The Bear on Bare Lane
by Mike Forde
Not so long ago, the little village of Bare was home to dozens of bears. There was a fluffy little fellow called Winnipeg who was a favourite amongst the locals. He would spend his days scampering around Happy Mount Park begging licks of ice-cream from delighted and terrified children alike. The Svalbard brothers were a shaggy and disreputable pair of bears who could often be spotted at dawn poking about in wheelie bins as they lumbered home from a night of red meat and red wine on Morecambe front. And there was even a grizzly sort of bear working at Bare Lane Station. She was known as Stalingrad and would growl at passengers whilst lumbering up and down the platform in an impatient sort of way.
Over the years, in Bare, as in countless seaside villages up and down the country, many of the bears have moved away. After several complaints about scavenging bears disrupting picnics, large officious signs appeared along the seafront demanding that tourists, DO NOT FEED THE BEARS. There was also a most unfortunate incident in a local play park involving a very hungry bear and a ten-year-old boy who wasn’t quite quick enough. In reality, these misunderstandings were more the fault of one or two problem bears rather than the bear population at large but, as is often the case, the people of the village soon turned against the bears. And within a few years, all the bears from the village of Bare had gone. All the bears, that is, apart from one.
Nanuk is a very very old bear. No-one remembers if her long shaggy fur had faded with her great age or if she had always been a polar sort of bear. Certainly, these days, her fur is wispy and snowy white, unless of course she’s recently popped to the Bare Hairdressers for a tidy up and a purple rinse. Every morning, her weary paws take her down the stairs from her apartment on the seafront. She creaks as she walks and her four legs don’t have single good knee or hip between them but she still manages the same route every day. She plods through Happy Mount Park remembering that little rascal of a bear, Winnipeg who would scamper from one picnic to the next until crumbs covered his brown fur from snout to paw. Sometimes, Nanuk pauses at the crossing by Bare Lane Station and the rattling roar of the passing train brings back the grizzly rumble of old Stalingrad. These days, her old paws don’t take her as far as Morecambe town but before she returns home, she will often turn to look up the bay. She recalls those hot summer days when the handsome Svalbard brothers would vie to take her dancing in a Music Hall on the front.
But the Svalbard brothers went north years ago. Little Winnipeg set off for America and no-one knows what became of old Stalingrad. All the other bears have left the village of Bare. Only Nanuk remains with her memories. Perhaps she is waiting for the bears to return. Or perhaps, she knows that as long as she remembers them, the bears will never truly be gone from the village of Bare.