Jan 182017
 

aam1

Today is the birthday (1882)  of Alan Alexander “A.A.” Milne best known for his books about the teddy bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, and also for various poems. Milne actually thought of himself primarily as a playwright but the huge success of Pooh overshadowed all his previous work. Both he and his son, Christopher Robin, spent much of their lives trying to escape the fame of Pooh (http://www.bookofdaystales.com/christopher-robin/ ).

Milne studied mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge graduating in 1903. He collaborated with his brother Kenneth on humorous pieces whilst at Cambridge and their articles appeared over the initials AKM. Milne’s work came to the attention of the magazine Punch, where Milne was to become a contributor and later an assistant editor. He also played for the amateur English cricket team, the Allahakbarries, alongside the likes of J. M. Barrie, P.G. Wodehouse, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Milne joined the British Army in World War I and served as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and later, after a debilitating illness, the Royal Corps of Signals. He was commissioned into the 4th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 17 February 1915 as a second lieutenant. On 7 July 1916, he was injured while serving in the Battle of the Somme and invalided back to England. Having recovered, he was recruited into Military Intelligence to write propaganda articles for MI 7b between 1916 and 1918. He was discharged in 1919.

aam2

Milne married Dorothy “Daphne” de Sélincourt in 1913 and their son Christopher Robin Milne was born in 1920. In 1925, Milne bought a country home, Cotchford Farm, in Hartfield, East Sussex. During World War II, Milne was Captain of the British Home Guard in Hartfield & Forest Row, insisting on being plain “Mr. Milne” to the members of his platoon. He retired to the farm after a stroke and brain surgery in 1952 left him an invalid, and by August 1953 “he seemed very old and disenchanted”. Milne died in January 1956, aged 74.

aam3

Milne is most famous for his Pooh books inspired by his son and his stuffed animals, most notably the bear named Winnie-the-Pooh. Christopher Robin Milne’s stuffed bear, originally named “Edward”, was renamed “Winnie-the-Pooh” after a Canadian black bear named Winnie (after Winnipeg), which was used as a military mascot in World War I, and left to London Zoo during the war. “The pooh” comes from a swan called “Pooh”. E. H. Shepard illustrated the original Pooh books, using his own son’s teddy, Growler (“a magnificent bear”), as the model. The rest of Christopher Robin Milne’s toys, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger, were incorporated into Milne’s stories, and two more characters – Rabbit and Owl – were created by Milne’s imagination. Christopher Robin Milne’s own toys are now under glass in New York where 750,000 people visit them every year.

Here’s a little selection of Milne’s quotes: some from Pooh, others from elsewhere.  I could have chosen dozens of others, of course. If you are a Milne fan you’ll know these and many more. It’s just a reminder.

 aam4

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.

Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.

Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.

It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?

People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.

“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.

Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.

One of the advantages of being disorganized is that one is always having surprising discoveries.”

If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.

I’m not lost for I know where I am. But, where I am may be lost.

The things that make me different are the things that make me.

Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”

Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

Christopher Milne noted that his father was something of a nostalgic eater; he savored food for the memories it brought back to him as much as for their present flavors. However, he does not say what these dishes were. Various cooks have fancifully created Milne’s non-existent Cottleston pie:

Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie,
A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.
Ask me a riddle and I reply:
“Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.”

Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie,
A fish can’t whistle and neither can I.
Ask me a riddle and I reply:
“Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.”

Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie,
Why does a chicken, I don’t know why.
Ask me a riddle and I reply:
“Cottleston, Cottleston, Cottleston Pie.”

Well, Milne lived most of his life in Sussex, so maybe this old-fashioned Sussex recipe will suit.

aam5

Sussex Churdle Pie

Ingredients

1 oz butter
1 onion, peeled and finely-chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely-chopped
1 lb lambs liver, chopped
2 oz streaky bacon, rind removed and chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped
salt and pepper
2 oz fresh breadcrumbs
4 oz Cheddar, shredded
10 oz puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten

Instructions

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F.

Gently melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, then add the garlic, bacon and liver. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté, while stirring constantly, until the liver has browned. Add the sage, apple, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another minute and then remove from the heat.

Roll out the pastry and cut it into 7” rounds.  It should make from 4 to 6.

Divide the meat mixture between the pastry circles, and top each one with some cheese and breadcrumbs.

Gather the pastry around to form a purse shape, with the opening at the top.  Squeeze together to form a seal, using a little of the beaten egg to form a seal. Paint the remaining egg wash over the pastry.

Bake the pies, in the oven, for 18-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

Aug 212015
 

cr1

Today is the birthday (1920) of Christopher Robin Milne, the son of author A. A. Milne. As a child, he was the basis of the character Christopher Robin in his father’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories and in two books of poems. He was born at 11 Mallord St, in Chelsea, London. His parents had expected the baby to be a girl, and had chosen the name Rosemary. When it turned out to be a boy, they initially intended to call him Billy, but decided that would be too informal. They gave him two first names to help distinguish him from other Milnes; each parent chose a name. Although he was officially named Christopher Robin, his parents often referred to him as “Billy”. When he began to talk, he pronounced his surname as Moon instead of Milne. After that, his family would often call him “Billy”, “Moon”, or “Billy Moon”. In later life, he became known as simply “Christopher”.

cr11

On his first birthday, he received an Alpha Farnell teddy bear he called Edward. This bear, along with a real Canadian bear named “Winnie” that Milne saw at the London Zoo, eventually became the inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh character. The teddy bear was about two feet tall, light in color, frequently lost its eyes, and was a constant companion to Milne.

As was customary for upper-class and upper-middle-class English children at the time, Milne was reared by a nanny – Olive Brockwell. Meetings with his parents were restricted to short periods just after breakfast, at tea time, and in the evening, just before he went to bed. As he grew up, he spent more time with them; however, as his parents spent little time together, Milne divided his own time between his mother and his father.

cr3  cr2

Time spent with his father led to Milne’s love of mathematics and cricket, as well as to their shared pacifism. Though Milne spoke self-deprecatingly of his intellect, referring to himself many times as being “dim”, he was accomplished for a boy of his age. The reason for his denying his intelligence was his ability to solve complex equations with little or no difficulty but his having to concentrate on much simpler ones. From his mother, Milne acquired a talent for working with his hands. He owned a small tool kit, which he used to disassemble the lock on his nursery door when he was seven years old. By the age of 10, he had modified the works of a grandfather clock and altered a cap gun so that it would shoot real bullets.

cr9

In his childhood, Milne was fond of being associated with his father’s books and helped him to write a few of the stories. Once, he went so far as to organize a short play for his parents, re-enacting a story about himself and his friends in the woods. However, after starting school, he was mocked by his peers, who recited passages from the books, particularly from the poem Vespers: “Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares! Christopher Robin is saying his prayers.” Milne, therefore, grew to resent the attention his father’s success had brought him.

Milne first attended the Gibbs School, an independent school in London, in 1929. At age nine, he went on to Boxgrove Preparatory School, a privately owned preparatory school in Guildford, and then at 13 to Stowe School, an independent boys’ school in Buckinghamshire, where he learned to box as a way to defend himself from his classmates’ taunts. In 1939, he won a scholarship to study Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge.

When World War II broke out, Milne left his studies and attempted to join the army but failed the medical examination. His father used his influence to get Milne a position with the second training battalion of the Royal Engineers. He received his commission in July 1942 and was posted to the Middle East and Italy.

While serving abroad, he began to resent what he saw as his father’s exploitation of his childhood and came to hate the books that had thrust him into the public eye. After being discharged from the army, he went to Cambridge to complete his studies and graduated with a Third Class Honours degree in English.

cr17

On 24 July 1948, Milne married his first cousin, Lesley de Sélincourt. His mother disliked the marriage, partly because she did not get along with her brother, Lesley’s father Aubrey. (She had wanted her son to marry his childhood friend, Anne Darlington.) In 1951, Milne and his wife moved to Dartmouth to found the Harbour Bookshop, which turned out to be a success, though his mother had thought the decision odd, as Milne did not seem to like “business”, and as a bookseller would regularly have to meet Pooh fans. While both of these issues did at times cause them frustration, Milne and his wife ran their bookshop for many years without any help from royalties from sales of the Pooh books. After he retired from the bookshop, his wife and a business partner opened a secondhand bookshop. The Harbour Bookshop reopened in spring 2012 as a community-run bookshop.

-

Milne occasionally visited his father after the elder Milne became ill, but once his father died, he did not see his mother during the 15 years that passed before her death; even when she was on her deathbed she refused to see her son.

A few months after his father’s death in 1956, Christopher’s daughter Clare was born and diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. She would later run a charity for the disabled called the Clare Milne Trust.

cr7

In 1974, Milne published the first of three autobiographical books. The Enchanted Places gave an account of his childhood and of the problems he had encountered because of the Pooh books.

cr5

Milne gave the original stuffed animals that inspired the Pooh characters to the books’ editor, who in turn donated them to the New York Public Library; Marjorie Taylor (in her book Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them) recounts how many were disappointed at this, and Milne had to explain that he preferred to concentrate on the things that currently interested him. Milne had also disliked the idea of Winnie-the-Pooh being commercialized.

cr12 cr15

The Shepard drawings in the Winnie-the-Pooh books are very sensitive and seem to me to capture the spirit of the young Christopher Robin (as seen in the images above). But when Disney took over the enterprise, disaster struck. The Disney factory has a way of taking stories that have profound depth and complexity, and turning them into shallow trivia for the purposes of making money and not much else. I have every sympathy with Milne on this point.

Milne lived for some years with myasthenia gravis and died in his sleep on 20 April 1996. He was seventy-five years old.

I picked a nursery recipe from Mrs Beeton in recognition of Milne’s childhood. When you read her descriptions of the duties of the nursery staff you have to cringe. Here’s a sample:

2399. Most children have some bad habit, of which they must be broken; but this is never accomplished by harshness without developing worse evils: kindness, perseverance, and patience in the nurse, are here of the utmost importance. When finger-sucking is one of these habits, the fingers are sometimes rubbed with bitter aloes, or some equally disagreeable substance. Others have dirty habits, which are only to be changed by patience, perseverance, and, above all, by regularity in the nurse. She should never be permitted to inflict punishment on these occasions, or, indeed, on any occasion. But, if punishment is to be avoided, it is still more necessary that all kinds of indulgences and flattery be equally forbidden. Yielding to all the whims of a child,—picking up its toys when thrown away in mere wantonness, would be intolerable. A child should never be led to think others inferior to it, to beat a dog, or even the stone against which it falls, as some children are taught to do by silly nurses. Neither should the nurse affect or show alarm at any of the little accidents which must inevitably happen: if it falls, treat it as a trifle; otherwise she encourages a spirit of cowardice and timidity. But she will take care that such accidents are not of frequent occurrence, or the result of neglect.

You can just see the colonial cavalry officer in training.

cr16

Rice pudding is a perennial favorite in the nursery. It was a childhood delight for me which I have since grown out of. Make sure you use starchy, short-grained rice. I’d also be inclined to cook it somewhat less and put some sugar in the water.

VARIETIES OF RICE.—Of the varieties of rice brought to our market, that from Bengal is chiefly of the species denominated cargo rice, and is of a coarse reddish-brown cast, but peculiarly sweet and large-grained; it does not readily separate from the husk, but it is preferred by the natives to all the others. Patua rice is more esteemed in Europe, and is of very superior qualify; it is small-grained, rather long and wiry, and is remarkably white. The Carolina rice is considered as the best, and is likewise the dearest in London.

(With Dried or Fresh fruit; a nice dish for the Nursery.)

1346. INGREDIENTS.—1/2 lb. of rice, 1 pint of any kind of fresh fruit that may be preferred, or 1/2 lb. of raisins or currants.

Mode.—Wash the rice, tie it in a cloth, allowing room for it to swell, and put it into a saucepan of cold water; let it boil for an hour, then take it up, untie the cloth, stir in the fruit, and tie it up again tolerably tight, and put it into the water for the remainder of the time. Boil for another hour, or rather longer, and serve with sweet sauce, if made with dried fruit, and with plain sifted sugar and a little cream or milk, if made with fresh fruit.

Time.—1 hour to boil the rice without the fruit; 1 hour, or longer, afterwards.

Average cost, 6d.

Sufficient for 6 or 7 children. Seasonable at any time.

Note.—This pudding is very good made with apples: they should be pared cored, and cut into thin slices.