Skip to main content

Nineteen Eighty Pooh

·5 mins
Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet

With the news that both Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner are now in the public domain, I bring you this remix.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clock was stuck at ten to thirteen. Time for a little something thought Winnie-the-Pooh, his chin nuzzled into his fur in an effort to escape the vile wind as he stomped through Victory Woods. A coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to one of the trees. It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a boy of about six. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. CHRISTOPHER ROBIN IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran.

Pooh slipped quickly into his house, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of wet leaves from entering along with him. Inside the house a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of honey. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Pooh turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.

He moved over to the window. Outside, even through the shut window-pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and leaves into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no colour in anything, except the posters on the trees. CHRISTOPHER ROBIN IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Pooh’s own.

In the far distance an owl skimmed down between the trees, hovered for an instant, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the police patrol, snooping into people’s windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Woozles mattered.

Behind Pooh’s back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about honey and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Pooh made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.

Pooh kept his back to the telescreen. It was safer. A kilometre away the tree known as The Chestnuts towered vast above the grimy forest floor. From where he stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the two slogans of the Ministry of Knowing Something About Something:



Pooh turned round abruptly. He had set his features into the expression of quiet optimism which it was advisable to wear when facing the telescreen. He went to the larder; and he stood on a chair, and took down a very large jar of honey from the top shelf. It had a plain white label marked VICTORY HUNNY on it, but, just to make sure, he took off the paper cover and sniffed at it. It gave off a sickly, oily smell. Pooh poured out nearly a teacupful of the thin liquid, nerved himself for a shock, and gulped it down like a dose of medicine.

The telescreen gave forth an ear-splitting whistle which continued on the same note for thirty seconds. ‘Ten to eleven group!’ yapped a piercing female voice. ‘Ten to eleven group! Take your places, please. Ten to eleven!’

His mind suddenly on elevenses, Pooh nevertheless sprang to attention in front of the telescreen, upon which the image of a youngish woman, scrawny but muscular, dressed in tunic and gym-shoes, had already appeared.

‘Stoutness Exercises! Bending and stretching!’ she rapped out. ‘Take your time by me. ONE, two, three, four! ONE, two, three, four! Come on, comrades, put a bit of life into it! ONE, two, three four! ONE two, three, four!…’

Tra-la-la, tra-la-la, hummed Pooh as he stretched up as high as he could go, and then Tra-la-la, tra-la—oh, help!—la, as he tried to reach his toes. He wore on his face the look of grim enjoyment which was considered proper during the Stoutness Exercises.

‘Bear!’ screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. ‘6079 Bear Edward! Yes, YOU! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! THAT’S better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me.’

A sudden hot sweat had broken out all over Pooh’s body. His face remained completely inscrutable. Never show dismay! Never show resentment!

He let out a belch. The honey was rising from his stomach. He moved towards a small alcove on one side of his living room. By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Pooh was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight went. He picked up a book. It was a peculiarly beautiful book. Its smooth creamy paper, a little yellowed by age, was of a kind that had not been manufactured for at least forty years past.

The thing that he was about to do was to open a diary. This was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labour camp.

For some time he sat gazing stupidly at the paper, for he was a bear of very little brain. Finally, he took up a scratchy pen he had managed to procure, sucked some ink into the nib. He began to write in sheer panic, only imperfectly aware of what he was setting down. His small but childish handwriting straggled up and down the page, shedding first its capital letters and finally even its full stops: