Friday, 11 February 2011

Eeyore, Piglet And Pooh - Our Very Own Elgin Marbles


A tweet from the excellent Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) this morning linked to a blog about Christopher Robin's original toys. You can read the excellent "Scouting New York" blog  here. I found to my horror that the original toys that inspired AA Milne to create his wonderful stories can be found in the main branch of the New York Public Library. My reaction was probably akin to those of an Athenian on first discovering that the Elgin Marbles are stuck in a museum in London - "This can't be right".

A most important part of our heritage has been uprooted and stands forlornly in a distant land.

When our kids were young, we lived close to the Sussex border in Kent and would sometimes travel to the Ashdown Forest and emulate Christopher Robin and Winnie The Pooh with a game of Pooh Sticks on the famous little bridge over the tiny stream. There is a sort of quintessential Englishness about the area, the books and the characters themselves that makes the vintage toys' sojourn in a bullet proof glass case in a New York Library just plain wrong. If you've seen what Disney did to Winnie The Pooh in giving him an American accent and bright yellow body you would know that we need to repatriate them to their rightful place in rural Sussex quickly before they come to any harm and further loss of identity.

Unfortunately our claim on the toys is not as strong as the Greeks' claim for their marbles as, far from being looted from their rightful place, it seems that they were given by none other than Milne himself to his New York  publisher in gratitude for his support and were subsequently donated to the library. However, now that they are back in the public domain, it is time that a movement was started to bring them home. We need someone very English and very forceful to lead such a movement and I suggest Joanna Lumley, who, after her resounding success with the Gurkahs, fits the bill perfectly. So Joanna, how about it? Lets get the toys back home.

If you used to read my Instanta blog you might recall that I spent an enjoyable week at Townley Hall Burnley last year as a stand in contestant for the BBC's Antiques Master show. I didn't get to compete as all of the contestants turned up safe and sound and I was not required. I got to know quite a bit about the show and decided that it was probably a good thing that I missed out as the winners certainly knew their stuff and I am just a keen amateur. So when I saw the BBC advertising for contestants for a new series I decided not to apply. And then I got a phone call asking if I would be interested and, being one of those people who doesn't like to say no to people, one thing led to another and somehow on Monday I'm off for an audition in Manchester. It was nice of them to remember me.

And a very big positive is perhaps another opportunity to meet the lovely Sandi Toksvig