This morning I am drinking my tea from the Pooh Bear mug which depicts Pooh sitting on a rock, apparently in the middle of a pond, or more a tarn, watching a dragonfly, and surrounded by green hills, daffodils and rhododendrons and blue sky. The quote on the reverse is: Pooh could see the whole world spread out until it reached the sky. I have always called this mug the ‘serenity’ one, and the whole family acknowledges it as ‘mine’, unlike the others for which there are skirmishes. Its companion, the second original one which was always considered 'his indoors', was referred to as ‘Pooh sticks’ and showed Pooh and Piglet and Tigger (I think) leaning over a little footbridge watching their sticks float along underneath. Sadly, this is the only one of the series that has been broken, so far. I can’t remember the circumstances or even the location, which is rare for me. It was a long time ago.
We chose these mugs because they were china, which is always nice to drink tea out of, not too thick, and big enough to make carrying a mug-full back to bed worthwhile. And the illustrations were always fun.
The collection of mugs, which was gradually amassed, dates to when our children were too small to drink out of china cups, when they still used plastic cups and didn’t drink tea, which makes ‘serenity’ and its brother ‘Pooh sticks’ which were bought first, about 20 years old. Not long ago, my daughter said, isn’t it sad how the colours are fading in the Pooh cups? Even the last ones to join the collection must be more than 10 years old. They were all bought at our then local china shop near the station. We used to look in the window when we came down to the village to buy ice creams on our way home from school.
Buying ice creams was a special treat, usually reserved for a Friday afternoon when we had no commitments, and the ice cream might easily segue into games at the park and then fish and chips, watching the trains pull in, loaded with sweaty commuters.
I remember helping a blind lady across the Crescent at the station one afternoon. There was a slope up from the railway underpass to the zebra crossing, and somehow she must have got disoriented. I could see her frantically tapping with her white stick, weaving back and forth along the curb. I came up to her and said ‘Can I help you?’ and I tucked her hand into my arm and lead her across the street. I don’t remember where we went next, whether she was fine then, or if I gave her directions. The image that remains even today, is the panicked tapping and pacing, and the feeling of utter vulnerability she conveyed.
I think the hardest thing - well for me it would be any way - in adjusting to being blind would be the trust you would have to place in other people. No doubt I am fooling myself, forgetting how close to the edge of vulnerability we all are, all the time. Having to give up total independence is a bit like having to say goodbye to a self you no longer are, or thought you were. Breaking an old, 'friendly' mug can be a piercing reminder of the selves we have forgotten and lost.
Pooh's red jersey has faded, my daughter was right. Now that she has pointed it out, I catch myself attempting to manipulate time, or the marking of its passage in the fading mug, by not putting 'serenity' into the dishwasher as often, or hesitating to pick it up and use it, as that means another submission to the chemicals in the soap powder, and another layer of red removed, and another step closer to obliteration. Utterly futile preoccupations.