Tomorrow is a Big Day for Winnie-the-Pooh as the Bear of Very Little Brain celebrates reaching the grand old age of 80!
And today (even if it is Friday 13th) is something of a Big Day for Me as I celebrate 30 years since the broadcast of my very first radio programme.
And what do these two august events have in common? Well, that debut programme of mine - which went out on BBC Radio 4 on 13 October 1976 - was called Three Cheers for Pooh and marked the fact that on the following day (the BBC’s scheduling was out by twenty-four hours!) Pooh was to celebrate his then fiftieth birthday…
The half-hour feature was presented by my very dear and very good friend, Peter Bull with another very dear and very good friend, Antony Miall, singing and playing at the piano Veteran radio actor, Norman Shelley, recreated his famous radio role as Pooh Bear (as well as playing Piglet, Eeyore and All The Others) and the whole confection was whipped into shape by the highly distinguished drama producer (later Head of Radio Drama) John Tydeman.
The Radio Times were kind enough to give me a small feature article on the programme page. "Why are grown men still fascinated by A A Milne's creations?" the heading asked. "Brian Sibley explains..."
At the time I was working for a merchant bank in the City of London and arriving at the office on the morning on which The Radio Times was published, I had a call to report to the office of my boss, Mr Brookes.
There he sat, the magazine open on the desk in front of him. He always employed a dry, satiric tone, but today it was drier and more satiric than usual. "Tell, Mr Sibley," he enquired, "Why would the BBC in their corporate wisdom ask you to explain the deeper mysteries and global significance of Winnie-the-Pooh?"
I felt very small - smaller, in fact, than Rabbit's friend-and-relation, Smallest-of-All (known as S of A); and, worse, the joy I had experienced on opening The Radio Times on the railway station platform that morning and finding my name was suddenly tossed aside as meaningless...
I mumbled a half-apologetic response and hurried back to work... Within a couple of months, however, I had another programme on Radio 4 - this time about Alice in Wonderland - which I co-presented with Tony Miall, and our third programme together (on Peter Pan) followed shortly afterwards...
Frankly, it no longer mattered what Mr Brookes thought, because - at long last - I had discovered what I wanted to do with my career!
The intervening 30 years have taken their toll: Tony Miall, Peter Bull and Norman Shelley are, sadly, no longer with us and John Tydeman and I are older, greyer - and weightier!
But Pooh goes stomping along through the 100 Aker Wood, humming a hum to himself and wondering what it means to be 80 and whether he’ll feel any different and how many pots of honey it might take to properly celebrate being it…
And, of course, he’s also heard that a new paperback edition of my book, Three Cheers for Pooh (well, if it worked 30 years ago, why change it?) has just been published by Egmont Books at the frightfully reasonable rice of £9.99, which might very well call for the consumption of an extra pot or four!
[Images: Pooh sketches by E H Shepard]