A long time ago, when my children were young, Graham was about seven and Helen four, my wife, Susanne, and I took them on a family holiday to Northumberland. We camped there in our trailer tent for two weeks. It was sunny mostly with just a little rain. There were old castles to explore, sandy beaches to dig, sandcastles to build for the incoming tide to knock down and windy walks along the seashore. We had a lovely time.
One of the highlights was celebrating birthdays. Both Susanne’s and Graham’s are in the school summer holidays. We were recommended a restaurant near the campsite. We arrived early because the children were still young and bedtime was also early.
Being near the Scottish border, the restaurant walls were covered with tartans. There were fascinating displays of armour and weapons amongst them. The best thing, though, was an enormous, stuffed, grizzly bear. It stood on its hind legs with its front paws and claws extending upwards. Its mouth was wide open, displaying an amazing amount of sharp white teeth as if it was just about to emit an ear-piercing growl.
We were the first customers that evening and after choosing a table, we sat down and chose from the menu. We settled down with our drinks to wait for the food to arrive. That took a while as I’m not sure the chefs were quite ready. It was very early. The children became restless. What could we do? We didn’t want them running around the tables. Inspiration came. I started to tell them about the stuffed bear. It was a magic bear that came alive at night when the restaurant was closed. It wandered around amongst the shadows of the dark restaurant. It would go to the kitchen, open the fridge and choose something nice to eat. I was describing how the bear would go quietly up the stairs, open the doors and explore all the rooms, when the food arrived.
I quickly said I would finish off the story and write it all down for them, another time.
It was to be ten years later that I wrote it.