Bear of Very Little Brain learns about Coal-ishuns & Quango-things

C H A P T E R 7

In which Pooh is bemused, and Christopher Robin sorts out nearly everything

Who started it? Nobody knew. One moment there was the usual forest babble; then came the Rumour.

Rabbit, who believed in The Big Society, had spoken to his Friends and Relations, who had spoken to Smallest-of-All who thought it was true, but couldn’t be absolutely certain because sometimes he remembered things that hadn’t happened yet, or ever, or at all. But Kanga told Rabbit that it was, and when Kanga said something was true, then that thing was true.

But Pooh, who never knew quite who to believe – or what -, said to himself, “It’s going to be That Sort of Day, when you can never be sure.” And the more he thought about it, the less sure he became, or was it the more sure he became that he was less sure?

At Difficult Times, Pooh knew there was nothing for it but to compose a Puzzled Sort of Hum. It went like this:

“Can it be true
What they’re going to do?
I wish I knew
I hope local people know best

It’s rather a mess
They say more is less
I’m in distress
Perhaps local people know best?

It’s rather a bore
They say less is more
Can it be true for the poor?
Do local people know best?

But I must confess
Surely less is less
It’s hardly progress
Even if Local People know best”

After humming this through once or twice, Pooh felt he hadn’t really found The Answer. He knew that he was a Bear of Very Little Brain, and all this talk of More or Less, of ‘Sterity and of Coal-ishuns was beyond him. He’d even heard from Tigger that there was a new sort of Thing about, called a Quango. Pooh wondered if it was a bit like a Heffalump and needed hunting down and putting in a cage? Or maybe Tigger wasn’t listening and got it wrong. Perhaps quangos were more like a squishy kind of fruit that bees liked. Oh dear, he thought, this is all so bemusing.

And then there was the Rumour.

Rabbit’s Big Society friends and relations said there’d be no more cycling because it encouraged these Quango-things, and they needed to be done away with. Pooh didn’t like the sound of this at all, specially since Christopher Robin had a bicycle and had given him a ride perched on the crossbar.

“That’s it,” said Pooh, all of a sudden. “I may be a Bear of Little Brain, but I do know Owl, who knows most things and if he doesn’t, he might make something up. And I do know Christopher Robin – he’ll be sure to know everything”.

So Pooh set off for Owl’s house, and arrived at the front door just as Piglet got there too. Piglet said, all in a rush, “Oh Pooh, I want to know about ‘Sterity and Coal-ishuns and Quangos and, and …” The words came out in such a rush that Piglet had to sit down and blink several times.

“Well”, said Pooh, “I want to know about the Rumour, and if it’s true, what will happen to Christopher Robin’s bicycle?”

After a long pause, when Piglet didn’t even breathe, Owl said that all these questions were interrelated. “What”, said Pooh, “like Rabbit and the Big Society?” “Exactly”, said Owl, who hadn’t the first idea about what the Big Society might be, but remembered his Uncle Robert saying something about it years ago.

“First of all”, said Owl, wiping his spectacles and fluffing out his feathers and then: “Indeed” and then “Indeed and hmm”, which showed that he was having a Wise Kind of Thought.

“First of all, there is Or’Sterity”. “Or what?” Squeaked Piglet.

“Or’Sterity”, said Owl, “is the alternative to Recession. You can have ‘Recession or ‘Sterity – and we’re going to have ‘Sterity”. “Ah”, said Pooh, suddenly realizing that his Puzzling Hum was cleverer than he knew – “So ‘Sterity means that Less is More?” “Quite right, Little Bear”, replied Owl patronisingly.

At that moment, Roo arrived with Kanga, and hearing that there was going to be Less in future, wondered excitedly if that meant he would get less Strengthening Medicine. Before Owl could consider how ‘Sterity might affect prescriptions, Kanga said “Don’t be silly dear, there’ll be plenty of medicine and even if it’s very bitter, it will be so good for everyone else.”

When it came to Coal-ishuns, Owl thought for a very long time indeed. He remembered his Uncle Robert talking about how we all should burn more coal, and make lots of carbon – which Some People had thought foolish. But Uncle Robert had said that Coal-ition meant that the war on the motorist was over, and we should now drive more cars and make lots more carbon.

“Oh dear”, said Pooh, “so the Rumour is true. Christopher Robin won’t be able to cycle anymore. He’ll have to go by car, and cycling will be abolished.”

“Indeed”, conceded Owl, who really wanted to say something else, but wasn’t quite sure what. Kanga, who was worried about the Quangos she’d heard about, and wondered whether they might attack Roo while they were being hunted down, said they all ought to go to Christopher Robin’s and see that he was alright and whether the Rumour was true.

So off they set, and on the way met Eeyore who was staring at a large thistle. They told him they were off to Christopher Robin’s to find out about Quangos and whether there were many still about. Eeyore looked at them mournfully and said “What are Quangos anyway? They are probably like birthdays – here today and gone tomorrow.” “Well, I certainly hope so”, said Kanga holding Roo in one hand, and the Daily Mail in the other.

Just at that moment, there was a whirring sound and there he was, Christopher Robin on his bright blue bicycle. When he had leant his bicycle against a tree, he looked at them and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Then they all started talking at once, except Eeyore who didn’t think that anyone had noticed him anyway.

“Quiet everyone”, said Christopher Robin in his Grown Up sort of Voice. “I can explain everything”. And so they all settled down, Pooh and Piglet, Kanga and Roo, and when they were all quiet Christopher Robin gave Eeyore a special place at the front.

“Now”, said Christopher Robin, “we are going to have ‘Sterity and this means making do with less, as Owl said”. “What” said Pooh, “does that mean less honey? What about smackerels and Little Somethings?”

“Silly old Bear”, replied Christopher Robin, “’Sterity means belt-tightening – and bears (and bankers) and others with little brains don’t have belts, so they do not need to tighten. They can go on just as they are”. “That’s good”, said Pooh, “I’m glad Bear begins with B”.

“Now about this Co-llision”, Christopher Robin went on; “a Co-llision is what happens when two people pretend that they agree, but don’t really. So they form a Co-llision”. Pooh thought about this, and felt that it might explain why he’d been in a muddly sort of way, when all his thoughts were in a collision too.

Then Kanga wanted Christopher Robin to explain about Quangos – and if they were really dangerous, and if everyone should be on the look out for one. But Christopher Robin was able to reassure them that all Quangos had been extincted, so there was no risk of them coming back for a Very Long Time.

Pooh, who was now feeling much better about ‘Sterity not being for bears, and that Quangos were extinct, decided that he could ask the question that everyone in the Forest wanted to know: “Was it true, was the Rumour correct? Was cycling really abolished? What about Christopher Robin’s shiny blue bike – would it be traded in for a Jaguar?” (even Tigger was quiet at the thought of jaguars).

“Oh, Best Bear in all the world”, said Christopher Robin smiling kindly, “of course it’s not true, there’ll always be bicycles and cycling; it’s just that it’ll sort of…. depend more. There just won’t be anyone to organise it properly, so it’ll be hit and miss.”

Eeyore sighed and rather hoped it would be more miss than hit. Owl said that he thought that was a bit of a pity, but he knew that the omens were not propitious – he said this in a legal sort of way – when that OBE thing was given to Christopher Robin. “My uncle Robert got one of those, and started going downhill immediately – it was all Over By Easter”.

“Over By Easter”, said Eeyore, “I knew it”.

As the sun set over the 100 Acre Wood, Christopher Robin told them they should not be downhearted, because it was all “ideological”, so they could do nothing about it. “Ah”, said Pooh, “I knew you’d have a word for it, Christopher Robin. ‘Idea Illogical’. Yes, that explains everything.”

“Well then, Pooh”, said Christopher Robin, “I’ll be away for a while, but I know you’ll look after everything.” “I’ll try,” said Pooh, even though he wasn’t sure what Looking After Everything might involve.

Christopher Robin gave Pooh a nod, he got on his bicycle and pedalled swiftly away, turning to give a wave and a smile before he disappeared from sight.

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