When I was very young, maybe five or six, there was a family holiday to Devon. At one point we ended up in a bookshop. I was probably mooching among the Ladybirds when my father nudged me and pointed towards the back of the shop, from where a bespectacled man had appeared, muttered something to the lady at the till and then disappeared again. “That’s Christopher Robin,” whispered Dad.
And it really was. Christopher Robin Milne had opened the Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth in 1951, barely tolerating the gawpers who still saw him as the slightly fey child of his father’s books, all of them seemingly unaware (the clue’s in the last chapter of The House at Pooh Corner, people) that childhood isn’t a lifetime deal. I was still coming to terms with the distinction between fiction and real life, a confusion that wasn’t resolved by teachers who told us Bible stories in the same tones they reserved for sums and spelling; and if I’d deduced that Christopher Robin at least had his roots in reality, I couldn’t quite cope with the idea that this, to me, phenomenally old man (he would then have been in his early/mid-50s) was the blond, leggy friend to Pooh and Eeyore and all.
That said, in retrospect, he was probably the first Famous Person I’d seen in real life, outside the frame of a TV screen. And I still reckon that’s a pretty good one to start with.
Who was yours?