Pooh Bear has the answers


I’ve only been on one teddy bear’s picnic. There were lots of teddy bears, crammed into a little dolls pram, my three year old grand- daughter and me.  We solemnly walked the pram to a tree in the park in Melbourne next to the house where they lived.

There, on a cold, slightly misty winter’s afternoon, we carefully propped a huddle of teddies of different sizes and varying shades from honey to dark brown, around the base of a tree. After careful discussion as to what teddy bears might eat, we had plumped for very small brown bread and honey sandwiches – we thought that arbiter of bear behaviour, Pooh Bear, would have approved, and that was all we needed to know really. We thought bears would probably only have wanted to drink water, so that was easily solved….

I was thrilled that she still remembers this occasion now she’s old enough to be at university. And she remembers too, jumping on our shadows the year before, and learning to sing ‘Kumbaya, my Lord’ when she was even smaller (in an English accent!). These memories may be more precious to me than to my grand-daughter, and most grand-parents will understand just how precious they are.

When I look back to my memories with my grandmother, I marvel at what I learned from her, much more, I suspect than today’s grand children learn from theirs. She taught me to knit and sew and do French knitting, and embroider dozens of stitches I’d forgotten till leafing through an old Mrs Beaton cook book recently – daisy stitch, herringbone stitch, blanket stitch, chain stitch, back stitch, buttonhole stitch, cross stitch. She told me the names of flowers and saints and cousins I’d never seen, the stories of dead great uncles in the war. She taught me prayers and proverbs and songs.

But somehow, once the days of reading aloud Pooh Bear and Dr Seuss and Dear Dinosaur had passed, all my grand-children were so engrossed in their play stations and favourite, regular afternoon TV programmes, that there was rarely a space for the sort of boredom or blank days we used to have in my childhood; those times when for lack of something better to do, we mastered a new skill and learned to knit, or read a book considered too hard or too boring before, and which was now discovered to be a treasure.

It was on those long empty days that I discovered the joys of rambling alone with the dog, or daring to cross the weir by the mill with friends, or digging around the Roman mines, hoping after two thousand years to find a Roman coin; it was when we picked primroses in the woods, and carried catkins and pussy willow home as spring announced itself … As we grew older we made egg sandwiches and took a bottle of ginger pop to picnic on empty beaches with names like Man o’ War Bay and Arish Mell Gap, coming home tired and sunburned.

But my grand-children have done it differently. Today they’re not free to roam alone as we were – instead, they went on exciting holidays, in the tropics or to fishing lodges, or learned to sail or ski. But then they’d come to stay with me, and do ordinary and yet totally absorbing things. Leaving their play stations, they’d feed the eels in the river at the bottom of the garden, spend days making boats out of flax leaves, and floating them down the waterfall, building dams, playing Pooh Sticks.

They could spend an afternoon totally absorbed in throwing stones down into another river, far below, and listening for the plop. Another morning in the city when I took all four of them to a secret spot above the harbour, where old oak trees spread, they spent a whole morning searching for acorns and throwing them down into the water. Not aimlessly, but aiming.

And not a question of little things please little minds, but being ‘in the zone’, alive and  present. Blowing bubbles from my veranda and seeing who could make the biggest one that drifted furthest and lasted longest; or the ritual playing of hunt the thimble with the same silver thimble every time, seemed to give them more fun and shrieks of laughter than watching their Japanese TV serials and videos or war games on the computer. And grandparents have time for long conversations about the size of universe and whether ice-cream is good for you, and what dogs are dreaming about – and about important things – like ethics – which even small children understand in terms of right and wrong, or better still, kind or unkind  …

Sometimes I think that this is one of the few gifts we can give our grand-children in this busy technological age when our grandchildren know more than their grandparents, and learn to teach us, instead of us teaching them. We can give them the time and the space to savour the little things. We can listen to them uncritically.  We can give them unconditional love, because we don’t have to make sure they eat up all their vegetables. And the utter bliss of it is that they give us the same unconditional love too. “I’ve got to, but I’ll still be your darling”, said one when I asked him not to grow up!

It’s that ubiquitous bear, Pooh, that ‘bear of very little brain’, who puts into words what I would say to my precious ones in the future. He says so memorably and so truly: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”


Food for threadbare gourmets

It’s that wonderful time of year for both birds and people – when the figs are ripe. A friend made the most delicious salad the other day using real lettuce – not mixtures of baby leaves – and tossed them with chopped- not sliced – cucumber, fresh peas, and thinly sliced figs, with a vinaigrette sauce. The sweetness of the figs with the crunchiness of the cucumber and the crispness of the lettuce was delicious with cold lamb and couscous.

Food for thought

…’It often takes great courage to follow intuition. It takes a Viking, who is unafraid to sail in unknown seas…. to live intuitively is to live fourth-dimensionally’…                                           Florence Scovel Shinn, 1871 – 1940   New Thought writer who influenced Louise Hay.


Filed under cookery/recipes, family, great days, happiness, love, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

75 responses to “Pooh Bear has the answers

  1. Your words tonight were exactly where my mind is…
    I love the way you tell your memories that it makes me feel like I have
    settled down with a cup of tea and started an amazing book…one where you don’t peek at the ending half way through because you don’t want to miss anything on the pages before…
    Thank you…I enjoyed the wandering in familiar territory and remembering
    as I went along…
    Do you mind if I reblog your post? if you would prefer I not it is okay…
    Thank you again….always a pleasure to visit
    Take Care…You Matter…

  2. This is beautiful!! I love “boredom or blank days we used to have in my childhood” and the “listening for the plop” … I’m happy to say that my daughter has days like this, though it’s hard to compete with tv and computers. But those other blissful days are the days that we talk about at bedtime, when we cuddle and think of happy thoughts. And those are the days she comes home covered in mud, all dirty and happy with a glint in her eyes as if to say “what a magical world we live in!” Thank you for reminding me of these special days. Many more to come…

    • Motherhood is really magical when we see our children savouring life like you describe, isn’t it… I still have memories like that of my children, as well as my grandchildren…I loved reading your comment, and thank you so much – so glad you enjoyed the post…

  3. What wonderful memories. My childhood was like that many eons ago. Also my boys lived in magic, too. I haven’t had a fresh fig in decades. They don’t grow here and can’t get them in stores. When we lived further south, we had our own fig trees. I had almost forgotten.

  4. I just remembered I played Pooh Sticks! Do you remember it? You toss sticks (we used smallish dead branches we’d gathered) at the same time over the side of a bridge, then rush to the other side to see whose branch emerges first…har ha! I can’t believe we found it so absorbing …

  5. Reblogged this on ladybluerose and commented:
    memories of days gone by
    when dragons did fly pretending
    to be clouds in the blue skies
    where rocks skipped the water
    sending ripples out as well as laughter
    this is a wonderful story by Valerie…
    an amazing writing…a true Bardess
    Please stop by and read ..you will Enjoy
    her words I am sure….
    Take care…You Matter…

  6. You are on the ball, reading so fast ! Yes, I remember Pooh Sticks- I think I mentioned it in the post… I have to say i still secretly enjoy it,given the right conditions – ie bridge, river, and no-one about !!!

  7. Anonymous

    Of course he does! Loved this. Kudos~

  8. Pooh Bear, that bear of very little brain, is so very wise, as are you :).

  9. Dear Amanda, you are a very generous friend – thank you…I expect Pooh has taught you a few things too !!!!

  10. I have been thinking a great deal about memories this past few day. We usually think about our personal memories, but this time I am looking closely at the memories that I am giving to others – family, friends, wider community. It has given me a different perspective on how I conduct my daily interactions.

    A wonderful post, Valerie!

    “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.” A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

  11. Wendy Calder

    I lived in British Guiana from 1947 for three years and was 7,8,9,years old. i Georgetown. Our little rented house was on stilts and my friends and I played under the house for hours ,making stewed hibiscus leaves in a Johnson’s baby powder tin lid cooked over a stub of candle, and then fed the resultant brew to the old wooden dolls ,we searched around old posts for tiny lizard eggs ,avoiding the green mangoes being thrown at us by the small cross monkey in the mango tree, and crawling under the bridges over the muddy canals looking for wonderfully iridescent frogs spawn clusters..I had lots of rabbits but they kept “running away “,according to my mother who was a thrifty NZ farmer’s daughter. .Actually my rabbits were the protein component of our meals .She finally confessed when I was forty.Their skins were made into mittens for when we went to winter in England for one year. Mr Durrell who wrote” MY Family and OTHER ANIMALS” lived just round the corner and I used to visit him with my father to see his latest acquisitions. The sloth was intriguing
    Today at lunch time I told my 12 year old grandson these tales and he told me some of his tales from last week at his class school camp .By the way, our landlady used to tell my mother to go out and leave me behind with her whenever I had earache and when mother came home the earache was always over, apparently I couldn’t say what old Mrs Lucas had done to get a cure and Mrs Lucas wouldn’t tell. .Mother thinks it might have been hypnosis or hashish because it was odd that a child like me wouldn’t be able to describe what was done.
    Thank you for your life enhancing blog dear Valerie

    • Dear Wendy – what an amazing comment and such wonderful stories – do hope you’ve written them all down for your grandchildren to savour and enjoy in the future…. love the idea of hypnosis or hashish !
      Are you the Wendy I knew back in transformation days – if so – how lovely to re-connect.. thank you so much for your lovely comment and encouragement, Valerie

      • Wendy Calder

        Yes, I am. I was so pleased when I realised you had this blog .Don and I and our daughter Adrienne have held you dear in our memory banks for years now and we notice whenever you and yours are mentioned in the papers.or in the Central Suburbs Leader.

      • Oh Wendy how lovely to know that we are still connected – if only through the magical internet…though I have met Adrienne at St Kents over the years… how proud you must be of her… so good to hear from you, and hope you and Don are thriving, love Valerie

  12. I know as a child how close I was to my maternal grandparents and though I may not have learned French Knitting there was plenty I did learn and I loved spending time with them.
    I’m starting late down the ‘Grandfather’ path but I still hope to instill some of the closeness that I felt and that you have obviously taught Valerie.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  13. In the most thoughtful way, Pooh-bear could think of, he just told me that he likes your post. :-)

    • So glad you have such a close connection with Pooh-bear, Paula… it must be a pleasure to you both, and thank you so much for passing on his thoughts !

      • I have always memorized that sentence ‘Pooh was thinking in the most thoughtful way he could think of’. Just loved it. That sentence caused a picture in my mind of Pooh bear sitting like Rodin’s statue The Thinker.
        It must be so hard for Pooh Bear to think when you are only a stuffed toy. To think in a thoughtful way….oh, poor Pooh Bear.
        You got to love him.

  14. Wonderful Story Valerie and I so agree with your words ” We can give them the time and the space to savour the little things.”,, Being a Gran myself, I enjoy spending time showing my own 3 yr old Granddaughter those little things in nature, along with baking and imaginary play time, that I know I have remembered all my life from my own Grandparents..
    Lovely post as I hopped over from Maryrose’s reblog… and beautiful Blog..
    Blessings Sue

  15. I followed Sue via Maryrose’s reblog of your words above, Valerie. and it was so worth the walk. :-) I sat, cradling my mug of coffee. and looked over your shoulder as your played with your grandchildren. You tell a wonderful story, and truth of course, children seem to grow up so quickly nowadays, streetwise and gadget wise, I was a constant companion to my Grandmother, and always felt slightly out of sync with my other siblings and friends. I felt very lucky to have known her, listening to her stories and even trying to learn how to crochet. (still can’t but I did try..) thankyou so much for sharing your thoughts xx .

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comments, so good to hear from you… you must have some lovely memories of your grandmother…,were you the first one ? – it always seems to make a difference…

  16. French knitting–I had forgotten about that! Every child should have a chance to do it–such a feeling of delight and mastery, watching the finished product finally come through the other end, and then get longer and longer. Only thing is, what do you do with it! But the fun was in the doing of it, not in using it for anything in particular. (And what about cat’s cradle–that gave the same kind of thrill.)
    I remember learning all those stitches too, both from my mother and at school–and even making a sampler (although maybe I just aspired to that).
    Lucky grandchildren, to have a grandma like you. Every child should play Poohsticks, too, and have dolls’ and bears’ tea parties.
    You really know how to live, Valerie! It is a mouth-watering pleasure simply to read your threadbare gourmet recipes.

    • Hello Josna, what lovely comments from you… yes, French knitting was such fun wasn’t it… but I wonder if it’s even possible to do it any more, now that cotton reels are made of plastic – how would we get the tacks in?
      Oh y,es, cats cradles … I learned those at school during one of our ‘crazes”..
      So glad you enjoy the recipes… yes, life is for living, isn’t it…lovely to hear from you, you are always so enthusiastic, thank you, Valerie

  17. Luanne

    What a lovely time you had with your granddaughter (and she with you)! Yes, the world has changed today, and one thing that has changed for my family is that I am getting closer to 60 (well, 59) every day, and yet I still don’t have grandchildren at all.
    Valerie, just to let you know: I haven’t started your book in earnest yet as this has been a difficult time of year for me and I have many books stacked in a pile I haven’t been able to get to yet. But I am looking forward to yours!

    • Dear Luanne, good to hear from you… your ohoto certainly didn’t tell me what your birthday is…
      Don’t worry about the book.. I too have a stack of books, which i find blogging is interfering with !!!

  18. Amy

    I’ve never seen my grandmother, she died when my mother was only 6 year old… Now I am a grandmother, young kids can learn and do so much with iPad or LePad. I really enjoyed reading your heartwarming memories. Thank you, Valerie!

  19. Loved this one, with a new one nearly here I am astounded by what my grandson knows and will be able to teach his son to be born brother. Those closing words from Pooh, those are wonderful they are so true and so closely held to the heart.

    • LOvely to hear from you Val, I envy you a new baby to cuddle and play with ! Yes, those words from Pooh really touch your heart don’t they… they always make me feel quite weepy !!!

  20. Philosophy according to St Pooh. Probably a lot better than most of them.

  21. If simplicity is the answer, then Pooh probably had the answers , and yes, his philosophy would be a winner, if we all liked life to be simple !!!

  22. I remember days as a child where we played throughout our neighborhood until it was time to come home for dinner, floated paper boats in the gutter when it rained, played in the tree house my mom built for us. We visit my grandparents on their farm and “helped” with all sorts of things, Wonderful memories!

    We’re not grandparents yet and since neither of our daughters are married, that’s a good thing! :-) But we home schooled our girls through high school, which gave us memory-making opportunities with them that we wouldn’t have had if they’d gone to school. I read aloud to them all the time, good books not popular (now) books. We spent time outside and went on vacations, did art, visited museums and grew together as a family. We have so many wonderful memories of time spent together doing something and doing nothing. We went/go every year to the mountains of Wyoming where we can take time out and time away from technology (at least mostly, as I still blog and sometimes check email) to enjoy the slowness of nature.

    Lovely thought, Valerie. Thanks for starting them. As a complete aside, Bill and I plan to spend six months or so in New Zealand sometime in the next several years so perhaps one day we can have a cup of tea together.


    • Dear Janet,
      what lovely memories, how lovely that you were able to home school your children… I would have ;loved that…and my grandchildren had an ambition that I would home school them – which I would have loved even more !
      Great thought – I shall look forward to seeing you when you come this way… I have another blogging friend I’m meeting later this year – it’s fun, isn’t it!

  23. You are always full of wisdom! I wish we could sit down to tea and talk. ;) Thank you for sharing that quote from Pooh Bear – he may have a little brain but he has a big heart! That was something I needed to hear right now as the first year without Tom looms before me.

  24. Dear Patty,
    That’s a tough new beginning, I hope you have lots of support around you, as well as Pooh Bear’s words. They mean a lot, don’t they and ring so true. I hope they continue to be a comfort to you… thinking of you,
    with love, Valerie

  25. This was a pleasure to read. It brought me back with my beloved maternal grandmother, with whom I had precious little time together. Like all of your Commenters, how ….. I wish ……. Amazing how we long for such magical time, and yet it so eludes us with our own grandchildren. I have, Thank G-d, two daughters who are expecting. How to peel away all that keeps me ….
    See Valerie, you have muddled me into pudding….

  26. Dear Valerie, I doubt I will ever be a grandmother. But what you describe is exactly the kind of Aunt I hope to be. Just the other day I was discussing my nephew’s 10th birthday with his mother. Trying to explain why I don’t wish to give him money as a gift. Money is not something kids grow up to remember. Experiences and gifts that connote a relationship between us – that they will remember. And, it seems, people’s time and attention is what kids lack the most these days. What wonderful memories you’ve given your grandkids!

    • Sounds to me as though you’ll be an unforgettable aunt, Alarna. I have a childless unmarried friend who has the deepest friendship with her god-daughter, and who’s closer to her now in their adult years than she seems to be with her mother…relationships are what you make them !!!

  27. Delia

    Hi Valerie, Can you give your husband my best wishes. I often think of him when he was a journalist and the fantastic work he did.

  28. Dear Valerie,

    My granddaughter lives a great distance from me. And aside from an occasional Skype session I don’t have much interaction with her. But she’s nearly three and retirement’s peeking just over the horizon so perhaps this will change.
    My grandmother was my earliest pen-pal which I’ve shared with you before. She was a published poet and perhaps my writing bent comes from her.
    As always your shared experiences are a delight.



  29. I love this post, Valerie, your words goes right to the heart! Thank ou for the lovely story, the great quote and the recipe; I’ll try it out this weekend!
    Best regards, Dina xo

  30. Bless grandparents, and bless you, dear Valerie! x

  31. What a beautiful ode to grandparents you’ve written here. I remember the days spent at my grandparents as a child, roaming free for hours, stick in hand, exploring the lands, jumping in the lake. And then falling asleep in bed after being read a good story. You’ve brought it all back to me with your words.

  32. Hello Letizia, lovely to hear from you… those days are precious memories aren’t they…so glad you enjoyed my take on those times,

  33. What lovely stories. My husband and I take our three kids to hike in the woods, and we usually play pooh sticks until the mosquitoes find us. My children are hard to get away from the electronics, but we make a real effort to do that as often as we can. I remember learning all about the family from my grandmother. Your grandchildren sound very lucky and aware of it. :-)

  34. Liz Ebbett

    Dear Valerie I so enjoyed your blog on grandparents spending time with their grandchildren doing all the simple little fun things that children often miss out on these days – in fact I have printed it out and will put it in my ‘things to do with children’ folder with the relevant parts highlighted.

    We have been away in the South Island for 10 days walking the Milford Track amongst other things. My knee was tremendous and I managed to keep up with all the others, although not the young and very fit. There were 48 in our group and a great bunch of interesting people from all around the world. The walk was 4 days and very challenging but spectacular scenery and well worth the effort. The weather was very cold and we had rain most of one day but it was in the rain forest part so very appropriate.

    We are boating this coming w/e but will come up on Sunday night. If you and Pat are able it would be lovely to see you at morning tea on the Monday – 10th March – goodness how the year is flying by.

    Much love Liz

  35. Hello Liz,
    Lovely to hear from you, and great to know that the Great Trek was good – sounds fascinating with such a mix of people… and so good that your knee rose to the occasion…
    I’m sure you already do most of those things with your grand-children – I haven’t forgotten the ginger bread cookies at Christmas !
    Would love to see you on Monday – see you then , love Valerie

  36. What a delightful post valerie… times have indeed changed but we continue to give them a sacred space to make-believe, be responsible and love them no matter what… Barbara

  37. George left suddenly, and Ah Pan was not only swindled out of the rum and the carriage up, but
    he had shouted the whole of the first and only quart.
    “I can’t tell you what’s in store for this country. We were in frequent peril from the blacks, who were constantly all around us, ever on the alert, and a very savage cannibal lot they were.

  38. Karen

    What a beautiful post… just loved it. There are some fantastic grandparents out there, how wonderful that you have such wonderful bonds with yours. I’m a mother for four young children and I hope I am given a long life to enjoy being a grandmother, someone who has the time to spend with little people and not be rushing them, distracted by chores and the busy-ness of life, the disciplining and the pressures of making sure the fruit and veges are eaten, the teeth are brushed, the rooms are clean and the homework done! :-)

  39. Karen

    Just re-read my comment above and thought it sounded a bit negative! Of there are so many moments that are just glorious… the pride, the earnestness, the humour, the fun…the moments when someone just loves you so much, like when my littlest one started school recently and on a teary morning said to me ‘school is just too long, I love you too much to be away from you that long’… it’s just that it all goes so fast and you can see the opportunities that could be developed into something wonderful but they are often like water slipping through your fingers because as a mum you are so busy keeping the show on the road. I look forward to precious times with my children’s children and even now I often wish I could rewind and have just five minutes to really truly appreciate my own children’s little selves from years ago. :-)

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