say. I may have a following, who knows? What I do know is this – I feel different. It’s not just the new hair or the new Serengeti sunshades, it’s the new me. Hallelujah!
Oh, by the way. Apologies if my spelling was wobbly with the letters often getting in all the wrong places. It hasn’t done a certain bear any harm now has it?