Monday, 22 January 2018

Oh bother ...

I can't believe I've let #WinniethePoohDay pass without posting something about the bear of little brain who is and always has been my favourite literary character. Were I ever cast away on a desert island, the collected tales of Pooh would be the book or books I would choose to have with me.

Alan Alexander Milne created a character who has universal appeal.

Whether we are young or old, in China or Dubai or Greenland or a windy village in a wintry England, we all have Pooh days. Days when we 'stop to think and forget to start again.' And days when we fail to 'pay attention to where we are going and without meaning to get nowhere.' I have those days all the time.

There is Winnie-the-Pooh thinking or philosophy or whatever-you-want-to-call-it in all of us.

For a birthday treat this week, my big children invited me to London. It was one of those 'I'll come down* to London and spend the day with you for your birthday doing whatever yo want to do' that turned into a 'I know it's my birthday but for my birthday treat my brother and I want to take you, our mother, to a surprise treat for you. ** And until we get there we're not telling you where we're going.' Well, we went past all the tube stops that I knew. The stops where I could have made a guess where we might have been going. We strayed into city realms where this country-mouse felt - well, I'm not sure what I felt exactly - I was having such fun simply wondering. And if I felt lost, I knew that I wasn't. Because to misquote Pooh, the place where I was wasn't lost.

When we - in my case narrowly, having avoided being turned into road jam by a taxi that appeared quickly from nowhere - reached our slippery destination (slippery due to the white ceramic-looking tiles on the ground. Outside! In the rain! It made the ground look edgy and bright, and like a head-injury waiting to happen), I still didn't know what we were going to see. I knew now that we were going to see something. I'd seen the excellent Ballenciaga exhibition here last month. But I couldn't remember what else was on.

Then


of course.

Perfection. I can't think of a better treat. I can't think why I didn't cry. I (nearly) always do. Actually I nearly did. Quite a bit closer to the crying side of nearly crying than the nearly side. This is what did it - Christopher Robin saying his prayers:





I read this as a child with a whithper - the little me had a lithp: 'whithper who dare-th, Chrithtopher Robin ith thaying hith prayerth.' Years of elocuthion lessons got rid of the lisp. Almotht.

The exhibition was all about Pooh but more about EH Shepard, the illustrator whose pencil drawings are at the heart of my Winnie the Pooh memories. Somehow he conjured graphite and paper into the stuff of magic - pictures that moved long before Harry Potter had moving photographs




Zoom in on this drawing to properly see the shifting outlines of a bear bouncing - bump! Bump! Bump! - down the stairs. Brilliant!

He was also strikingly good at trees




which is just as well given that the adventures of Pooh take place in the Hundred Acre Wood.


It's difficult sometimes to tease apart the original Milne from the familiar Disney Pooh. I have children and when they were growing up the Heffalump and Tigger Movies were favourites. Unlike some,  I can forgive the American gotten that slips into Tigger's vocabulary but I have an uncomfortable tingle that runs up my spine when the gopher whistles and wheezes his 50s gangster beavery form into the films. He even says 'I'm not in the book y'know.' He shouldn't be in the films.

Oh bother. It's going to be another tomorrow - and another - before I post this. Winnie-the-Pooh Day Plus One  T'woo Three Four ...

I'm sure Pooh would have something to say about this delay. All life is in Pooh after all. Let's see ...

People say it's impossible to do nothing, but I do nothing every day.

Yes, the procrastinating bear. Perhaps, that's why I am so fond of him.

Another quote, that I live by is this

One of the advantages of being disorganised is that one is always having surprising discoveries.

And, finally, this honest, tear-jerking, sentimental quote is sincerely and with all my love for my children

If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever.



up to London or down to London? Does it matter?

** Thank you. Thank you.

***Country Mouse might be hibernating for a week or two while she contemplates writing course applications and what she wants to do when she grows up or grows beyond her current state of perpetual procrastination and mid-life unease. Is there life beyond procrastination? Here's to hoping there is.





winnie-the-pooh-exploring-a-classic



Sunday, 14 January 2018

On snoring, barking and (un-)stable geniuses

Snoring.

Snoring - go on; say 'snoring.' And again. And again. Play with the word; roll it around your mouth - sno-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-rrrr-ring.
Try it again.
I defy you to do this without a tiny twitch appearing at the corner of your mouth. A tiny twitch plus a slight wrinkling of the skin at the outer angles of your eyes. Why is snoring funny?
Why, for example, did I find it impossible to discuss snoring yesterday without smiling; in a professional situation where smiling was probably inappropriate? Snoring is funny. In the same way that everything about toilets is funny to a seven year old boy. It makes us smile; childishly. It's something only other people do; isn't it? It's funny! Unless you live with someone who snores. Or you are the snor-ee ... snor-er ... ? ... one who snores ... and live life in a permanent fog of day-time exhaustion.

Snoring is not restricted to humans.





Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins snore: they sprawl in front of the aga paws twitching as they chase a rabbit/fox/pigeon; facial muscles doing an Irish jig; muffled, whimpering barks as they bravely fend off haystacks-that-weren't-there-yesterday. Then, comes the snore and they're awake! And on their feet looking around for the 'Who', who did that! They always stretch after this, as if to say 'I'm fine, me - no I didn't just wake myself up snoring. No no no. I was about to get up anyway. Snoring - pah! Not me.' Or maybe I'm putting words in their mouths. Which would be pointless because they can't speak. They do however bark. Often in the middle of the night.

Which raises the question - is it better to be hauled from the realms of sleep by noisy snoring humans or barking dogs?

Hmm.

Maybe, consider it this way - think about the creators of the noise. The snorer who gets kicked. Or shoved. Or rolled off his back. Or smothered with the nearest pillow. The dogs who are let out. Chase the noisy fox out of the garden. Wake all the neighbours. And then, satisfied with a job well done, go back to bed. The person woken-up either commits a snoring-related murder or by being the owner of the dogs is responsible for waking the local babies, inserting baying hounds into neighbours' nightmares, teasing the cockerel that lives somewhere, and alarming the herd of deer sheltering beyond the fence. Deer have eyes. A whole herd of deer have dozens of them. All brightly still and staring in the torch-light. A sudden sea of eyes that makes the dog owner yelp in alarm.
The only beings that win here are the dogs.

... would I rather be woken by snoring or barking? Barking - every time. Despite the cold and often rain and staring deer eyes, when the dogs come back in, I can return to bed and sleep. Sleep - impossible next to a snorer.

Why am I writing a blog about snoring? Partly because snoring is funny but it also isn't funny and snor-ees need help and sympathy and arnica for the bruises on their legs. But also because I can't be bothered adding my voice to the shithole debate. I am fed up with being outraged. I have outrage fatigue.

Though ... returning to snoring - the dehydrating effect of the caffeine in 12 cans of diet coke a day and a body habitus that is more late-Brando than lithe-Al Pacino hint, perhaps, that the very stable genius snores. I wonder ... Bet that won't be mentioned in his medical report!

One final non-snoring-related point - I think 'stable genius' is an oxymoron. Stable implies a regularity of thought; unwavering, steadfast, concrete. Very unlikely, in fact, to drift off into inspired, out-of-the-box thinking. Stable suggests that the box is rigid, intransigent, hard-line, even mundane. Most geniuses are none of these things - they are unstable, dynamic, restless, quick thinkers who learn from their mistakes. To learn from one's mistakes, of course, would first require the stable genius to recognise and acknowledge them. Trying to lie one's way out of one's mistakes is not the mark of a genius. Unless we're talking evil ones ...