It’s a perfect Poohsticks bridge: just high enough to make the drop interesting, just wide enough and the stream just slow enough to make the contest last for just the right amount of time. The setting is easy, secluded and free of any Tiggers inclined to bounce you into the water.
So Eddie and I paused on our evening wild walk and played best of three and he won the first two through superior technique and so we passed onwards to the waiting car in great good humour.
I have read a lot and written a lot about nature deprivation: about the vast numbers of children who never have any wild play. They are prevented by a mixture of television, work, computers, vanishing open spaces and paedophiliaphobia. There are stats that show how little modern children get to play outdoors. The Oxford Junior Dictionary has junked words like adder in favour of words like MP3 player.
There should be stats about Poohsticks. How many children, I wonder, have never played Poohsticks? How many children have never had this teasing, jesting relationship with the wild world? Poohsticks is good not just because it’s a game but because it’s also a relationship with a stream, a stick, the whole nonhuman world.
It’s a small thing that represents an aching loss. It’s all very well to love the wild world in theory, because you’ve read about it and seen it on television. But until you’ve got your hands dirty and your boots muddy, until you turned to the other side of the bridge and seen your stick come out ahead of your friend’s or your brother’s or your dad’s stick – you don’t really know what you’re dealing with.
Poohsticks should be compulsory for all children. Much more important than maths and spelling.