the state of things

 

The Many Adventures of Vlada The Pooh

by Elvis Shackleton - 08:26 on 16 January 2009

Douglas Lindsay is working on this year's bestselling barbershop death junkie novel, The Final Cut. The following children's story first appeared in his Letter From Belgrade on 7th June 2005:

The Many Adventures of Vlada The Pooh

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Where Slobodan Robin plays,
There lives an enchanted neighbourhood
Of Slobodan's childhood days


Part 1   The House at Pooh Corner

The Hundred Acre Wood was an enchanting place, tucked away in a small corner of eastern Europe out of everybody else's way. The summers were warm and happy, autumn was always crisp and cool, with falling leaves and pumpkin pie, winter was snowy and bright and cold, a time for giving and sharing, spring was refreshing and sunny and glorious. Birds sang, bees hummed in every tree, there was honey everywhere. There were burbling brooks, trees of every type and colour, meadows and fields and old wooden fences. And here, in this magical place, a loose collection of ethnic groups lived together in perfect harmony. Bears, baby pigs, tigers, kangaroos, rabbits, owls and donkeys happily shared the Hundred Acre Wood and spent many a wonderful year together. One season rolled comfortably into the next, as they got into a series of jolly scrapes, always of their own imagination and doing, and situations which would usually be sorted out by the end of the day by their good friend Slobodan Robin, the President of the Hundred Acre Wood, and the man who held this great variety of creatures together in one tight-knit, friendly society.
However, one day the peace of this special place was to end. Whilst helping the chums to construct a house of twigs for the morose donkey, Ijor, Slobodan Robin was accidentally impaled with a long spike and he fell backwards in a horrible, splurging mass of blood. As he lay slumped against a tree, the blood gurgling horribly in his throat, the chums brought him cake and juice in a desperate attempt to make him feel better. However, sadly he died soon afterwards, finally choking on a honey sandwich which Vlada the Pooh had forced down in his throat in a well-meaning but fatal act of friendship.
Suddenly the glue which had been binding this disparate collection of animals together was gone. A few days later, after Slobodan Robin had been laid to rest, the friends met under a tree to discuss the future and how the Hundred Acre Wood would continue to function. Vlada the Pooh, the loveable honey-eating bear, assumed that as his house was in the centre of the country, that power would continue to reside with him. However, Tigr, the bouncy and cheerful tiger, had secretly been making plans with the Heffalumps, who lived far to the north of the Hundred Acre Wood, and intended to declare his territory as an independent republic. Aul, the pompous bird, on the northern border of the Hundred Acre Wood, and Kanga in the south had similar ideas. Rabit, and his excitable friends and family, were also considering their future.
As they ate honey and bread and drank fruit juice, the chums talked earnestly and hopefully about the future, each one of them lying through their teeth.
'Slobodan Robin will be sadly missed,' said Vlada the Pooh, his furry face a sticky mess, where he had just buried his head in his neighbour's honey jar.
Rabit, who was fed up with Vlada stealing his honey, nodded, but kept the grimace hidden.
'Now that Slobodan Robin is gone, we will all need to pull together.'
'Sharing,' said Piglit.
'And caring,' added Vlada the Pooh.
'It is clear to me,' said Aul haughtily from the branches of a nearby tree, 'that there really is no reason why anything should change.'
'No reason at all,' added Rabit.
The friends hugged each other, and then ate some more tea and cake.
'If anyone wants to know my opinion, which they probably don't,' began Ijor, 'I think this spells the end for the Hundred Acre Wood and there's going to be years of brutal bloodshed and genocide.'
However, the chums were too busy hugging each other and frolicking in the late afternoon sun to notice. And, as they reminisced about the good old days, when Slobodan Robin had bound them together in a war against the occupying Heffalump forces, only Tigr remained silent, as he did not so fondly remember those times. At last, as the sun began to dip below the trees and the warm summer's afternoon began to fade, the first fireflies of the evening emerged to skip and dance and to throw the chums into utter confusion, as they thought they were stars or fairies or entire galaxy systems, depending on how stupid they were being at that particular moment. Once more they hugged each other, said goodnight, and then they each went back to their own homes. And there, behind locked doors, away from the clawing falsehood of their pretend friendships, they each began to make plans to create their own independent republics within the Hundred Acre Wood.

Part 2  When We Were Very Young

My of my, but if it wasn't just the thing that before too long, Ijor, the miserable f**king donkey, was proved right, and very soon everything had changed. The sun no longer shone on the Hundred Acre Wood, and indeed the Hundred Acre Wood no longer contained one hundred acres. To the north Aul had created his own republic and was already creating close ties with the much larger woods to the north and west. Tigr, too, had not been slow in separating from his ancient enemy Vlada the Pooh. (Tigr had never forgotten the time when he had pitched up at Vlada's house late at night in a storm, only to find Vlada armed and ready to repel invaders. Old enmities died hard in this harsh place.) For a while there had been ugly skirmishes on the border between the two former friends, however the Heffalumps and their allies in the west had more or less sided with Tigr, the border of his new republic of Croatigr had been settled, and Vlada the Pooh had been left feeling bitter and alone. Meanwhile, the rest of the Hundred Acre Wood had begun to disintegrate in a horribly ugly fashion. Following the example of the others in the north, Rabit had declared a large mountainous area to the west of the Wood as an independent state. However, internecine fighting had immediately broken out between all Rabit's friends and relatives. Indeed, after Rabit's friends, with the support of Vlada the Pooh, had tried to ethnically cleanse the new country of his relatives, the Heffalumps and their western allies the Woozles, had finally interjected and dropped bombs on the attacking forces. It was an adventure the likes of which the Hundred Acre Wood had never seen. Eventually an uneasy peace was established in Rabit's territory, although not before the bodies of many on both sides had been left strewn across the mountains. There had been a lot of cake and biscuits eaten, but also many a mass grave had been filled. Eventually the country was split into two, between Rabit and his friends, and the Woozles were committed to living there and keeping the peace for many years. Kanga in the south had also declared a small area, know as Kangadonia, as an independent republic. However Grease, the country just to the south of the Hundred Acre Wood, objected to the use of the name as the northern territory of their country was also known as Kangadonia, and so, forever, Kanga's country would be clumsily known as The Former Hundred Acre Wood Republic of Kangadonia, even when competing in the Eurovision Song Contest.

And so, sadly all that remained of the Hundred Acre Wood was a small lump in the middle, and a mountainous area going down to the coast, controlled by Piglit, but which remained nominally tied to the centre. However, the outside world had turned its back on the Hundred Acre Wood, as Vlada the Pooh was so unpopular. Things were only to get worse, when the ethnic bees in the south of the country tried to establish that area as their own country. This was finally too much for Vlada the Pooh, who sent down bug exterminators to try to drive the bees back to where they had initially come from several hundred years previously. Once more, however, the Woozles interjected, and the heart of the Hundred Acre Wood was subjected to a 79-day bombing campaign, during which many landmark bridges across the streams were destroyed, and the Hundred Acre Wood was left contaminated with uranium for many decades.

Part 3   And Now We Are Five

The Hundred Acre Wood was gone. Vlada the Pooh and Piglit remained in a loose union, and relations with their neighbours were slowly improving. However, they had been forced to accept the permanent occupying Woozle force in the south of the country, in order to keep the peace with the bees. The other four countries which made up the former Hundred Acre Wood were advancing in various stages, or not, building more and more relations with the Woozles and the Heffalumps. Aul, in particular, had made the best fist of it, being so wise and sage as he was. To be honest, the others were glad to have nothing more to do with him as he'd always been so irritating. Vlada the Pooh and Tigr remained cagily at peace, although both were now hounded by the Woozles to answer for their actions during the Hundred Acre War. Kanga and Roo muddled by in anonymity, only really coming to anyone's attention when forcing a draw with some bigger power in a World Cup qualifying match. Rabit's house remained a mountainous mess, as it had suffered most horribly. And through it all, Ijor, the gloomy donkey from the region of Vojvodenass, had remained miserably silent. His was the one part of the former Hundred Acre Wood which had made no effort to break away from the centre.
However, deep in the heart of his home town of Sad, the melancholic donkey was beginning to stir...
 


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