From September 24 2016, the Cambridges will be in Western Canada. It will be the first time the family has travelled together on tour and they are staying with an equally telegenic family – the Trudeaus, who have three young children. Described by the Globe & Mail as a ‘match made in paparazzi heaven,‘ it is expected that, as their first tour with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, there will be plenty of outdoor activity. On Monday they will be bear spotting, trying to find the rare Kermode bear in the Great Bear Rainforest. Here is a story about my family and bears… as always, you will find we are slightly different creatures from the Royals. As I am wont to do, I’m afraid there are quite a few bear-faced puns in here, just to warn you. Hunt them if you dare…
“He is a bit hot, Mummy.”
It is an unseasonable 30 degrees and NG is in the sitting room, wearing a blonde plaited wig and watering our Labrador. She’s been watching the globules drip from his coat onto the carpet for the last few minutes but I have been ignoring it because I’ve got a cold so bad I’m determined to a) find the whiskey and b) publicise it as heavily as Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia to my family.
“OK. Keep sprinkling,” I say from the kitchen, blowing my nose loudly so NW might take pity on me. Sadly, although he has a rare day off from work so we can do something as a pack, he has hurt his shoulder so we are locked in a passive aggressive hint-out about who should take the children to pick blackberries.
“I feel like death,” I say loudly, in the direction of the downstairs loo.
“Did you take the last ibuprofen?” shouts NW above the noise of rattling Calpol bottles. “I can’t see any.”
“Yes, even though it doesn’t do anything for sinusitis,” I croak, locating a bottle of rough red I use for cooking behind the microwave.
“Why didn’t you leave it for me, then?” NW emerges looking pitiful, windmilling his bad shoulder so hard it creates rather a nice breeze. I start to thaw a bit.
I stir my disgusting burgundy hot toddy and sniff. I should say, at this point, that our Lab, NL, really could be a Bear. He is brown and furry, with enormous teeth. He likes tumbling. And honey. And he is truly great at growling.
“Come on, Mummy.” NG pulls my hand towards the shoe rack. “I need my wellies ‘cos they are waterproof. And it might rain.”
I laugh with the sageness of being 35 years older than her and therefore knowing it won’t. “Ok,” I say, and pull on my own new yellow boots, which make me look like Paddington. (I’m feeling too ill not to panda to her).
We rig NC into the bottom bit of the buggy, load up with empty Tupperware and head off towards the bit of scrubland surrounded by knotted trees and brambles we call the forest. NC’s a bit grizzly and with NW giving low roars of pain, me the odd whine and NG prowling about playing hide and seek with herself dressed like Goldilocks and whooping, we make quite a hulla-Baloo.
“Where are the best blackberries?” says NW.
“Right in the middle of the forest,” says NG chirpily, swinging the corkscrew that she has somehow snaffled from the house in her brother’s face.
Eventually, we reach a clearing. And there’s a big surprise: every bear that ever there was is gathered there because it’s the nursery’s teddy bear picnic. There’s an even bigger surprise in that my daughter is actually supposed to be there: I vaguely remember a half-scribbled pink crayon note in the calendar.
NC’s key worker prowls up to me, wearing a Pudsey eye patch. “Hello lovely, you’re a bit late but come and join the fun!”
“I’m at home today,” NC says, wrapping me in a protective bear hug. “Mummy has got a cold.” I shower the poor lady with a sneeze to prove it.
She puts a brave face on it and takes my daughter by the hand.
“Actually, we’re here to pick blackberries,” says NW apologetically. “I’ve got the day off and we thought we’d go on a lovely family outing.”
There is an awkward pause whilst she looks at NG, who is gnawing on the ‘unsafe’ end of the corkscrew, my yellow wellies and NW, who is wincing like Brangelina’s Head of PR.
“Are you alright?” she asks with concern, releasing my little cub.
“I’ve hurt my shoulder but I think I’ll be ok,” he says bravely.
“He did a forward roll, drunk,” I say pointedly. “Like some sort of dancing bear.”
Just then, music starts from the direction of the picnic rug. On cue, twenty six small dancing bears spring into life. NC is unable to resist and trips over to her gang. Twenty seconds in to The Bear Went Over the Mountain there is the unmistakable rumble of thunder.
“Come on,” snarls NW, “let’s get out of here.”
Fat drops of rain start to fall.
He grabs NG’s hand in his massive paw and we stampede through the dripping trees, our daughter bouncing along like Yogi.
When we’ve been jogging for five minutes, the thick canopy of trees overhead doing a wonderful job of a buggy cover, we slow – even NC is panting.
“Where are the blackberries, Mummy?” asks NG plaintively.
“I’m not sure,” I admit. “Maybe Daddy knows.”
NW looks at me narrowly. “Just let me get my bearings,” he says. “I’ll get us out of here, don’t worry.”
At this point, NL, who has behaved very well up to this point, decides to bolt after a rabbit. The poor animal must have myxamatosis as its eyes are pinker than my nose and it puts no effort into its escape. Luckily, NL has the sense of direction of a blindfolded toddler and loses interest immediately.
“Does Daddy know where we’re going?” asks NG, doubtfully, as we emerge from the undergrowth onto a BP garage forecourt.
I blow my nose hard and try to see the bright side in that at least I can buy some tissues. And some whiskey. “I’m not sure, darling,” I say. “I don’t think any of us are really koala-fied.”
Key to characters
NW – husband (not William)
NG – daughter, 3yrs (not George)
NC – son, 1yr (not Charlotte)
NL – dog (not Lupo)