The Big Friendly Thingy

Poo and his friends were sitting round the fire, eating honey and oatcakes and drinking teawpid-20141105_101807.jpg and coffee and generally putting the world to rights. Eeyore said he wanted to tell a story, so he did:

A brother came to Abba Theodore and began to converse with him about things which he had never yet put into practice. So, the old man said to him, ‘You have not yet found a ship nor put your cargo aboard it and before you have sailed, you have already arrived at the city. Do the work first; then you will have the speed you are making now.’¹

‘Very nice, Eeyore,’ said Poo. I think what we need is to go on a great adventure.’ ‘Not another one!’, said Piglet. And just then, there was a knock on the door and in came a mysterious stranger, dressed all in black, pulling behind her a small case.

In a moment, she’d found a chair and cheerfully accepted a mug of hot tea and a rather large slice of coffee and walnut cake, and then she turned to the group of friends, ‘I hear you are off on a great adventure. I know of a place at the far side of the wood. It’s known as The Big Friendly Thingy.’ ‘The BFT? That’s a funny name for an adventure,’ said Owl. ‘What’s it all about?’ ‘Well, rather than tell you, let me show you.’ And the stranger started pulling out rather a lot of stuff from such a small case. ‘If you are to find the BFT on your great adventure, you will need many of these along the way…Hearts and Minds Prepared…Gifts and Discoveries…Swarthmore Lectures…Good Lives…Journeys in the Spirit…Peace350…and she went on. These are all part of The BFT and it’s growing all the time. To find out what they mean for you, you must begin your journey…’

‘Do I have to…’, ventured Piglet. ‘No, of course not, Piglet, you can stay here, if you like. Or you can go on your own another time or you can all go together. It’s really up to you. They are just a few of the titles but to go deeper, you must enter into the dark wood, keeping to the pathway till you come to the four Themes.’ ‘What are they?’ asked Tigger. ‘The Four Themes are Tradition, Spirit, World and Community.’ ‘Oh, I see.’ ‘Will we see you again, mysterious Stranger, dressed all in black,’ asked Eeyore.’ ‘You may do. I sometimes pop up and, with that, she bade farewell and popped out.

They set off early the next morning, after a cooked breakfast, along the path through the trees, singing, ‘We’re all going on a BFT hunt…we’re not scared…’ After about half an hour, they came to a great hole in the earth. Next to it stood a sign, ‘Tradition’. ‘We can’t go over it…we can’t go under it. We can’t go round it. We’ll just have to go in it.’ And in they all tumbled…Fell, Fox, Naylor, scripture, QF&P, the Desert Hermits, Barclay, plain speech and dress, Sufferings…and with one last great big push, they were all up and over and back on the path again.

A couple of hours later, they came to the river. ‘We’re going on a BFT hunt. We’re not scared. We’ll just have to go through it. Next to a sign pointing towards ‘Spirit’, in they waded…gifts, ministry, equipping, God, discipline, practice, Light, leadership, prayer…and with a push and a pull, they were all safely across.

‘What a morning!’ said Poo. They sat down on the bank to rest and have a little something to eat. When they were feeling refreshed, they noticed the grass around them had overgrown the path and was standing taller than all of them together. ‘Which way now?’ said Eeyore. Wee’, said Tigger, ‘follow me!’ and off he bounded through the long grass; his friends dashing after him – peace, justice, Hicks, sustainability…they’d not gone very far when Tigger pointed, ‘Look, dinosaurs! Dinosaurs, look!’ ‘What dinosaurs?’, the others queried. ‘Where, Tigger?’ ‘There, lying on the ground. Looking for all the world like great fallen tree trunks, asleep, were two great big dinosaurs. ‘Ah, they’re friends and they want to play together,’ said Piglet. ‘Yes, that’s right,’ Tigger said, ‘but they can’t quite reach out to each other, so the friends decided to make a simple trellis from all the sticks and branches on the floor, connecting them, so they could be friends again. And after all their hard work, they lay down on the backs of the dinosaurs and looked up. ‘Do you know,’ said Poo, ‘it should be compulsory for everyone in the whole world to spend five minutes a day looking up at the sky.’ Soon, they were off again through simplicity, inter-faith, equality and truth – till they found their way back on to the path, where Eeyore spotted a sign, ‘World’.

‘We’re on the right path,’ said Poo. ‘All these signs, the BFT can’t be far now.’ And before long, they came to The Great Edge, rising high above them. Cutting deep into the edge, the path led them towards a cave. It looked dark inside. ‘We’re going on a BFT hunt…we’re not scared…’, though, truth be told, one or two of the companions, at least, were feeling a little nervous at this point. ‘We can’t go over it…we can’t go under it…we have to go inside it.’ And in they went – commitment, testing, relationships, conflict, clearness, worship sharing, love, silence…– and Piglet was first to smell it. A strong whiff of something animal; then, Tigger made out a tall silhouette. By this time, they were moving forward in tiny steps, in steplets…Poo at the front. ‘Don’t leave me,’ cried Piglet. ‘We won’t leave you, Piglet. You’re our friend.’

A faint glow appeared from the depths of the cavern. There was something moving around the corner, something breathing, suddenly something roaring. And then a massive bear stood there, staring at them. Eeyore noticed what sharp teeth it had and asked the bear, ‘Are you the BFT?’ ‘And what’s that when it’s at home…sounds interesting. Come in, come in, don’t loiter’ the bear called out to them, ‘You’re just in time for tea.’ Poo winked at Eeyore. ‘ I have some very nice Parkin cake too here, somewhere. Would you all like a piece? Sit down, make yourself at home, kettle’s on.’

And they stayed for a while, telling stories, sharing experiences, laughing and crying together, learning that they had so many things in common as well as recognising their differences. Time passes, as they say, and they took their leave of Bear. ‘You will come see me again, won’t you?’ ‘Of course, we will. We’ll be back soon, Bear. And you must come and see us too.’ Bear waved them off.

Not long after, they came to the Great Lake. ‘What do we do now?’ asked Eyeore. ‘We can’t go round it…and we can’t go over it…’ ‘Oh, yes, we can. We can if “we be like geese”,’ said Owl. ’What do you mean? Like geese..?’ asked Tigger. Owl went on, ‘Wake up to reality and lead a life of simplicity. In our minds, we might migrate like geese: No-one faithful to a single place alone but to the whole…² I’ve seen this done only once but I’m sure we can do it.’ ‘Another adventure?’ asked Poo. ‘Not sure I can cope with another adventure,’ said Eyeore. ‘Look, it’s so simple,’ Owl started. ‘Form a line across and watch what I do.’ Owl raised his right wingtip up to his shoulder, drawing up his left leg, bending it at the knee (I know owls don’t have knees [Ed.] but it is necessary for the storyline to progress). Then he did the same with his left wingtip, pulling up his right leg. ‘Right? Got it? Yes? Then, follow me.’

The friends formed a V-shape, owl at the front and tiptoed into the water. ‘It’s a bit frisky,’ said Piglet. ‘I love it!’, said Tigger. Owl called back, ‘it’s called Cloud Walking.’ Onwards they stepped into deeper water, knees under, hips, then chests…all eyes on owl. ‘We need to get up speed’, Owl cried. He started flapping his wings to the fore; faster and faster, flapping his wings out front, faster, faster, faster. His friends copied him. To their amazement, the group of friends started to rise out of the lake. Chests followed arms, hips next, then legs popping up till finally, with a mighty whoosh, their feet flipped out of the water and they found themselves flying, just as owl had told them. ‘Yippee, yippeeee!’ yelled Piglet, ‘I love flying, Owl.’ ‘It is cool, isn’t it, Piglet.’

Flying high above the lake, they spotted a gaggle of geese, heading towards them. As they passed by, the first one called out, ‘Community’. Then each passing goose shared a word – learning, eating, worship, discipline, business, discernment, conflict, roles, money and the last ‘Who are you?’…and they were gone.

The friends came down with a splash in a puddle right outside Poo’s house. ‘Just in time for supper,’ said Poo and invited his friends in. Piglet took a piece of paper Bear had given him out of his pocket. ‘I’d forgotten about this,’ he told his friends. ‘Read it then,’ urged Tigger. ‘It’s a poem…Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I sorry I could not travel both…I shall be telling you this with a sigh…somewhere ages and ages hence…two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.³ ‘Well read, Piglet,’ said Owl.

And Owl started to sing, ‘

‘Let the long time sun shine ‘pon you,

All love surround you

and the pure light within you

Guide your way on.’4

And after that, they all stretched and yawned. ‘Time for bed, I think,’ said Eeyore. ‘A quiet day tomorrow, I think, but what an adventure today.’ And they all smiled and hugged, shaking hands before taking themselves off to their nearby homes, probably for a mug of hot chocolate, I daresay for some, and a biscuit too, well, why not?…before bed.



1 Benedicta Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, The Alphabetical Collection, Oxford, Mowbray, 1975, p.64, (no. 9), quoted in Christopher Holdsworth, Steps in a Large Room, A Quaker explores the monastic tradition, Swarthmore Lecture 1985, p.57

2 One Home Group’s rendering of part of the Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice –

3 The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

4 Let the long time sun shine ‘pon you by The Incredible String Band –

Further Reading

Being Friends Together (BFT) Resource –


On Being Silly…

Afterwords from two foolish friends with (too much?) ‘Time On Their Hands’ –


I’m gonna write a pome


I’m gonna write a pome.

God help us!

There’s me spirituality,

and it’s imbued,


Whatever that means?

Maybe, I’ll find out?

Someone may shout out loud

or sing or dance

or sit quietly, eyes gazing forward,

Not behind, not behind.

For there are too many lions and tigers,

too much froth over flavour,

like wriggly lines streaking across a TV screen,

blip, dot, gone.

I think I’ll take a walk.

Me walking,

Small steps, good food and lots of umph.

What time am I?

I’m half-past one.

It’s not too late. I’d like to be a friend.

It’s time

to start living in the present.

  • written in May 2010 at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre and revisited in March 2014