The Hell at Pooh Corner

I was raised on Winnie the Pooh. SO I was amused some decades ago by the following, which appeared in a British publication that a friend had. Enjoy!

The Hell at Pooh Corner

by British humourist Alan Coren

From Christopher Robin Milne’s recent autobiography, it turns out that life in the Milne household was very different from what millions of little readers have been led to believe. But if it was grim for him, what must it have been like for some of the others involved? I went down to Pooh Corner-it is now a tower block, above a discount warehouse for this exclusive interview.

WINNIE-THE-POOH is sixty now, but looks far older. His eyes dangle, and he suffers from terminal moth. He walks into things a lot. I asked him about that, as we sat in the pitiful dinginess which has surrounded him for almost half a century.

`Punchy,’ said Winnie-the-Pooh, `is what I am. I’ve been to some of the best people, Hamley’s, Mothercare, they all say the same thing: there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s all that hammering you took in the old days.’

Bitterly, he flicked open a well-thumbed copy of Winnie-thePooh, and read the opening lines aloud:”`Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs”.’ He looked at me. `The hell it was!’ he muttered. `You think I didn’t want to walk down, like normal people? But what chance did I stand? Every morning, it was the same story, this brat comes in and grabs me and next thing I know the old skull is bouncing on the lousy lino. Also,’ he barked a short bitter laugh, `that was the last time anyone called me Edward Bear. A distinguished name, Edward. A name with class. After the king, you know.’

I nodded. `I know,’ I said.

`But did it suit the Milnes?’ Pooh hurled the book into the grate, savagely. `Did it suit the itsy-bitsy, mumsy-wumsy, ooze-daddy’s-ickle-boy-den Milnes? So I was Winnie-thePooh. You want to know what it was like when the Milnes hit the sack and I got chucked in the toy-cupboard for the night?’

‘What?’ I said.

`It was “Hello, sailor! ” and “Give us a kiss, Winifred! ” and “Watch out, Golly, I think he fancies you! “, not to mention,’ and here he clenched his sad, mangy little fists, `the standard “Oy, anyone else notice there’s a peculiar poo in here, ha, ha, ha!”‘

`I sympathise,’ I said, `but surely there were compensations? Your other life, in the wood, the wonderful stories of….’

`Yeah,’ said Pooh, heavily, `the wood, the stories. The tales of Winnie-the-Schmuck, you mean? Which is your favourite? The one where I fall in the gorse bush? The one where I go up in the balloon and the kid shoots me down? Or maybe you prefer where I get stuck in the rabbit hole?’
`Well, I-‘ ‘
`Hanging from a bloody balloon,’ muttered Pooh, `singing the kind of song you get put in the funny farm for! Remember?

“How sweet to be a cloud, Floating in the blue! Every little cloud Always sings aloud.”

That kind of junk,”said Pooh, `may suit Rolf Harris. Not me.’
`Did you never sing it, then?’ I enquired.
`Oh, I sang it,’ said Pooh. `I sang it all right. It was in the script. Dumb bear comes on and sings. It was in the big Milne scenario. But you know what I wanted to sing?’
`I have no idea,’ I said.
His little asymmetrical eyes grew even glassier, with a sadness that made me look away.
`Body and Soul,’ murmured Pooh, `is what I wanted to sing. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. Or play the trumpet, possibly. It was,’ he sighed, `1926. Jazz, short skirts, nightingales singing in Berkeley Square, angels dancing at the Ritz, know what I mean? A world full of excitement, sex, fun, Frazer-Nash two-seaters and around with Piglet and passing my wild evenings in the heady company of Eeyore! The Great Gatsby came out that year,’ said Pooh, bitterly. `The same year as Winnie-the-Pooh.’

`I begin to understand,’ I said.

`Why couldn’t he write that kind of thing about me?’ cried the anguished Pooh. `Why didn’t I get the breaks? Why wasn’t I a great tragic hero, gazing at the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock? Why didn’t Fitzgerald write Gatsby Meets A Heffelump and Milne The Great Pooh?’

`But surely it was fun, if nothing else?’ I said. `Wasn’t the Milne household full of laughter and gaiety and-‘

`A. A. Milne,’ Pooh interrupted, `was an Assistant Editor of Punch. He used to come home like Bela Lugosi. I tell you, if we wanted a laugh, we used to take a stroll round Hampstead cemetery.’
Desperately, for the heartbreak of seeing this tattered toy slumped among his emotional debris was becoming unendurable, I sought an alternative tack.

`But think,’ I said cheerily, `of all the millions of children you have made happy!’
He was not to be shaken from his gloom.

`I’d rather,’ he grunted, `think of all the bears I’ve made miserable. After the Pooh books, the industry went mad. My people came off the assembly line like sausages. Millions of little bears marching towards the exact same fate as my own, into the hands of kids who’d digested the Milne rubbish, millions of nursery tea-parties where they were forced to sit around propped against a stuffed piglet in front of a little plastic plate and have some lousy infant smear their faces with jam. `°,O look, nurse, Pooh’s ate up all his cake! ” Have you any idea what it’s like,’ he said,

`having marmalade on your fur? It never,’ and his voice dropped an octave, `happened to Bulldog brummond.’

`I’m sorry?’

Pooh reached for a grubby notebook, and flipped it open. “`Suddenly the door burst from its hinges, and the doorway filled with a huge and terrible shape.

“`Get away from that girl, you filthy Hun swine! “it cried. “`The black-hearted fiend who had been crouched over the lovely Phyllis turned and thrust a fist into his evil mouth. “`Mein Gott! ” he shrieked, “Es ist Edward Bear, MC,DSO! “”` With one bound, our hero….”‘

Pooh snapped the notebook shut.

`What’s the use?’ he said. `I wrote that, you know. After Milne packed it in, I said to myself, it’s not too late, I know where the pencil-box is, I shall come back like Sherlock Holmes, a new image, a … I took it to every publisher in London. “Yes, very interesting,” they said, “what about putting in a bit where he gets his paw stuck in a honey jar, how would it be if he went off with Roo and fell in a swamp, and while you’re at it, could he sing a couple of songs about bathnight?”‘

He fell silent. I cleared my throat a couple of times. Far off, a dog barked, a lift clanged. I stood up, at last, since there seemed nothing more to say.

`Is there anything you need?’ I said, somewhat lamely.

`That’s all right,’ said Winnie-the-Pooh. `I get by. No slice of the royalties, of course, oh dear me no, well, I’m only the bloody bear, aren’t I? Tell you what, though, if you’re going past an off-license, you might have them send up a bottle of gin.’

`I’d be delighted to,’ I said.

He saw me to the door.

`Funny thing,’ he said, `I could never stand honey.’