Once upon a time there was a very special bear called Arthur. He was a bear with itchy feet, who liked to find places which made him smile, that felt good to be in.
One day he got on the train to Cambridge. He passed hurrying students in gowns and dawdling tourists admiring the sights. He saw the famous Bridge of Sighs, walked down Kings Parade and heard the famous choirboys singing. He saw the Mathematical Bridge, made of wood, and watched the funny long boats called punts going up and down the river- he even saw someone fall in!
He smiled a few times and felt good but it was busy and crowded, and the sunshine made him feel sleepy. When he looked at his watch he realised he'd spent so long watching the boats, he had missed his train.
At the station Arthur was about to join the other bored looking people in the waiting room (the next train wasn't for two hours) but something, perhaps his itchy feet, made him go and explore in the other direction.
The roads twisted and turned and criss-crossed and before he knew it he was well and truly lost. Though he was a well-travelled bear he began to feel anxious...and then he spied a sign that made his ears twitch...
At the same moment he jumped, as a cheerful voice said: "Ah, there you are! You're just in time to help me. Be a darling and hold these will you?"
Arthur spun around as a smiling woman handed him a pile of boxes and bags nearly as tall as him.
"But...." said Arthur, taking the boxes, not knowing what else to say.
"Chop chop" said the lady as she unloaded the contents from the boxes into the car, “Otherwise the Hospice at Home Patients won't get everything they need.”
"But..." said Arthur, as the nurse unloaded the boxes into the car.
"No time to explain now" said the woman. "Now be a good bear and take these boxes back inside...."
Arthur looked at her blankly. "Just follow the pathway" said the nurse pointing down a little road "and head into Reception....bye now" she said, getting into her car.
"But...” said Arthur as the car drove off down the road.
Arthur stood for a second trying to work out where he was, and then being a well-meaning bear decided he ought to do as he was told. He followed the road in the direction the nurse had pointed in, and found himself approaching a building.
As he got closer he found himself feeling anxious, which was unusual for him. But he passed several people along the way and they all smiled and said hello, and with each person that smiled at him he found himself feeling a little less anxious. He still wasn't sure exactly where he was though.
"Ah, there you are!" said a voice that made him jump again, as he poked his nose into the building. A smiling lady came out from behind a bar full with tea and coffee cups, biscuits and fresh flowers.
"But..." said Arthur. The lady interrupted "You're just in time for the tea-round… But you look like you need a biscuit first. Everyone gets tea and a biscuit" and handed him two on a plate.
Arthur wanted to say "But...", but he couldn't because his mouth was full of biscuit.
"Come on then", said the lady, wheeling out a trolley. "I'm Geraldine by the way, I'm one of the volunteers."
"I'm..." began Arthur, but Geraldine said "Yes yes, we know who you are", which Arthur thought was a bit odd.
"First we go to Day Therapy" said Geraldine. "Follow me!"
As they walked Arthur's nose began to twitch, more and more as they passed a curtain to the side of corridor.
"Ah, the flower bay" said Geraldine, noticing with amusement his increasing twitching. "We're given a constant supply of fresh flowers, and this is where we arrange them."
Arthur was about to ask if that was why there were fresh flowers everywhere and why it smelt so good to his bear's nose but Geraldine said "Come on, stop dawdling now."
Arthur was trying to work out what this place was. At Day Therapy, groups of people were sitting around a table, chatting. They all waved to Geraldine and Arthur, and they all seemed to know who he was which was a little confusing.
Geraldine explained to Arthur that there was a kitchen where volunteers prepared the food for everyone. He didn't totally understand this, being a bear, but heard laughter coming out of the kitchen. His bear's nose sniffed out something delicious and sweet and he craned his neck to getter a better sniff. "That'll be the cakes", said Geraldine. "There are always fresh homemade cakes made by the volunteers!" Arthur nodded again; he didn't totally understand, but he understood cake, and that was good.
"Right!" said Geraldine. "To the In-Patients ward...."
They moved off along a corridor that twisted and turned. They passed several rooms. Arthur noticed signs saying things like 'Doctor' and 'Complementary Therapy' and 'Lymphoedema Clinic’. He suddenly had an idea about where he was but every time he tried to ask Geraldine a new person walked past and stopped for a chat. They all smiled and said hello to him, Arthur thought to himself how warm and friendly everyone was.
On the In-Patients ward, Arthur really thought he knew where he was. There were people in beds, some talking with their families and some resting quietly on their own. Geraldine offered everyone tea, and let Arthur pour it, which made him feel very responsible.
"Right", said Geraldine "To the Patients' Lounge."
Arthur pushed the trolley along behind Geraldine. They passed by gardens that were covered in flowers and greenery. Being a keen gardener himself, Arthur could see how much energy must have gone into making these gardens the way they were. They lifted his little bear spirits. He was feeling a bit more certain of his surroundings now. And then his heart sank, as he found himself in someone's living room. Just where was he?
"But..." said Arthur. Geraldine smiled: "This is a room we made for patients and their families and friends so they can feel more like they are at home.”
Arthur was mystified. There was a T.V, sofas, paintings on the wall and toys and computer games in one corner. This was all very confusing.
"Right I need to pop off to get some more tea, so you can wait in the other kitchen" said Geraldine. She showed Arthur into a kitchen that looked like any other, but as Geraldine showed him round, it became apparent that this was a very special kitchen.
"Now this kitchen has food in it for visitors" said Geraldine. Arthur nodded blankly. "The reason there's always food here is that so no-one ever has to rush off to cook a meal. They can have it here.” A glimmer of understanding flickered through Arthur's little bear brain.
"Now be a good bear and put the kettle on while I get the biscuits" said Geraldine, hurrying out.
Arthur felt he was finally understanding where he was. As he turned on the kettle he noticed a poster on the wall with words written in large letters in marker pen. He looked blankly at it, and then his bear's nose turned a little moist. It was a list of words people had been invited to write that summed up their experience of the In-Patient Centre. There were words like 'warmth,' 'friendliness,' 'level of care - even for carers', 'laughter,' 'support' and 'acceptance.'
“I see” said Arthur. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve and finally knew where he was. He felt good being there.
All bears need a home. Arthur loved the fact that he shared his name with Arthur Rank Hospice. Seeing the sign outside had first drawn him in. He decided he would stay for a while with the staff, volunteers, patients and visitors, and help with the work done at Arthur Rank Hospice. He liked places that made him smile and felt good to be in, and this was just such a place. And he has been there ever since. Because every good place needs a bear.