Why I've never worn a graduation gown

Once upon a time, there was a bear, sans stuffing. He was sans stuffing because he lived in a shop called 'The Bear Workshop'. This shop was full of unfinished bears, bears without innards, bears without identities, mere shells of bears who sat on shelves with nothing in their middles to stop them from lolling over like sleeping drunks. Only when someone came in to buy them would they be stuffed and dressed in an outfit of the bear buyer's choice.

Our bear, the subject of this story, sat on the shelf, wondering. 'Who will come to buy me?' he wondered. He wondered some more. 'How will I feel when the shop assistant stuffs me with kapok?' he wondered. He wondered some more. 'Which outfit will my new owner choose for me to be dressed in?' he wondered.

'Will they call me Wonder Bear?' he wondered.

But they didn't. So that was all a flippin' waste of effort, all that wondering for no reason.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, which wasn't actually a ranch, but you just have to say that when switching scenes, a woman was standing in her living room, looking at a letter. It was a letter about her graduation ceremony. She had just done her English degree as a mature student. It read: 'Dear Woman. Now you have a degree, you have to come to a long and boring ceremony on a baking hot day in the middle of July. You will have to sit for three hours watching people walk up to a stranger and receive a rolled-up piece of paper. You will have to dress up in a hired black cloak which will make you look like Snape from Harry Potter, and no happier, but about thirteen stones heavier. All in all, you will hate the whole thing. We look forward to welcoming you to the ceremony. Yours sincerely, The University.'

The woman said to her family, 'If they think I'm going to this thing, they can think again. I've got the degree. I don't need to sweat in a heavy black outfit to prove it.' And she filled in the tear-off slip, writing, 'You can stuff your graduation. I don't do fancy dress.'

The woman's family was horrified. 'Not going to her graduation?' they said, horrifiedly. 'But surely we should do something to mark the occasion. What shall we get her?'

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, only it wasn't a ranch, it was the Bear Shop, Not-Wonder-Bear sat, his head on his chest (you try looking straight ahead with nothing in your neck). 'Oh, woe is me,' he began, only one of the other unstuffed bears said, representing a whole shelf of bears who were fed up with him too, 'For heaven's sake, will you cut out the woeing? You've woed all day for weeks now and we're pretty sick and tired of it. One more woe and you're dead.' (One of the other bears thought: How would we tell? but decided not to say. There was a hierarchy round here, that was for sure.)

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, without warning, and completely unexpectedly, there was a surprise twist to the story.

Into the door of the shop walked the woman's daughter. All the bears in the shop looked up. No, they didn't. You just said, they had no necks! For goodness sake, can't you keep your story details consistent? All the bears in the shop sat, looking despondently at the bit of shelf that had been their companion for weeks now. Then, some feet came into view. They were the woman's daughter's feet, and if that's not a pair of apostrophes to be proud of, nothing is. She was browsing through the outfits that hung on tiny hangers, ready to clothe the bears. There were pink ballet outfits. There were police officer outfits. There were clown outfits. There were cowboy outfits. And there, at the end of the rail, was a graduation outfit, in all of its silly, ridiculous glory, but in miniature.

Just out of the corner of his eye, Not-Wonder-Bear could see the graduation outfit. As far as he could get excited, without anything inside him to become excitable, he did. What a honour that would be, to wear a graduation outfit! To look, despite all his fellow unstuffed bears' opinions, like an intellectual, thinking bear. To be able to recite mournful poetry and for it to be completely acceptable, dressed like that.

Being stuffed full of kapok wasn't the best experience he'd ever had, especially as it was through a hole he wasn't aware he'd had. But he would have taken any amount of stuffing just to escape that shelf, and how proud had he been to be chosen by the woman's daughter, with all the others muttering jealousies! He'd even had the courage to yell 'Woe, woe, woe!' over his shoulder as he'd been carried away by the stuffer.

And as the woman's daughter, before she left the shop, pushed his newly-filled arms and legs and head into the minature black cloak, tucked a piece of elastic under his neck to hold on the black hat, hung on his right arm the mock certificate, and carefully fitted a pair of round spectacles onto his face, Not-Wonder-Bear flushed with pleasure. 'Mum's going to love you,' the woman's daughter said, and he thought he would die of joy. What's more, he could see, on the other side of the shop, his old persecutor from the shelf being stuffed and dressed in a pink tutu and a tiara. This was most satisfying.

That night, Not-Wonder-Bear was re-named Brainy Bear by the woman, who was feeling very happy not to have gone to her graduation, because she had earned £80.35 by doing a day's secretarial temping, and it had been a scorching day most unsuitable for dressing up in black and sitting thigh-to-thigh with other hot people dressed in black. The woman loved Brainy Bear and sat him, not on a shelf, but on her desk by a pile of poetry books.

Brainy Bear knew this was just the start of a life of adventure. He didn't know it would include being taken to the woman's school to be sat on a filing cabinet in her new classroom. He didn't know that he would be stripped of his graduation costume by some naughty schoolboys who would get detentions for their misdemeanours but who would never confess where they'd hidden his clothes. (He would have to be bought a new outfit, which was just as well as the elastic was deteriorating and his hat kept slipping sideways.) He didn't know that a year later the woman would find his old set of clothes in a box of textbooks on Reading Skills. He didn't know - could never have imagined - that he would be the subject of a blog post and that his fame would spread throughout the whole wide and extensive world of 46 blog followers.

His journey would take him a long, long way from those days of being sans-stuffing and mocked for his poetic leanings.

He often wondered about the bear who had ended up in pink tutu and tiara. 'Oh woe is him,' he thought, wickedly.


  1. Oh, Brainy Bear, I adore you from way over here across the ocean.

  2. Gosh, that was a nice Sunday morning read Fran!

  3. Sharon - Brainy Bear thanks you for your adoration and sends you a big beary hug. Only with one arm, though, because the other one is clutching his certificate.

  4. Mark - glad to oblige. Watch out for more stuffed toy adventures to come.

  5. What a pair of wimps.
    Still, I'm glad it all worked out for both of you in the end.

  6. Dear Brainy Bear:
    Lucky you! I'm sure you see many interesting things from your perch on top of the filing cabinet. Please fill us in on the details when you get a chance. Oh, and if you ever get to travel on a bus, we want to hear all about it!
    Love, Your Faithful Followers

  7. *gigglesnortin*

    That story was them most fun I've had in weeks.

    Yeah, I know how pathetic that sounds. Woe is me. :P

  8. Friko - Wimps? Wimps? I'm cut to the quick. As is Brainy Bear, who is shedding a little teddy tear right at this moment.

  9. Lesley, the world will never forgive you for suggesting that Brainy Bear gets his own blog. Still, it's a thought, for when I'm on holiday.

  10. Thank you, Amanda. But where's the sarky comment? I expect more from you, girl.

  11. Netta, thank you. And, no, it doesn't sound pathetic at all. But stop making those paper clip necklaces and go out for a stroll.

  12. Oh my Fran, that made me laugh so much (and my jaw's killing!)

    There has to be some marketing scope with Brainy Bear' too. Just fabulous.

    Best wishes

  13. Just catching up on my reading. I hope Brainy Bear doesn't mind me being late to the party! That was pure fun. I'm sure he always brings a smile to your face.

  14. Laura, Brainy Bear is very happy to welcome latecomers, and he is glad that you enjoyed his story. Yes, he does make me smile. He certainly looks a lot better in the get-up than I would have done.


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