Sunday, 14 October 2012

POOH BROU-HA-HA

Today is a Big Day for Winnie-the-Pooh as the Bear of Very Little Brain celebrates reaching the grand old age of 86!

And Pooh's birthday is, for me, an annual reminder of the origins of my writing career which began on 13 October 1976 when BBC Radio 4 broadcast, Three Cheers for Pooh, a programme by me markng 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 years have taken their toll: Peter Bull, Tony Miall and Norman Shelley are, sadly, no longer with us and John Tydeman and I are older, greyer - and weightier!


But I got to use the title Three Cheers for Pooh once more when, years afterwards, I published my book on the life of 'The Best Ber in All the World'.

And, as for Pooh himself, he goes stomping along through the 100 Aker Wood, humming a hum to himself and wondering what it means to be 86 and whether he’ll feel any different and how many pots of honey it might take to properly celebrate being it…

And you can celebrate Pooh's birthday by listening to that original 1976 broadcast...

Just click on the arrow and enjoy!

    


[Images: Pooh sketches by E H Shepard]

Parts of this post first appeared on this blog in 2006

4 comments:

SharonM said...

Three Cheers for Pooh - and for you too, Brian!

Anonymous said...

With bosses like poor Mr Brookes, it's no wonder the banks got themselves into such a pickle! Best wishes from Maggot country.

Michael Flowers said...

Bank Managers must be made like that. On one of my first days at work mine said to me "How old are you, you look about 12?" & "What do do you do when you go birdwatching, paint your chest red & go as a Robin?" Of course I should have said "you don't dress up as the birds, you idiot", but I was a naive, shy 18 yo, so just mumbled a "no". Birdwatching eventually allowed me to escape that unpleasant world, and I suppose "children's literature" opened the door for you to provide great programmes for us ;)

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Thanks Brian for this!