EXPLAIN THE BEAR, SIR!
Frankly, I am not sure that I can, but I’ll try. You may think I’m harking back to my early childhood and the statutory teddy-bear, but actually my favorite toy in those days was a home-made hand-knitted penguin which I used to drag around by its head because it was too big for me to carry comfortably.
The net result of this was that the penguin’s head used to come off—knitting has a tendency to unravel—and though various aunts slaved away in the manner of aunts to remedy this decapitation, eventually Penguin grew so unsightly (and disturbing to grown-ups in his frequently headless stuffing-leaking state) that he was hidden away—or otherwise disposed of. In effect, Penguin was murdered. Sensibly, I don’t think I have ever trusted adults since; though I remain decidedly fond of penguins.
Of course, I had a teddy-bear—one couldn’t go anywhere in polite society without one—but I never confused him with Pooh Bear whom I adored. But Pooh Bear existed primarily in my mind as a result of my grandmother reading me the Winnie The Pooh stories, and seemed much more interesting than my personal stuffed bear who didn’t do anything much except lie on my bed. And he didn’t have any friends. No Piglet, Eeore or Kanga. Frankly, I preferred my Siamese cat, Bankok, who liked to sleep on my head—and then go out into the night, and have adventures, and kill things.
A few incidents apart, bears remained largely peripheral to my life until I went to Bern, Switzerland to research GAMES OF THE HANGMAN. There, it was hard to avoid bears, because not only was there a bear pit beside one of my favorite cafes, near a bridge over the River Aare, but the bear is the very symbol of the City of Bern (which was named after a bear) and its image is reproduced everywhere in some form or other. Live bears apart, there are carved bears, embossed bears, stuffed and printed bears in profusion. In fact, I don’t think a more bear-happy city exists anywhere in this wonderful world of ours; and, needless to say, a bear features prominently on Bern’s coat of arms.
You might think I would have found such bear mania somewhat overbearing (Oh dear!) after a time, but actually I grew very attached to Bern and its bears. In fact I even named one of my characters “The Bear” after I had met a Swiss detective who was somewhat shaggy and bear shaped—rather like myself these days.
So much for background. However, my current interest in bears stems from my search for a logo (or brand image)—and it is driven by my implacable friend, Tim Roderick, who coming from a military background (he was a decorated, combat experienced, U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter pilot until not so long ago) believes that a unit badge is a fundamental requirement if one is to survive and prosper, and since I am setting up a publishing unit, a logo is essential. Now the thing to understand about Tim is that he does not give up—which means I have no chance at all of procrastinating to excess over this matter, even if I wanted to. Actually, I don’t. Now my only problem is find a logo that works. And it seems highly likely that it will feature a bear.
Meanwhile—pending the actual designing of the logo—I am experimenting with bear images; and I have to say I rather like having them around. Bears have made no small contribution to my writing life.
A postscript: I have only once encountered bears in the wild, and that was on the lands of a friend of mine who lives in Virginia. We had just left a field and entered some woods when a mother bear and two cubs seemed to erupt from the ground in front of us. Fortunately, there was a small pond in the way—or we might have been in some danger—but they were a wonderful sight and I was vastly impressed by the speed at which they moved. These apparently clumsy creatures were nothing of the sort when danger threatened.