The characters in Philip Pullman’s wonderful trilogy His Dark Materials each had a daemon: an outward manifestation of their soul in the form of a companion animal. Chris’s daemon would undoubtedly have been a bear (and mine a hare, incidentally). She loved bears in all their manifestations: from Teddy Bears to Grizzlies; from Polar Bears to Paddington.
As a child she won a story competition to meet Michael Bond (the author who created Paddington Bear). Throughout her life, she collected a multitude of toy bears including the venerable centenarian “Sophie Hannah.” She even wrote a book about the Teddy Bear industry.
As she grew up, Chris yearned to commune with real bears. Her chance came in 2010 when she watched a TV programme called The Man Who Walks with Bears about an American scientist, Dr Lynn Rogers, who has studied black bears in their natural habitat for many years.
She did a quick search on the Internet; learned that he offered occasional courses at his Wildlife Research Centre in Minnesota, for people to come and study black bear behaviour; discovered that there was one place left and booked it on the spot. “I’m going,” she told me. “But I’ve found a place nearby where you can stay and write.”
It was a statement not a question and, knowing how much it meant to her, I was happy to go along with it. Luckily for me, a week before the course began, one of the other participants dropped out so I was able to go as well. It was an extraordinary experience and Chris later wrote about it for the Holistic Science Journal. Every word of her article is true except for the sentence in which she claims that she has “grown out of childhood teddy bears.”
I have incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. When Chris and I first got together, I introduced her to Douglas Bear my old Teddy. I produced him from behind my back one night as I was about to leave for home. “Douglas would like to stay,” I said. “Would you look after him please?”
It was my best ever chat up line.
Douglas stayed and so did I.