Thursday, 18 September 2014
Toy Story: a new teddy for Matilda
The Bear Hunt is over already. The Quest has been successful. I have fulfilled all my oaths, and can depart in peace. But first, let me remind you that the bear I have found is intended for this young lady, who has just turned one:
I was determined that Matilda should have not just any bear, but one that ticked all the boxes. For what those were, see my last post. It was (I thought) absolutely essential to make a significant personal effort - this to include much travelling around, whatever it took to find the right shop. It was also essential to personally handle the bear, for it was vital to assess its size, weight, colour, type of fur and softness, and of course whether the facial expression was pleasing. I also wanted to see reassuring signs of quality and durability. Not least, I needed to ponder the overall impression it gave: was this bear of stout character, worthy of my only great-niece? Could it really be her faithful friend for life? Or was it going to be as wayward and feckless as a Mississippi riverboat gambler?
I really didn't think that it would be Mission Accomplished so easily. The very first shop, on the first morning of my three-day quest.
I'd done a bit of Internet research, and discovered that the bear market is broadly split between seriously well-made bears, the more expensive of which are collectable and not for little children at all, and soft toys that may delight for a while, but will soon fall apart in ordinary play. The first category is typified by German makers such as Steiff, and they look uncannily like real bears, for admiration rather than for cuddling. Nevertheless I was instinctively drawn to the upper end of the market. It seemed a guarantee that the bear I bought would at least be made of good materials, and wouldn't burst at the seams, nor present a safety risk.
Such a bear would probably be found only at specialist shops. I'm not knocking High Street retailers - they can be very good, but they are not specialists. I went into one this afternoon, in passing, hours after I'd bought Matilda's bear. They had a number of toy animals, but they were all squashed into limited shelf space. Some looked a bit forlorn to me:
I found Matilda's bear in The Lanes at Brighton, at a shop in Ship Street (opposite Fat Face) called Borsa, which devoted its upstairs to a shop-within-a-shop called Bears Galore. Ah, here was sunlight and space and plenty of happy bears waiting for a new home!
As you can see, there were all kinds of animals, not just bears, but bears were the main thing. This chap caught my eye almost at once. I took him off his shelf, and propped him up on another stand, in better light, for a photo:
There was another lady up there in Bears Galore, younger than me, forty-something perhaps, and her name was Tracey. She was very nice. She was buying herself another bear, and I have to say she chose a gorgeous dark-brown one with tufted ears and a most appealing face. I explained my quest. We chatted quite a bit really. Then she went downstairs to pay, while I checked out the other bears. But I kept thinking this first one I'd seen was the nicest for Matilda. I was putting myself in her place, trying to imagine what it would be like aged one, with a bear almost as big as yourself to play with. She wouldn't be able to throw a bear like this around, not at first anyway (which might let him survive his first years in one piece!) But he was definitely cuddly.
He wasn't quite the laughing bear I'd first had in mind, but I decided that the lack of an inane grin didn't matter. He seemed to be a quietly cheerful, optimistic, dependable, reliable, kind-hearted sort of bear. And certainly truthful: a bear likely keep any promise he made. All rather like me, in fact. I thought him Very British.
He was a Charlie Bear, and his official name was Lionheart. It seemed to suit him. But Matilda would rename him soon enough, even if she couldn't yet say the words. He had a collar around his neck, with soft bells attached to it. She'd love that.
It was settled. Tracey was still paying for her bear. I joined in the chat, and eventually paid. I went straight home. On the sofa, Lionheart and Ted eyed each other, but not with hostility:
The other two (Rosie and Fang) came in to view the newcomer:
It must be quite an experience for any bear, being brought home, and wondering what lies ahead. Poor thing. He looked dazed and puzzled, and rather at a loss. It was all very new to him. The other toy creatures at Bears Galore couldn't have told him what to expect. They didn't know themselves. They may have heard a few rumours, and they may have gleaned a few things from customers coming in to look at them, but none of them would ever have seen the inside of a house before - nor met real-world animals like Ted or Rosie or Fang.
I picked up Lionheart more than once, to reassure him that all was well.
An excellent bear. I do hope that Matilda takes to him. The bond between a toy bear and its owner is very special - if it develops. The following pictures will tell you all you need to know about what developed over the years between me and Teddy Tinkoes:
It's a jolly good thing that Ted isn't camera-shy!