I RING the Missus to see how things are going.
“Can’t talk now,” she screeches, her panicked tone indicating she’s in the middle of a crisis of epic proportions. “We’ve lost Panda Bear.”
I put the phone down and instantly know this means trouble.
Panda Bear was the soft toy my sister bought my son when he was born.
It’s also the only toy he was given that his own sister hasn’t requisitioned from him yet.
By the time I get home from work the Missus has already spent nearly an hour retracing her steps in the hope of finding him, but to no avail.
“Give them dinner and run the bath,” she tells me, somewhat melodramatically. “I’m going back out there for another look.”
At this point I should really offer to go myself. But I’ve spotted that it’s drizzling, so I just nod and wish her luck.
By the time the children are in bed, the drizzle has become a downpour.
“I hope Panda’s managed to construct some sort of shelter,” I chuckle, trying to lift the Missus’ spirits after another fruitless search.
But instead of smiling at the lunacy of this rescue mission for an eight-inch tall cuddly toy, she starts crying.
“He’d only just got over losing Gnome,” she sobs.
I get the laptop out and start searching for a replacement.
The trouble is that the company that makes them has about five different versions and I can’t work out which is the right one.
Mindful that time is of the essence, I plump for the Bashful Panda and hope for the best.
The next day, our son stubs his toe and immediately cries out for Panda Bear.
“Panda’s still on his adventures,” my wife tells him. “He’ll be back soon.”
“No, he’s not on his adventures,” my son fires back, proving we’ve overestimated the gullibility of your average two-and-a-half year old. “He’s lost.”
I decide to alert my sister in the hope she can confirm I’ve ordered the right one. But she just throws another spanner in the works.
“Having done some research,” she emails, “I think you’re after a Slackajack Panda.”
There’s nothing else for it. I get in touch with the company in the hope they can provide a definitive ID.
Initially they think it’s a Pickles Panda. Disastrously, this range has been “retired” (“discontinued” being a banned word at Jellycat HQ).
But then I email across a picture of my son with Panda and the verdict is that it IS a Bashful Panda. Somehow I’ve managed to order the right one.
“Panda’s back and he’s had a very good clean,” I tell my son when the toy arrives a couple of days later.
He takes the replacement and inspects it from head to paw. We hold our breath until finally he clutches panda close to him, showing that – by some miracle – he actually buys our story.
Meanwhile his twin sister stands there, taking it all in.
“New Panda,” she says quietly.