Thursday, 31 May 2012

With hindsight, it was probably not the wisest thing I ever did when I decided to buy Oliver a tent. Or, for that matter, the backpack and sleeping bag which went with it. When he saw the tent and realised it was a little house just for him he was thrilled, and insisted on sitting in it in the middle of the lounge, where we kept tripping over it.
A few days later, I told Oliver that we - my husband, daughter and myself - were taking a short break in the Lake District, explaining that we planned to travel light and so there wouldn't be room for bears. He quite agreed, saying that they did take up a lot of room, and that he didn't like being squashed by bears either. That's when I realised that Oliver doesn't count himself as a bear.

So it was, that Oliver, staggering under the weight of a backpack, case in each paw, and trailing his tent behind him, clambered into the car, and, once he had settled, we set off, to Coniston in Cumbria. As usual, I'll let him tell the story in his own words but will correct his spelling and punctuation because sentences such as 'wee sore beetrex poter's hows hylltopp? &Ware petIr rabbbet!" livd' are not conducive to an easy read.



I packed my tent and my sleeping bag because we are going to the Lake District. It sounds very wet, and I hope I dont have to do much swimming as I sink easily. I am taking my wellies and my deep-sea diving outfit which has a mask and a snorkel. I have never used it and dont want to, but if everyone else jumps into the lake I dont want to be left behind. Because I cant cook.

The journey took ages, but the scenery was pretty with lots of flowers and trees. Then it began to get hilly, in fact I think they were mountains. They looked very high. We stopped at a place called Ribblehead, where there was an enormous bridge with lots of arches, called a viaduct, stretching right across a valley. Then an engine pulling lots of trucks went over the viaduct - I expect the driver had a smashing view. I think I would like to be an engine driver, because I would like to blow the big whistle and frighten all the sheep and cows.

We saw lots of lakes, and then we went past a really big one called Coniston, and Sue said the chalet was nearby. The chalet was made of wood and it was very cosy, and had lots of comfortable furniture and a balcony which looked over some grass and lots of trees. I started to chill out on the settee, waiting for my dinner, when Sue pointed to the grass outside and said, You can put your tent up there. Byee!
 I gave Sue a hard glare, opened the door and trudged down to the grass. It was wet. And dark, And cold. Something, probably a dragon, was snuffling in the bushes. I managed to get my tent up, once Id got my paw unstuck from the velcro fastenings, but I couldnt undo the buckles on my backpack. I heard something swooping overhead and I knew it was a bat. Bats get caught up in teddy fur. Then an owl called, he went hoooo-wooooh - I bet he ate bears for dinner. My tummy rumbled. I could see the lights in the chalet. Suddenly, I ran through the grass before the dragon, the owl and the bat could catch me and I climbed up the steps and pushed open the door. Everyone was having dinner. Sue had laid a place for me! So I sat on a chair, and she said, I guessed youd be back. Ill try camping again tomorrow. In the daytime.


We had a lovely day. We went to a place called Sawrey, and visited Beatrix Potters house, Hill Top, where I thought Peter Rabbit lived. Sue told me that Peter Rabbit didnt really live there, but she showed me the dresser from the Tale of Samuel Whiskers, the doll's food which the Two Bad Mice stole and the Tailor Of Gloucester's clock. We saw some of Beatrix Potters dolls, too, but she didnt have a teddy bear, which was a bit sad. I remembered seeing the pretty garden in my Tale of Tom Kitten book. Later we went to Hawkshead where we saw some of Beatrix Potters beautiful paintings. I was hungry, so we went for a cream tea with scones in a hotel, and then drove to Tarn Howe where we walked beside the lake. It was very quite and peaceful. We went back to Coniston, stopping to look at the views. I slept in the chalet, because I could hear snuffling outside.


Today we went to Rydal Mount. It was where a poet called Wordsworth used to live. He was very famous and wrote a poem all about daffodils, which Sue told to me as we walked round his house. The garden was really pretty, though I couldnt see any daffodils, but there were loads of bluebells which had a lovely smell. We found the summerhouse where Wordsworth used to think up his poems, and we sat in it to see if it made us think of poems too. I thought of one. Sue said it was unusual, which I think means excellent.
Olivers Poem by Oliver
Two little teddy bears
Going for a swim
One was friendly
And the other one was Jim.

We then visited Dove Cottage, Grasmere, where Wordsworth also once lived. It was small, yet nine people had lived there, and they used candles and rush-lights. I liked it there, it was really interesting. Best of all was the cafe in the village, because I had hot chocolate fudge cake with ice-cream. It was very yummy. Then I had to have a wash. Sue wanted to know how I had managed to get chocolate on my ears and my sit-upon. I dont know, chocolate just does that.

Later, we went to Derwent Water, Thirlmere and the Honister Pass. We saw lots of sheep, and it was sunny and very beautiful. I like the Lake District, because you dont have to swim in the lakes. I frightened a man by mistake - we drove by Coniston Water, and he was sitting in a little boat drinking from a mug. He looked up as we passed, and I kind of slipped along the window. He did a double-take, looked at his drink, then back at me. Perhaps he was surprised to see a teddy bear waving at him from a car!
When we reached the chalet, Sue asked me when I was going to start using my tent. I pretended my ear was full of fluff and couldnt hear her, and curled up on the sofa.


We had a really exciting day today - we went on a boat! The boat was called 'Miss Cumbria' and we caught it at Lakeside. It took us to Bowness. It was chilly on the boat, though the sun was out, but it didnt matter because the scenery was lovely, and there were other boats, ducks and swans. I wish I lived in a house next to the lake, I could go on a boat every day.

When we reached Bowness, we went to a little shop and Sue bought me some Kendal Mint Cake which she said was a special treat in the Lake District. It was soon time to catch the boat back to Lakeside, and this time we went on the 'Tern'. We had lunch at Lakeside, then went to see a waterfall at a place called Aira Force, and I had a snack.


When we got back to the chalet, I took my tent and backpack and stomped down to the grass. I put my tent up and it was nice. The birds were singing, and I climbed into my sleeping bag. Then I felt hungry, so I took my tent down, rolled up my sleeping bag and went back to the chalet. Sue sighed and laid another place at the table. Home tomorrow!


Going home seemed much quicker than coming. When we arrived, I went to see my friends in the hug and told them all about the fun Id had, sleeping in my tent with the owls whoo-hooing and dragons snuffling outside.


Sunday, 6 May 2012


When I told Oliver we were going to Wales, he immediately thought I meant Whales, and hurried off to pack his scuba diving outfit. After a slight kerfuffle involving a bear, a foot stuck in a flipper and a snorkel with a squashed top, I eased him from the suit, and he sat eyeing me crossly from behind an enormous pile of chocolate spread sandwiches – his comfort food. Although Oliver’s visions of conquering the high seas to seek out Moby Dick had been cruelly dashed, he perked up considerably when I explained that Wales was a land of castles, trains and waterfalls, and was soon waiting by the back gate, his suitcase at the ready. As usual, he kept a diary of his holiday, and, also as usual, I have edited his bear-type spelling which consists of sentences such as ‘in wayles thare is lotz of watter and su tolld me that sumtyms thare ar seels swimin in the eschuery’. I have put my comments in brackets.


Me and Sue and the others (notice how dismissive Oliver is of my husband and my daughter) went to Wales today. It was a long journey, but it was very exciting when we saw the mountains in the distance. We are staying at Porthmadog in a lovely flat, right by the river and near the Ffestiniog station where the steam trains are. I spent a long while looking out of the patio doors at the water; there were some children opposite fishing for crabs. When they caught one, they threw it straight back again. It seemed soppy to me, I can never understand how humans think. I’m glad I’m a bear.


I was excited when Sue said that, today, we could ride on a steam train on the Ffestiniog railway. She explained that the train would take us right up to a slate mine in the mountains, and I had a seat next to the window so I could see the sheep and the beautiful scenery. Our train was called the Merddin Emrys and was ‘a double header’ which meant you got two engines for the price of one. I had my photo taken with the train. Later on we went for a drive in the car and ended up at the Llechwedd slate mine – and I found a new friend there. His name is Taffy, he is a Welsh bear and to prove it he wears a green jumper with a Welsh dragon on the front. He came back to the flat with me. (I had no choice in this matter. Taffy attached himself to Oliver in the shop, and I wasn’t sure whether bears could be accused of shoplifting, so thought I had better pay up.)


It rained. And then it rained. And then it rained some more. Later, we heard that there had been so much rain, it broke the June records in Britain. We decided to go to Betws-y-Coed and look round the shops, but I got wet ‘cos I can’t run very fast as I only have little legs and I had forgotten my brolly. Also, I fell into a puddle. I didn’t like that, but Sue took me to a café for some hot soup to warm me up. Then we went for a drive through the mountains – it was very exciting as water was pouring down across the road, and we had to drive through very deep puddles which sent spray all over the car. We saw rivers swirling through the fields, and when we went past a reservoir, we saw that a house had water halfway up the wall. (And a certain bear had to be restrained when he decided he wanted to visit that house, with the water halfway up the wall.)

In the evening we went to Criccieth and sat by the sea. There was a castle on the cliff, and we saw a rainbow right over the water. The ends of it were in the sea, so if you tried to dig for the pot of gold, you would get very wet. (Once again, a certain bear had to be held back – he didn’t realise the sea was deep.)


Sue told me we were going to visit a very pretty village today; she said it was one of her favourite places. Now it is one of my favourites, too. The village was called Portmeirion, and was built over seventy years ago by a man called Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, in an Italian style, with pink and blue and yellow cottages, and lots of pillars, balconies and statues. There were beautiful gardens, and you could walk down to the estuary and see the long stretches of pale gold sand. We had yummy ice-creams there, and a delicious meal. Sue took me into the china shop which sells special Portmeirion plates and cups and vases; I knew about Portmeirion china because we use it at home – well, Sue and the others do. I have to use my plastic plate and mug, as Sue thinks I’m clumsy. I’m not really clumsy, but bear’s paws can’t always hold things properly. Sue bought a lovely big bowl decorated with fish, in the shop. (Yes, and I made sure it was packaged up in bubble wrap, and placed well out of reach of little paws.)


In Wales there is lots of water and Sue told me that sometimes there are seals swimming in the estuary. Suddenly, I saw one! I was just looking out of the patio window when I noticed a seal in the water, eating a huge fish. I watched him for a long while as he dived below the water, then popped up again with his fish. We went to a Slate Museum today, at Llanberis, which is right at the bottom of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. There was a little train which went round the lake, and there were shops selling wooden toys and pottery. The museum was really interesting, and you could see all the wagons they used in the mines.

Later, we went to a village called Beddgelert. Really, it should be called Beargelert, because many years ago, a very brave teddy bear was guarding a baby when a wolf rushed in. The teddy fought the wolf and killed him, but when the baby’s father returned, he saw the upturned cot and the baby on the floor, and thought the teddy had gone mad and tried to kill the baby – so he chopped the bear into bits. Then he found the dead wolf, but the poor teddy couldn’t be mended, so he was buried at Beargelert, and now thousands of people visit the village to see where the brave bear is lying. (Very touching, Oliver – but it was, actually, a brave dog, not a bear….)


Today we visited Llandudno, and went right up to the top of a huge hill called the Great Orme. It was very, very windy – I nearly got blown over the edge, but Sue held on to me really tightly. (Perhaps I should have let go.) There was a lovely view over the sea, and there was also a café serving delicious dinners. (What is it about bears and their tummies?) Later, we went to the Alice In Wonderland exhibition which is in the town. When Alice was a little girl, she often visited Llandudno. Lewis Carroll wrote a story about her. A long while after, a statue of the white rabbit was put on the cliff. I think there should be a statue of me there, because I’m a famous bear and I visited the town too. (I think you are a big-headed bear, and if anyone deserves a statue it is me, for putting up with you.)


Today we visited Caernarvon, which is a very important place in Wales, and it’s where Prince Charles was invested forty years ago. I have a new vest, too, but I didn’t get mine in a castle, I got it in a shop which sells teddy clothes. (You didn’t actually need to discuss your vest with the bemused man in the ticket booth - it was quite embarrassing.) The castle is by the river, and there were lots of boats. It was still very windy though. On the way back, we stopped at place set up by the RSPB where you could see big birds, called ospreys, nesting in a tree. I looked through the telescope and saw one fluttering his wings. I would like to be an osprey and catch fish with my toes, too.


We came home today. I really liked Wales, I think I would enjoy living in a Welsh castle; one with a waterfall near by and a steam train running round the outside. And I would like a pet Welsh dragon. (You’re welcome to go, Oliver….)  I am sad, though, that Kate and Wills didn't invite me to tea. I s'pect they didn't know I was coming to Wales. (Oliver, I bet they did know, and so they decided to go out.)