I was editing one of my photo folders and I’d got to this one. It was me with Matthew Flinders in Donington, Lincolnshire. Andrew Petcher took me on a tour of the area when I was in England in January just prior to Covid-19. I wrote about that back then and I will never be able to thank Andrew enough. For those of you who have made virtual friends online through your blog let me tell you that any time you get a chance to meet those friends in reality take it. I have been lucky to meet five of my blogging friends and in each case it was a great experience and because I am a bit of an old sook it often causes a lump in my throat..
Flinders, for those of you who don’t know, was a sea captain who was the first person to circumnavigate the continent of Australia. He mapped it and proved it was an island. At his feet is his cat Trim (born at sea, Indian Ocean 1797-disappeared Mauritius 1803), who accompanied Flinders to Australia in 1801, survived shipwreck and capture by the French.
Anyway that’s beside the point. As I said, I was looking at this photo when Bear said, and I will put this in bold print, “Who is your friend. I’ve never seen him before?”
I got a bit of a fright. Bear had been sitting looking over my shoulder and I didn’t know he was there.
“It isn’t a friend Bear,” I said. “That is a statue of a famous navigator and I saw it when I was in England a year and a half ago.”
“He looks a bit strange. Do people in England all look like that?”
I must admit I chuckled. “No Bear. It is a statue.”
“What’s a statue?”
“A statue is a copy of a person and it is made of bronze which is a very hard material. There are a lot in Ballarat.”
“I don’t understand,” said Bear. “What is a copy?”
“Look Bear, I have to go down the street in a few minutes. Why don’t I show you?’
So I bundled the bear into the car and went down the street. I drove right to the bottom of Sturt Street and then all the way up and pointed out all the statues. Then I stopped outside the Civic Centre and took Bear to look at one, up close.
Bear stopped me. “Is he friendly. He looks a bit severe, if you don’t mind me saying.”
“Bear, it is just a piece of metal that looks like a person. It can’t hurt you.”
It took me a bit of effort to entice Bear to get closer but eventually we were successful.
Here is Bear, sitting quietly and happily on Sir Walter Scott’s knee. Sorry about the leaf in his face – Bear’s face not Wallie’s.
We came home and I had to spend about an hour explaining why we had a statue of a long dead Scotsman in front of the Civic Centre in Ballarat. We looked long and long at some of my books that Scott had written. When it came down to it I wrote this on the chalk board where I write my shopping list.
He that is without name, without friend, without coin, without country, is still at least a man; and he that has all these is no more.
“So?” said Bear. “Can you put that into Bear talk?”
“I will try, Bear. I will try.
If you were all on your own, stuck in the cupboard where I first found you, not even knowing that your name was ‘Bear”, without anyone to like you or love you or care for you, without any money to buy food or anything, not even knowing where you belonged, you would still be BEAR. And because I do know that my name is ‘John”, and I do have friends and I have got money to buy things when I need them, and I do live here in Ballarat that doesn’t mean I am better than you.
You and I, Bear, have everything we need. You, Bear, are just as important as me. Do you understand?”
“I think so. Can we have biscuits now? Or because it is an important day and I have met Sir Walter Scott, could I have warm milk with toast and vegemite.”
“Yes Bear. Of course you can.”
And I had toast and vegemite as well. With whisky.