It’s only about forty minutes drive from Brighton to Winnie the Pooh land. It’s near the Ashdown Forest where I went to that boarding school for sad tiny people back when Thatcher was PM. I once played Poohsticks on the bridge near Pooh Corner with my father, in the faraway times when none of the cracks had started to show.
Life hasn’t taken me back that way really. I let myself forget those trees and little comfortable English lanes and streets. Lou and I found our way there this afternoon.
We had just successfully got into a National Trust garden without paying. Buoyed up by our terribly English disobedience, we elected to blow the money we might have given to help maintain the property on English food with a Winnie the Pooh theme. Pooh is on my mind a fair amount these days, and not just because I’ve bought Lou her EAU De Pooh oud.
Pooh Corner in Hartfield will show up on your Google maps. It’s a little Tea Room with a Pooh gift shop and a Pooh menu and very cheerful staff who don’t have to dress up in silly clothes and seem to genuinely enjoy the pleasure they give to the punters by being associated with the childish joyfulness of Winnie. Pooh goes deep. Think of The Tao of Pooh. We’ve all noticed the life lessons buried in this ostensibly childish selection of literature about a hungry friendly bear of very little brain and his friends.
We happen on the table that gets the sun latest in the day. It is still shining on our faces as we finish the last hot meal out of the kitchen. Most of the rest of the afternoon diners are in shade, and the shade is cold. The warmth of this falling sun helps cut through the fact that I’m still not recovered from plunging back into winter again from the desert. Nevertheless we drive as close as we can to Poohsticks bridge. It’s also on maps.
The bridge has had to be rebuilt a few times from sheer volume of footfall. It’s not the same bridge I stood on with my father before the world got harder. Nevertheless, Lou and I played Poohsticks. It’s compulsory – so long as you can find a naturally fallen stick, but it’s been a stormy winter. There’s a car park on one side. We approached it from the wrong side, where there’s no official parking. We went past tons of properties with “PRIVATE” written everywhere. People had stumped over their lawns with big boots and hammered stakes into the good turf in order to repeatedly order us hoipolloi to “Keep off the Grass”. We kept off it. I guess there’s going to be coach parties in the summer with armies of tourists throwing wrappers wherever they can and eating the roses. It felt like unnecessarily shouty signage for the two of us. But we still went the wrong way for a moment and ended up in somebody’s farm.
Nice step into the world of Pooh for a day. It’s a big franchise and it has given so many people so much pleasure. We had a gorgeous day in the cold. Now I’m exhausted. Lots of walking. Lots of fresh air. Cold cold fresh air.