Couple hug grandsons for first time since March thanks to polar bear costumes

Two grandparents who have been shielding since March were finally able to cuddle their grandsons thanks to a pair of inflatable polar bear costumes.

Barbara, 71, and Clive Walshaw, 73, said the moment they got to tearily hug their grandchildren after nine months apart was the ‘best six minutes’ of 2020.

The children had been devastated when they were told they couldn’t nip round for Christmas and instead would only be able to see their grandparents through a laptop screen on December 25.

But while Barbara was Christmas shopping online, she stumbled upon the inflatable polar bears and came up with the ingenious, Covid-safe plan.

The grandparents snuck up to the children’s home in Kirkstall, Leeds, and surprised Quinn, six, Morgan, eight, and Mackenzie, 14, while wearing the 6ft 6in costumes.

Barbara said the heartwarming reunion brought so much joy to the family and a ‘pure Christmas spirit’.

The grandmother, from Bramley, said: ‘At first they couldn’t understand why they couldn’t come round and it was so heartbreaking.

‘The littlest one kept asking if she could come. It was really hard on all of the boys.

‘We normally spend Christmas day with them and we wondered what we were going to do with all that’s been going on.

‘We wanted to be careful because if we got poorly it wouldn’t just be us that were poorly, the boys would feel like they were responsible for it – which isn’t what we wanted.

‘But the costumes worked really well. Totally enclosed. It was the best idea I’ve ever had I think.

‘The younger boy was a bit overawed by these massive polar bears but when he realised it was us it was so lovely. So many cuddles. It was amazing. It was about six minutes.’

The tight-knit family normally spend two to three days a week together, and the grandparents even have a spare room for the boys.

‘This year has been so hard,’ added Barbara. ‘It was out of this world, those six minutes, just pure Christmas joy and something that cannot be described.

‘Everyone was so happy in those six minutes. And we laughed and cried. I loved it’

Barbara and Clive’s son, Neil Walshaw, 45, a councillor, said it was a memory his boys would ‘never forget’ thanks to his ‘amazing’ mum’s idea.

At around noon on Christmas Day, Neil and wife Hazel, 44, told their three sons they’d heard a rumour there were polar bear sightings in Kirkstall.

When they walked out of the house they found their grandparents bounding over in the massive polar bear costumes.

His youngest son Quinn was so shocked when he saw nana and grandpa walk up to their home that he sprinted back into the house and out again to make sure it was real.

Neil said: ‘Quinn had to run back into the house and back out to make sure it was real. Best hug I’ve ever had. The grandkids will never forget it. It was fantastic.’

‘We’ve not had any physical contact since then and it’s been so hard as they’re really involved grandparents,’ he added.

‘This year has been so tough but after seeing them, we were buzzing all day.

‘They are the best grandparents in Leeds. They’re simply fantastic.’

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