The Friendly Bear

By Matilda Verrells
(on behalf of Rob’s nieces and nephews)

Rob was my godfather and a beloved uncle to Joshua, Callum, Louis, Rory, Toby and me.  In all my life Rob never had a bad word to say about anyone or anything and that was one reason why we all loved him so much.

I think on behalf of all of his nephews and myself I can say that he was somebody we could always approach and ask anything. In Callum’s words, he was ‘the friendly bear’.  He was funny, and great company, and we all loved him a lot.

At Easter, our regular Easter egg hunt was always organised by Rob, who wrote lovely little poems and messages as clues for us to follow as we ran from tree to garden shed, to stile, to watering can until we came to the carefully hidden eggs, often in very funny places, where he always made sure there were more than enough to go round.

The last time Callum saw Rob, Cal was struggling with English GCSE coursework on creative writing.  Rob was interested and enthusiastic as he always was, and spent time talking the story through, focusing on Cal’s ideas and helping him think of new angles.

Rory has lovely memories of Rob telling him bed-time stories, very gentle and kind.  But if he or Toby got out of bed after they should have been asleep, Rob would stand at the door saying in a very loud deep voice ‘Go to sleep!’  It was always a treat when Sarah and Rob were babysitting.

Toby wants to say that for him, Rob was quite simply an important person in our family that he loved and he will miss him.  He is also very proud of Rob and although he is only eight, has read the first pages of Avilion and was intrigued and excited by them.  Last week he gave one of the newspaper articles about Rob to his class teacher who has pinned it up in the classroom so that all his classmates know what a talented and famous uncle he had.

Josh remembers many conversations with Rob about books and stories – Rob talked to him about the things he was writing, his inspiration for his ideas, ancient objects he had found and treasured, but also always wanted to know what Josh was reading, and was always curious to know what he felt about the books he had read.

Louis shared a passion for seafood with Rob and remembers, on holiday in Madeira, plotting with him how to escape from the rest of us and experiment with the weirdest seafood they could find in the local café.  The two of them seemed to disappear for hours.

My fondest memory of Rob was while out walking on Hampstead Heath. Rob and I, totally absorbed in conversation, came out of our trance some time later to find that we had completely lost sight of our family. It brings me great sadness to think that I will no longer be able to have another one of those fascinating conversations with my godfather again.

We shall all miss his wonderful imagination, and we will keep ‘the friendly bear’ in our hearts for ever.