Posted by Moira Jackson on Sep 12, 2019
Our first grandchild is due mid-November.  The prospect of her arrival would have turned her late granddad into a puddle of unbridled excitement. 
 
When our elder daughter broke the wonderful news, and before we knew we were to welcome a little girl, I gave her a soft toy.  Her very first, very special, character bear, the childhood companion of tens of thousands of children over the past 90+ years.  Perhaps even yours, dear readers. 
 
Winnie-the-Pooh was certainly my favourite, and our girls’ too.  The anthropomorphic bear and his human friend Christopher Robin explored life in general and had many marvelous adventures together.  It all started in 1926 as a life force that extruded through the flow of ink from the tip of A.A Milne’s fountain pen.
 
Together they fired the imaginations of successive generations and created an endless market for pudgy, soft, yellow bears that comforted many a child in a time of distress or fear.  Together they gifted us with some of the most wonderful words of encouragement – anyone remember, “I’m short and fat and proud of that!”?  And then my all-time favourite, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think!
 
We brought our two girls up on extracts of those vignettes of wisdom, used judiciously at significant times in their lives.  In fact so “present” has Pooh bear been in our family, that several years ago I bought a new set of beautifully illustrated books on his exploits and adventures and put them away for “one day when we have grandchildren.”  Really rather ridiculous behaviour when scrutinized through the cold logic of “intelligence” because of course, Pooh was in truth, merely the product of the imagination of the writer A.A. Milne.  Or so I thought, until today.
 
Today I discovered there is heart and history to this wonderful Bear of Great Adventures, and his loving, if phlegmatic, human companion Christopher Robin.  Today I discovered that Winnie was the abbreviated name of a real bear called Winnipeg, after the Canadian Town that HER human owner hailed from. You see, but then you probably already know…..for perhaps I am a human of little imagination and slow discovery, Winnie, the very real bear, was “purchased” by a young Canadian, Lt Harry Colebourn. 
Harry was on his way to Quebec to enlist at the start of WW1.  The little bear cub was even “stowed away” (MAF would NEVER have allowed that!!) on the ship that took the young troops to England.  She proved so popular that she was adopted as their mascot.   Fortunately for Winnipeg, there was no category yet formed under which she could enlist and so she was loaned to the London Zoo for safe keeping, with the intention of being reunited with Lt Colebourn at the end of the war.  However, when the time came to collect Winnipeg and return to Canada with her, Harry discovered the gentle bear had become a favourite amongst children at the zoo and he didn’t have the heart to take her away.  One of those adoring children was a little boy called Christopher Robin - the son of A.A. Milne.  And so the legendary story of a bear was born from the true life of a bear called Winnipeg.
 
The story of the love between a boy and a bear, and the endless adventures they had together, is about to be passed on to a new generation for safekeeping.  This time however, the grandmother reading the stories will ensure her listeners know that there actually was a real bear behind the magical, mystical, Winnie-the-Pooh.
 
So what did you discover today that delighted and enlightened and that you didn’t know yesterday?
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