A Professional Companion of infinite capacity.
|Being on the pudgy side of my ideal weight, the plus side of sixty years and on the grey side of mental health, I decided to go for a walk. I live in an area of England that is flat, not undulating, we are talking pancakes here, so my first expedition across field and waterlogged fen was, relatively, easy. I made it home with shoes filled with soggy socks and a discovery that my waterproof was wetter inside than outside. But I had memories of an orange fox sloping across a meadow and a herd of roe deer, startled into bouncing into a thicket, flashing their white scuts.
I enjoyed it. A lot. But I let life get in the way and went back to the sofa and afternoon TV. My next brush with the need to be more active was crammed down my throat by my doctor. Never one to mince words, she told me to shift myself or their patients' list would have a vacancy. Serendipitously, I heard about the 1000 miles challenge. It sounds awful. Walk a thousand miles in a year. In reality, it is under three miles a day. And there is a facebook group too. I got myself added in.
I was back into walking, or hiking, or plodding or bimbling. The best word is coddiwompling: to walk purposefully without any particular destination in mind. I did a fair bit of that. I will skirt around my planned walks, they always seem to have geographical misplacements which need on site track adjustments. I have no problem with solitary excursions but... Many of the Badgers have mascots. A word of explanation. Dyed-in-the-wool 1000 milers buy a bright orange badge to identify themselves. Hence Badger. We wear badges. We make no claims to subtlety.
Returning to the mascot idea. I wanted one. Which was odd, I am not an aficionado of soft toys. I do not even have a pet. Nevertheless it bugged me. I wanted a silent companion, one who would not eat my sandwiches, one who always goes at my pace and be patient as I lined up the perfect photo. Then I remembered the hand-sized teddy bear I had been given as a good luck charm before an operation. I woke him up from his long hibernation in a miniature tin bath (Don't ask.) and named him Gladly Golightly.
His first name comes from a hymn we used to sing at school. It starts 'Gladly the cross I'd bear for thee...' We always sang 'Gladly the cross-eyed bear...' He denies having cross eyes, they are small and beady, constantly on the look out for tasty snacks, particularly humbugs and peanut butter. The Golightly bit was a hopeful statement of intent. I always put too much in my rucksack. It has not worked, Himself scoffs my sarnies then denies it, despite the evidence around his muzzle. So I have to lug around extra rations.
As a Professional Companion, he is one of the best. Always eager for an amble across the fields, a trek in the hills, a stumble through ancient forests or city walk. If we miss a day or two, then he becomes Nagging Bear, giving me Hard Looks until we venture forth again. He is a font of local history, myths and legends, and there are plenty of those in East Anglia. (That is the lumpy bit on a map of the UK. If you imagine England and Scotland as a seated man, then East Anglia is his sit-upon.)
One problem that I have with him is his propensity for gymnastics. If we go for a local dander, there is always a footbridge, or six. He has commanded me to explain that in the UK there is an extensive network of public rights of way, which, by law, have to be maintained. That includes small bridges over ditches and brooks. Funambulist* Bear will hop out of my pocket and wobble along the handrail, whistling. He will slip and land astride the bar with a high-pitched squeak and his little eyes spin in opposite directions. With a sideways look at me he groans loudly and slides sideways, casting Himself to the winds, blowing raspberries at a passing robin and performing a back flip mid air. If he is lucky, I catch him. Howzat!* More often he plops in a convenient muddy puddle where little marsh fairies dance a dizzy halo around his head.
Gladly is only a Small Bear, with a soft and plushy portly of infinite capacity. One of his many nick-names is Tardis Tum. The Tardis* is the time and space travelling Dr Who's transport. One of its oddities is that it is larger inside than out. So is his tummy. Gourmand Bear has an almost infinite capacity to ingest anything remotely food like. Count your fingers if you shake his paw. He explained that he, like many Stuffed Companions, has a space-time discontinuity in his innards. I dread to think where the exit to his miniature, internal wormhole might be. I suppose it could explain distant supernovae.
Alas, since he has joined me on adventures, I have not lost weight. My mind, yes. My money, frequently. My way - what is life without navigational challenges? My sanity? My friends have conversations with Garrulous Bear. What I have gained is hours of writing up the blog of our outings and a blithe air of eccentricity as I chat to a Small Stuffed Bear. I am also, strangely, still fat but fitter.
Bless the little Cheery Bear.
*Funambulist: tightrope walker.
*Howzat! : How's that! Shouted when a cricket ball is caught.
*TARDIS: Time And Relative Dimension In Space