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INTO ENCHANTED PLACES, WITH WINNIE THE POOH

The sun is hot and I wonder to myself a lot: Now is it true, or is it not. That what is which and which is what....."

Lines written by a Bear of Very Little Brain in Winnie the Pooh.

On this particular Monday, standing at the edge of the forest, basket of goodies in hand, she looked rather like Red Riding Hood off to visit her grandmother's house. But when she asked us in a decidedly Poohish voice whether we wanted milk or fizzy drinks with our Pooh picnic I knew I was in the right story after all, and this was Maire McQueeney ready to escort us into the enchanted places of Christopher Robin and friends. By the time she is through we, like Pooh, "sometimes wonder if it's true, that who is what and what is who...."

That Maire appears to be from Pooh's magical other-world enhances our walk no end. Along the way she gathers mushrooms to take home for tea, pretty things - bright red with white spots which, she assures, us are edible. They go into her basket along with the stuffed bears, Winnie the Pooh books and maps.

There are six of us, Pooh fans all, gathered to explore the forest that was Christopher Robin's childhood playground. Ashdown Forest and surrounding countryside is enough to spark the imagination of even the dullest writer of children's stories. But Alan Alexander Milne was not dull. He saw his child's nursery toys as animal/people who accompanied their young owner on his daily adventures. Then in a brilliant move he chose E.H. Shepard to illustrate his stories so endearingly they continue to captivate readers in 31 countries some 70 years later.

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