Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures
Monthly Archives: September 2013


by Elspeth

Today is my husband’s birthday and Holly, to whom he’s Daddy Dog, is joining me to wish him a very happy day!




by Elspeth

This is one of the few days in the year when one of the windows is bear-less because today is my dog’s birthday!  Seven years ago, The Bears in the Windows decided that, as Holly is such an important part of my life, although she’s a canine and not an ursine, we should celebrate her birthday with a special window dedicated to dogs! 

Holly came into my life nearly eight years ago and now I couldn’t imagine life without her.  On Christmas Eve 2005, Jim was trying to get me to guess what he had bought me by getting me to solve various cryptic clues.  When he said that the present ‘would change my life’, being in a practical frame of mind, I decided that it must be the new DSLR camera I had my eye on!  However, after several more clues, I finally managed to guess that my Christmas present was, in fact, a puppy – a black Labrador Retriever, appropriately called Holly! 

For as long as I can remember, I had wanted a dog but, with no one at home during the day, my father decreed that it just wasn’t possible.  I had, therefore, just to make do with enjoying other people’s dogs whenever I had the chance.  Of course, now that I am a dog owner, I realise just how wise my father was not to give in to my canine cravings as I now know that dogs need company almost as much as they need regular walks and food.

Jim realised that, if he’d asked me, I’d probably say that the time still wasn’t right and so went ahead and got Holly anyway!  (This isn’t as irresponsible as it may sound because, having his own business, means that Holly is never left on her own as she can go to work with us.)  I can’t say that I didn’t have reservations when I first learned of her imminent arrival as, with a house full of cuddly teddy bears, I thought I might have to choose between them and Holly.  However, after making the house as puppy-proof as we could, the ursine massacre I’d been expecting didn’t take place.  Although Holly is surrounded by bears of all shapes and sizes, remarkably, she has never touched or chewed a single one – in fact, she just ignores them!

As a new dog owner, it came as a real surprise to find that complete strangers would stop for a chat when I was out with Holly, whereas if I had been on my own they’d have ignored me.  I was also amazed to discover just how sensitive dogs are and, if I’m upset, Holly will come over to give me a canine version of a comforting hug!  I could write a book about all the times Holly has made us smile – I probably will one day! 


We always take Holly somewhere to celebrate her birthday.  Last year, we went to Belleisle which is a favourite spot.  It’s always hilarious to watch her unwrapping her presents and then discarding anything that isn’t food!  Like children, she also gets a lot of fun from playing with the wrapping.  Last year, she had a wonderful time running about with a carrier bag over her head and, this year, she managed to wrap herself up in the paper!  However, once she gets home, she does play with the squeaky toys (many of which we’ve bought because we like them) and often brings one to us as a present!  Another endearing trait of Holly’s is that she uses her toys to ‘speak’ or, I should say, ‘squeak’ to us, especially when we’re talking on the phone and she wants to attract our attention!

If you’re a dog owner already, I’m sure you’ll relate to much of what I’ve written and, if you’re not, what are you waiting for?  However, before embarking on a life-changing canine adventure, please remember that, ‘A dog is for all seasons and not just for summer days.’ 


by Elspeth

Today marks the 12th anniversary of 9/11.  Like most of you, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when the airliners packed with innocent people were flown into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.  So much has been said and so much written about what is one the worst outrages experienced in my lifetime, that it’s easy to forget how shocking these events were as they unfolded before our eyes just like a horror film.

“What a miracle life is, and how whimsical that in all their wonder and their pain, their confusion and their joy, human beings had the idea to create teddy bears to keep them company and help them make it through the hard times.”  How poignant these words, written by Ted Menten, a well-known American arctophile, were in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on America on 11th September 2001. 

In the days that followed, some good began to emerge from all the evil and destruction, as people of every nation joined together in an unprecedented way to offer sympathy and support to those affected.  Carpets of flowers quickly formed, both in America itself and at American Embassies around the world.  Many people also began to leave teddy bears and there were soon so many in one of the streets close to Ground Zero that it became known as the ‘Walk of Bears’. 

Knowing that a cuddly teddy would bring some comfort to a child who had lost a parent, Herrington sent 200 specially designed bears to the American Red Cross Family Emergency Center in Manhattan.  Some of the teddies were taken to the firehouse on West 43rd Street, one of the first rescue units to respond, which lost all nine of its men when the Twin Towers collapsed. 

Then, as well as providing comfort and reassurance, the humble teddy bear began to raise money for the various disaster funds.  Ty introduced America – a bear in a beautiful shade of blue with the American flag embroidered on his chest and a ribbon in patriotic red, white and blue round his neck.  100% of the profits from the sale of each bear was donated to the Red Cross.  A few weeks later, Ty announced that two Beanie dogs, appropriately named Rescue and Courage, were to benefit the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children Benefit Fund. 

In this country, ITV’s ‘This Morning’ programme commissioned a Merrythought mourning bear which was sold in aid of the ‘The World Trade Center Disaster Fund’.  Hope, a black bear with a red, white and blue bow and an embroidered logo, caught the public’s imagination and, although the goal was to sell one bear for every life lost, a magnificent 40,000 were actually sold! 

The international teddy bear community offered its support with an auction on eBay called ‘Bear Relief’.  The response was amazing as bear artists, collectors, manufacturers and shops from 15 countries donated over 250 bears and other furry creatures.  I was the lucky winner of several bears, including the delightful Hope, a beautifully made little white teddy who’s holding an even tinier blue bear called Glory, which she wants to give to a child affected by the tragedy.

Another is Nancy, a diminutive teddy created by Canadian artist Nora Walker as a tribute to a woman called Nancy who worked on the 97th floor of the World Trade Centre.  Nora told me that, “’Nancy’, the person, represented what is great about America.  With a working class background, through hard work and perseverance, she became a vice president in the corporate world, and was also a loving wife and a thoughtful friend of dear friends of mine.  ‘Nancy’, the bear, symbolizes the loving connection between all of us.”          

One of the most poignant images of 9/11 was of the New York firefighters entering the burning buildings of the World Trade Centre, risking everything to rescue people, no matter what their nationality or religion.  343 firefighters lost their lives, with many more injured, either physically or psychologically.  One of my most prized bears is, therefore, a pocket-sized teddy, dressed in an authentic firefighter’s uniform, complete with helmet and FDNY emblem.

About 80 loyal search and rescue dogs helped to scour Ground Zero for survivors, working tirelessly with their handlers alongside emergency workers and ordinary members of the public in the desperate search for anyone trapped in the rubble.  Although, sadly, the dogs didn’t find many people alive, they performed another necessary function by providing comfort to the firefighters and workers from the other emergency services.  Just one dog lost its life: Sirius, a yellow Labrador, who perished when the second tower collapsed.  When his body was recovered on 22nd January 2002, the dog received full honours as he was carried out, draped in an American flag, and a special memorial service was held for him a few months later.  Just 12 of these heroic canines, mainly Labrador retrievers, are still alive today.  They have recently been commemorated in a touching series of portraits appropriately entitled ‘Retrieved’. 

Eighteen months after the attacks, my husband and I visited New York and, like most visitors, paid an emotional visit to Ground Zero, still just a huge empty space where the Twin Towers had once stood.  As we contemplated the devastation all around us, our memories the day when we watched with disbelief as the two hijacked planes flew into the World Trade Centre came flooding back.  Amazingly, Century 21, ‘New York’s Best Kept Secret’, where some of the best bargains in Manhattan are to be found, survived practically unscathed and it was a surreal feeling to stand amidst all the hustle and bustle of bargain hunters just a few feet from where nearly 3,000 people had died. 

During our stay, we spoke to many New Yorkers who all had their own personal experiences of that terrible day to tell.  There was the guy whose daughter’s school was located two blocks from the World Trade Centre but thankfully, after several anxious hours, he heard that she was safe.  Another man’s mother, who trained 9/11 operators, was off duty when the planes hit the Twin Towers.  He told us that, if he’d woken her when the news of the attacks first broke, she would have been killed as a mobile rescue unit where she would have been working was crushed by the falling debris killing everyone inside.     

Every year, the Bears in the Windows pay tribute to all those who died on 11th  September 2001, an event which has had such far-reaching consequences for us all.  To mark the tenth anniversary of this most defining event, certainly of my lifetime, I decided to do something a little different from previous years.  With some help from my husband, I combined two iconic images of that terrible day – the cross-shaped steel beam found standing upright amongst the wreckage of the World Trade Centre and the firefighters raising American flag at Ground Zero, showing the terrorists that America would never be beaten.  The centrepiece of one window was a replica of the cross, for so many a symbol of hope, on one side a New York policeman and on the other a New York firefighter.  Sitting closeby was Courage, representing all the brave search and rescue dogs.  The photos on the damaged skyscrapers are authentic as they were taken by me at Ground Zero.

Again thanks to Jim’s outstanding model-making abilities, I also recreated the September 11 Memorial Garden in London’s Grosvenor Square which I’d visited for the first time the previous year.  Located close to the American Embassy, the garden was opened by Princess Anne on 11th September 2003 as a permanent living memorial to the love and courage of those who lost family, friends or colleagues.  This timeless, enduring spot is a place for peaceful contemplation for them – somewhere they can look to the future as well as remember the past. 

A wisteria covered pergola, formed from a single oak trunk, frames the rear of the garden, in the middle of which stands a pavilion on which are carved the words, ‘Grief is the price we pay for love’, part of a message from the Queen read out at a remembrance service held in New York a week after the attacks.  Three bronze plaques list the names of the 67 British victims who died and a memorial stone is inscribed with an extract from For Katrina’s Sun-Dial by American poet Henry Van Dyke – ‘Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is not.’  Resting beneath the stone is a steel girder from the World Trade Centre recovered from Ground Zero.    

The choice of plants for the garden, the brainchild of Alex Clarke, whose daughter died in the Twin Towers, was inspired by a posy presented to Her Majesty the Queen at a memorial service held in Westminster Abbey two months after the atrocities took place.  In the garden you’ary, the plant of friendship and remembrance, ivy, an emblem of fidelity, lilies, embodying purity and the life of the soul, phlox, a traditional love token, coneflower, prized for its healing properties and a white rose called Sally Holmes which flowers in September and so is central to the floral symbolism of the Memorial Garden.  This year, as they have done every year since the garden opened, the family and friends of those who died, laid a white rose on the memorial stone – one for each of the 67 British lives lost.

For me, watching the footage of the destruction of the World Trade Centre 12 years after the event is as dreadful an experience as it was at the time – the horror, disbelief and sense of huge and inexplicable tragedy just as great.  2,976 innocent people died in the attacks on America on 11th September 2001, 2,752 of them in New York where more than 3,000 children lost either a mother or a father.  However, while our attention usually focuses on those who perished in the World Trade Centre, we should also remember the 125 who died when another hijacked plane flew into the Pentagon in Washington and the 40 courageous passengers and crew on board United Airlines Flight 93 who, having managed to divert the plane away from its hijackers’ chosen target (thought to be either the Capitol or the White House), lost their lives in a wooded field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, this outstanding act of heroism saving the lives of countless others. 

 No one old enough to remember will ever forget that dreadful day twelve years ago, forever known simply as 9/11, when the sunny blue skies of an autumn morning turned to smoky grey and New York’s famous skyline and the world changed forever.



by Elspeth

This year the Last Night of the Proms took place on 7th September.  What made the hugely enjoyable event extra-special was because, for the very first time, the conductor was a woman.







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