Thursday, 19 June 2014

KID KLASSICS - LITTLE LOST BEAR ON A BEACH...



A small breeze blew in off the sea as I strolled along Portsmouth
beach on a mid-evening in March, back in 1981.  Gulls circled over-
head, keen eyes peeled for edible titbits dropped by careless passers-
by, out for an idle wander (like myself) or a bracing 'constitutional'
before returning home for a relaxing 'nightcap' prior to bedtime.

Turning my gaze from Neptune's watery domain, I was momen-
tarily startled by what appeared to be a small body lying face down
on the pebbles a little ahead of me.  As I got nearer I could see it was
a sopping wet Teddy bear which had been washed up by the tide,
presumably having fallen overboard from some ship or ferry.

I stopped to observe his drenched and pitiful form and, I blush
to confess, found myself (much to my surprise) feeling somewhat
sorry for the little chap.  I picked him up, noticing how heavy he was
due to his immersion, and squeezed his purloined portion of ocean
onto the beach.  Then I sat him in a more comfortable position
and studied his bedraggled face thoughtfully.

Was some heartbroken and inconsolable child at that very
moment lamenting his loss and praying for his safe return?  Or had
poor ol' Ted been cast into the briny deep on the perverse whim of
some capricious brat curious to see if he would float or sink?  Who
could say?  There was no mistaking, however, that here was a
fellow in need of a helping hand if ever there was one.

At some stage in his life Teddy had lost his eyes, whether as
a result of his seafaring adventure or some previous misfortune
I am unable to say.  As he sat there, I could swear he was aware of
my presence, too proud to beg, but listening intently, head slightly
cocked, silently hoping that I would not forsake him.  If I ignored this
noble bear's unspoken plea, his likely destiny seemed either to be
gathered unto the sea once more and consigned to its depths, or
to end his span on a refuse tip when those responsible for main-
tenance of the beach spotted his unauthorised occupation.

A sense of shame fills my soul as I now recall my response
to this poor creature's plight.  I hardened my heart and turned
my step in the direction of home, telling myself that he was too wet
to carry, that my landlady wouldn't allow him on the premises, that
I would be unable to find him a new owner on account of his blind
and wretched condition.  As I departed with crunching footsteps,
I seemed to hear what sounded like a faint, sad sigh behind me.

Just for a moment my resolve weakened, but I managed to
hold fast.  However, something told me that this poor bear's exist-
ence should not go unrecorded;  that there should be some kind of
reminder of his short sojourn on Earth when, hopefully, he had once
been loved and cherished and validated by the affections of a child
whose life revolved solely around him.  So I turned, beat down the
nagging voice in my heart, and snapped a photo before aban-
doning this soggy, sorry, uncomplaining little bear to the
encroaching gloom of evening.

Even today, over thirty years later, I sometimes find
my thoughts returning to that little lost bear and hoping that a
kinder person than myself gave him the good and loving home he
deserved, and which I in my selfishness had denied him.  Ashamed
of my heartlessness, I seek a small measure of consolation in the
hope that, regardless of his eventual fate, he would have under-
stood and forgiven me for not being the good Samaritan that
I should have been.

He just looked to be that sort of a bear.

******

(And, by the magic of technology, Ted has now been given
a bit of a 'wash' and had his sight restored.  Ahhh.)

13 comments:

Gey Blabby said...

Jings, Kid, William Styron himself'll be ringing you up soon to ask for lessons in feeling guilty after reading your stories about the bear and the ornament, y'ken.

Kid said...

I've got tons of guilt I haven't even used yet - wanna buy some? Roll up, roll up - get yer guilt here!

DeadSpiderEye said...

There's a beach in Portsmouth? Now there's news to me. It doesn't surprise me that your coastal ambulations stir some reflective thought though. I find a certain mood haunts the coast round there, especially out of season. Selsey, a few miles away, is laden with a particular mood, West beach with its prominent lifeboat house and a row of public benches facing the sea, that seems to stretch for miles, each one with a memorial dedication. Yep that kind of thing evokes some interesting reflection, the kind that would endow the erstwhile trivial flotsam found scattered on the shoreline with a sublime significance.

Colin Jones said...

Kid, feeling guilty about inanimate objects makes no sense but it's happened to me too. While I was reading the post I assumed it was going to end with you saying that the bear now sits in your front room, all happy and dry with new eyes - but you left him on the beach, you monster !!!!

Kid said...

Admittedly, it's a beach consisting of pebbles rather than sand, but I think it's still (just) qualifies as a beach. There's nothing like considering the immensity and majesty of the sea to make one realise one's own inconsequence in the great scheme of things. Yup, seashores are places full of mood, sure enough.

Kid said...

And don't I know it. At least his image fared better for posterity. He survives in that and memory, if nothing else. I sometimes wonder if the child who owned him (now an adult) has long since forgotten him, or yet thinks of him on occasion.

Colin Jones said...

Kid, he could have been owned by an adult - Gyles Brandreth has a whole collection of them. I've been reading the letters pages from the POTA weekly on the Hunter's POTA website and I wondered the same thing about those letter writers -how many of them remember about their childhood love for POTA and do they still care or remember that they had a letter printed ? Those letters were a window into a vanished past and were both fascinating and poignant.

Gey Blabby said...

"I sometimes wonder if the child who owned him (now an adult) has long since forgotten him, or yet thinks of him on occasion."

Hopefully that child didn't drop his bear on the beach when he was swept out to sea, Kid. Hopefully he went on to grow up and become an adult, unlike the one in the poem by Robert Service:

'Do you sometimes long for a chubby hand,
And a voice so sweetly shrill?
O Teddy Bear! don't you understand
Why the house is awf'ly still?
You sit with your muzzle propped on your paws,
And your whimsical face askew.
Don't wait, don't wait for your friend ... because
He's sleeping and dreaming too."

Kid said...

Indeed, Col. And I sometimes wonder how many of them are deceased and beyond caring that they ever had a letter printed, even 'though, in some instances, it may be one of the few things that marks their perhaps brief existence.

******

Ah, Robert Service - now there was a poet. There's a profound and poignant sadness that permeates that poem (which I've never read before) that appeals to me. Is that the full poem, GB, and what's its title?

Gey Blabby said...

http://worlds-poetry.com/robert_service/teddy_bear

It's just called Teddy Bear, Kid, although I like the Portuguese version Urso Do Teddy. It is indeed a sad poem.

Kid said...

I'm off to look at that link right now, GB - ta much.

DeadSpiderEye said...

I recall now that I've actually been to the beach in Portsmouth, if the details of that recollection are correct there's a stumpy pier there and I think that shingle is an artificial addition, they've dumped that stuff all around the coast there. Plays havoc with your fishing line, cos it's not weathered and I daren't think what it's like for the knippers walking over it to get into to the sea to do some paddling, I recall that from days gone by and it's absolute torture.

Kid said...

I remember being surprised at there being no sand, just pebbles. I take it Southsea has its own stretch of beach, but I can't recall whether it had sand or not. Looks like it 'though in the postcards.

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