Edward Explores: Eating out at his local pub

edward at pub

Edward has been on an adventure this month, which pleased him greatly. With restaurants permitted to reopen after lockdown, enquiries were made at his local pub. Hurray! Restrictions have been lifted and customers are being made to feel welcome again. Younger bearer decided it was time to go out for his delayed celebratory birthday meal. Edward likes birthdays. 

Always eager to be appropriately dressed, Edward chose carefully based on the heavy rain that fell on the day selected for the outing. Thankfully, by the time everyone was ready to walk to the venue, clouds had cleared.

The friendly waiting staff offered a table by bookshelves, giving Edward an excellent vantage point from which to observe proceedings. Drinks were ordered along with a sharing platter. Edward was not entirely convinced this was for him.

Edward eats sharing platter

After a lengthy wait, during which Edward had time to peruse several books, more appealing portions were delivered. These looked very tasty.

Edward eats chocolate brownie edward eats biscoff cheesecake Edward eats sticky toffee pudding

From chocolate brownie, biscoff cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding, Edward chose the brownie. He had to try quite a lot of each before coming to this decision. They were all delicious.

As well as eating out, Edward has welcomed two new friends who came to live with him. 

edward and bumble Edward meets Oskar

Bungle is a rescue bear, spotted in a charity shop window and brought home to comfort youngest bearer who had been feeling a little down. Edward has never been able to understand how loyal and undemanding bears end up in such places but is pleased that Bungle – who provides excellent cuddles – has now been given a new forever home.

Oskar is a one of a kind bear from Susie’s Button Bears, purchased to celebrate a bearer’s new job. He mostly lives on her bookshelves along with some other bears from her extensive sleuth.

Edward hopes you are all keeping as well as is possible in these trying times. He is looking forward to further adventures while his bearers remain free to take him out and about again.

Book Review: Dreamy Days and Random Naps

Dreamy Days and Random Naps is the third picture book for adults (although smaller people are also likely to enjoy the daily dilemmas they explore) published by Mawson, a writer bear who lives with his guardian and many furry friends in Perth, Australia. While Mawson sits quietly pondering the complexities of being, his friends: go travelling, play music, dream of heroic deeds, build inventions such as a Hope-Maker. All come to Mawson to share what they have been doing, seeking his wisdom when worries occur.

One thing all the bears understand is the importance of regular naps.

Mawson has wisdom to share in this, an area of particular expertise.

 

The bears nap and dream, dream and nap. They are not afraid to follow when dreams beckon. The travellers go out and then return. The inventors test their creations. Outcomes are not always what was envisaged.

Mawson understands that dreams can be important, offering hope and the chance to make life a little better.

He also understands the importance of not focusing too much on what might have been, or will be in the future, when there is so much to appreciate in the here and now.

There is a hint of melancholy in many of the bears’ ponders – a desire to be something just beyond what is possible. Mawson provides a fine reminder that what we all have – the ability to be in the moment – can be enough if recognised and permitted by each self.

Mawson’s true strength is in being there for his friends, to listen and support whatever their endeavours. Readers can take comfort in his ponders, and maybe strive to be a little more like Mawson themselves.

This is a delightful addition to a series that offers advice sprinkled with gentle humour. The pictures help bring the bears to life.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.


Across the globe in Wiltshire, my bears benefit from Mawson’s wise words.

Book Review: They Threw Us Away

Although I am posting this review well into November, They Threw Us Away, by Daniel Kraus (illustrated by Rovina Cai), was my Halloween read. A story about teddies waking up in the middle of a massive and putrid rubbish dump instead of in the warm bed of a loving child looked to be the perfect horror story for an arctophile such as myself. The tale turned out to be not quite what I had expected.

In the same way that Watership Down features rabbits but is not exactly about rabbits, so They Threw Us Away features a small group of intrepid teddy bears but is not exactly about teddies. Rather, it is an allegory about what is granted value by contemporary humans and the way we too often ignore, discard and put in danger that which should be cherished.

There are certainly horror elements in the story. A scene in the back room of a store is particularly disturbing, evoking as it does images of survivors in the mass graves of genocide victims. The innocence and cute factor of teddy bears soon gives way to recognition of how people can come to be treated when viewed as an unwanted mass, and thereby dehumanised.

They Threw Us Away opens with Buddy, a blue bear made by the prestigious Furrington Company, waking up in a rubbish dump with no memory of how he got there. Finding himself able to move, freed for the first time from the confines of his packaging, he investigates the unpleasant surroundings. Close by he finds four other bears and sets about releasing them too. Together they try to survive the dump’s many predators before deciding they need to escape.

A teddy bear exists to be chosen by a child whose loving hug will send them into Forever Sleep – the teddy equivalent of Happy Ever After. This is the dream that every bear sitting on a shelf in a shop harbours – that they will be chosen and thereby find fulfilment. They may long for a child rather than a Prince Charming but do not give due consideration to life beyond that moment of bonding.

One of the bears, Reginald, is older and has therefore acquired more knowledge. He tells stories of: the Mother; her personal teddy, Proto; and the eight Originals. Reginald remains calm, willing to join the others but morbidly fatalistic. Buddy and his sidekick, Sunny, remain more hopeful that they can somehow return to the world from which they were so inexplicably cast away. All take care of Sugar, who is the most damaged but retains her sweetness. Perhaps in a hat tip to Watership Down, she has a scary vision that her friends cannot yet interpret.

The bears in this story have innate skills such as an ability to read. Bravery and loyalty feature along with an appreciation of hugs and being there when needed. The longer their quest to find children takes, the more their personalities anthropomorphise. Naturally, this leads to damage and distress.

The voices given to some of the bears did not always sit well with the usual image of a teddy as a gentle and loving creature. Proto in particular is portrayed as rather coarse and self-centred. The rest of the sleuth enabled an exploration of the value to be found in differing characteristics.

The images of the city were particularly well rendered – viewed through the lens of small, now rather grubby beings, who understand the danger of being treated as garbage. People emerge as more threatening than the rodents or vehicles (although headlights in the dark are recognised as a warning to flee). The teddies encounter many dangers and do not survive unscathed.

This is the first story in a proposed trilogy. It stands well alone, with a denouement that offers scope for further developments and adventures. Not every thread is tied up neatly, although from hints given much can be inferred. It is not a difficult read, excepting certain distressing scenes. The numerous illustrations are welcome additions, especially when the story appears bleak. Unlike Robyn (this blog’s intern), who reviewed the book here, I would be wary of recommending this to young readers. It is marketed as a children’s book but has a darkness they would need to be capable of dealing with.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, although it took a while to catch the writing’s cadence. I will be interested in finding out what happens to the teddies next.

They Threw Us Away is published by Henry Holt (Macmillan).  

Book Review: She Ran Away From Love

Mawson is a writer bear whose guardian helps him put his ponders into books, thereby helping other baffled beings navigate their lives. I reviewed his debut here.

In this, his second publication, Mawson tells the story of his good friend, Frilly, a small bear with a predilection for all things pink who goes on a brave quest to find herself. Frilly was frightened and ran away when love shone too brightly on her. She seeks happiness but isn’t sure where to look for it after love proved so scary.

The tale opens with Frilly consulting Mawson and asking some big questions. Frilly wants to be different, less afraid, so decides to boldly go out into the world and find the bear she wants to be.

Only a little bit daunted by obstacles along the way, she at last finds a place where she may be whatever she chooses. This doesn’t offer the satisfaction expected. Frilly returns home saddened and confused.

She asks Mawson how she can ever find happiness. After consulting his many books, Mawson has the answer, yet Frilly still feels sad. Some answers require a little more personal tailoring to be effective. They require effort and reaction.

Mawson doesn’t give up. He knows that Frilly must find her own way to address how she is feeling, but he has helpful suggestions as to things she might try. Between them they manage to work out what Frilly can do to cope with times that prove difficult. In better understanding what happiness is, Frilly is able to move forward and be more like the bear she aspires to be.

The joy of these books is their gentle approach to universal dilemmas. Mawson may not be a typical guru but he cares and has time for his friends. He understands the importance of a hug. He can sit quietly and listen, offering advice but only if requested. He shows no resentment when friends choose to leave him behind, even when staying at home may appear the safer option.

There is humour as well as wisdom in these pages. Readers, whatever their age, can empathise with a small bear whose life has its shadows that will at times make navigation a challenge.

Life advice from bears that is on point but never didactic. What’s not to love?

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.

 

 


Mawson’s latest book being enjoyed by one of my small bears

Book Review: It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In

Today I review a book that is a little different to my normal fare. Sent to me all the way from Australia, although available to buy in the UK, It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In is a 50 page picture book suitable for anyone who sometimes feels confused and lonely in our beautiful world.

Narrated by a sleuth of teddy bears, led by the fluffy author, Mawson, it ponders how one’s importance to a special Some One can change over time. It accepts the pain of loss, makes suggestions about how to cope, and offers hope for future happiness.

The opening premise is that everyone wants to be loved and to have their love appreciated. There is still so much love on offer in our big, bright world.

The problem can be finding that special Some One when the world is so big. We can be primed and ready to give but still have to wait, and time passes slowly when waiting.

The bears remember days of fun and adventure when they explored and played with their Some One, before that Some One chose to go out into the wider world without them.

They ponder how hard it is to keep playing the games that had been such fun, and the difficulty of caring for a Some One who isn’t there.

The bears do their best to occupy themselves but life is so much better when their Some One returns.

The story explores the possibility that one day this won’t happen, that their Some One will be gone, and life must still go on.

The context, of course, is wider than a lonely teddy bear. The story progression offers a reminder to make the most of Some One’s company, be they family, friend or partner, to enjoy each day for what it is. Mawson and his furry friends appreciate the happy days and are perplexed when they end.

If Some One goes, although it will hurt, there is the possibility of one day being found by Some One else. Until that time there are games to be played, even if they aren’t quite as enjoyable as before.

The book could offer solace for anyone in need of company for their adventures, a child who has been let down or an adult who has been left behind or lost a loved one.

The reasons for change may be baffling, but ultimately there is hope.

I admit that I have a soft spot for teddy bears. This little story made me well up, made me want to hug every one of the bears in my (ahem) extensive collection. It also made me appreciate the humans who join me on my adventures. It is a lovely, poignant story with delightful illustrations. It would make a thoughtful gift, including for yourself.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the furry author’s Some One.

My own little bears enjoyed reading it too.

 

 

Teddy Bear

I collect teddy bears. I have always had a soft spot for cuddly toys and this developed into a collection when my husband bought me a small bear, who I named Edward Gainsborough, a year or so after we got married. This delightful little companion joined my childhood bear, a few family bears that I rescued from a dusty, lonely life spent in my parent’s attic, and a number of cheaper, plush bears that I had picked up in my travels through life over the preceding years.

Before our children were born, in the days when tax rules did not make having a company car with fuel included a prohibitively expensive perk, my husband and I used to drive around Cotswold villages on free weekends visiting specialist teddy bear shops. Here I would find adorable bears who were eager to come home with me, along with accessories to make a teddy’s life more fun. I decorated one of our bedrooms and put up shelves to allow my growing collection to be displayed. A few visitors to our house thought that I was creating a nursery; at the time, children were not a part of our plans.

When my husband and I went on one of our many walks, we would enjoy taking a break at a convenient teashop. I got into the habit of bringing Edward along to share our tea and cake. He would also accompany us on picnics, travelling in the wicker hamper we kept in the boot of the car. I would photograph him and smile to myself at the looks passing strangers would give us for our unconventional behaviour.

When the children were born my focus changed and we had less time to devote to such amusing pastimes. I was still very fond of my teddy bears though. Each child was given a Steiff bear for their first birthday to ensure that they had a furry friend to guard them and chase away the monsters that lurk in the dark corners of bedrooms. Edward always sleeps by my bed at night, wherever I am staying.

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It took quite a few years to get to the point where going out did not demand that I carry a large bag full of nappies, snacks, juice and amusing distractions for the children. Once we got through this stage though, Edward once again started to accompany us on days away. I loved the fact that we were all quite happy to be seen out and about carrying a small bear, posing with him at famous landmarks and photographing him on his adventures. We certainly got some strange looks from those around us, but seemed to raise smiles from strangers with our antics, which can’t be a bad thing.

I probably have a couple of dozen teddy bears in my collection. The room that was decorated for them did eventually become our nursery so they were moved to alternative locations around our home. I am tempted to buy bears wherever I go but try hard to contain such desires. Occasionally, of course, I will give in and treat myself.

This summer I picked up a lovely little fellow from a shop in Hampshire called Bear It In Mind. The ladies running this business repair and restore toys as well as selling their signature ‘Bartie’ alongside other British made teddies. They made Edward and I very welcome and treated my passion as perfectly normal.

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Edward meets the original Bartie Bristle at Bear it in Mind.

I have grown used to having my predilection for travelling with my little bear, and photographing him wherever I go, treated kindly. I do not consider it particularly childish but accept that it is eccentric. How boring life would be though if we could not act the way we wish; if every action had to be judged on it’s compliance with cool conventionality. Showing a little love to a small, stuffed toy; conferring him with feelings and a personality; none of this causes harm to anyone else and gives me amusement and pleasure.

Teddy bears are non judgemental, comforting companions. It is my view that the world would be a better place if the same could be said for more humans.

Camping highlights and challenges

When an event or activity is planned I gain enjoyment from the anticipation, participation and reminiscence. These are just a few of the highlights from our recent camping trip that I will look back on with pleasure.

  • Sunny days, balmy nights, and the gentle lullaby of light rain on the tent as we tried to sleep.
  • A quiet and peaceful site, mercifully free of the large groups who chat and laugh into the night as others yearn for sleep.
  • Elder son wandering the dry and dusty field around our tent barefoot until his feet resembled those of a hobbit.
  • Cycling out to the neighbouring airfield to watch the model plane enthusiasts flying their crafts, then on through the forest to pick up the day’s groceries, buy cooling ice creams and watch the trains.
  • The warmth of the sun as the rays slowly darkened our skin tone as the week progressed.
  • Time to read books and magazines, practise circus skills, learn new card tricks.
  • Shopping for teddy bears in a nearby town then setting up elaborate photo shoots to post on Edward Gainsborough – Teddy Bear‘s Facebook page when we returned home.
  • Hot showers each morning, cold wine each evening.
  • Shared time together without the distractions of the plethora of electronic media that entertain us whilst at home.

Of course, not everything went to plan. These are just a few of the misadventures that we survived.

  • Our newly purchased mallet snapped as we tried to hammer tent pegs into the sun baked ground making putting up the tent securely a challenge.
  • Unable to keep anything cold through the warm and sunny days, our butter turned to liquid covering everything in our not so cool box with grease and forcing us to manage without this tasty topping for the remainder of the holiday.
  • A leaky air bed that partially deflated each night leaving the occupant tired and achy, although mercifully not grumpy.
  • A herd of New Forest ponies stampeding through the campsite as we ate our breakfast one morning – scary!
  • An attempt to brew a refreshing cup of tea became an exercise in quick reactions when our small stove caught fire (gas cylinder not correctly connected) within a couple of feet of our tent. This one could have been a disaster…

We cycled as a means of transport but had difficulty persuading younger son to walk in the beautiful countryside that surrounded our campsite and was a major reason for choosing this location. In an effort to spend a day that would please him we paid for entrance to the nearby National Motor Museum. He enjoyed the extensive collection of cars but became difficult once again when we insisted on exploring the abbey and house as well. His intransigence was all the harder to bear as normally we eschew expensive visitor attractions, making use instead of the beautiful locations that are available for free to those who will seek them out. We were not impressed by his attitude.

With the ups and downs of the trip, five days was probably just a little too long to be away. Too many requests were ignored by our teenagers, too many refusals to compromise and fit in with what others wanted from their time away.

There was, however, also a feeling of togetherness that is all but impossible to achieve at home where personal space is plentiful and distractions tailored to suit each individual. We took time out of our everyday lives to share a back to basics experience. As time passes we will remember the positives with pleasure and come to laugh ruefully at the negatives. My children are growing older; I will value all of the time that I can share with them before their inevitable moving away, that will be all too soon coming.

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