I have never really been a cuddly toy sort of gal, in fact I thought many toys were pretty scary. During my brief childhood I much preferred collecting Matchbox cars and marbles to playing with dolls, poor ‘Sindy’ ended up bald, painted blue and buried in the garden! (It was a perfectly legitimate ending to an ‘art experiment’ not a psychotic episode, honest! lol)
Of course, my parents and other relatives had bought me various stuffed animals over the years, all destined to languish at the bottom of the plywood toy box that stood at the end of my bed. They did, eventually, get to see the light of day when my sons were small so please don’t feel too sorry for them…
When I say ‘cuddly’ toys, of course I am referring to toys that weren’t really very cuddly at all, they were more like hairy bricks! Having been a tot in the sixties, toy manufacturers were yet to discover the delights of plush fabrics and soft wadding. Instead, it was perfectly acceptable to give children solid, animal-shaped missiles of woven wool stuffed with straw. Great for lobbing at annoying siblings but not so nice to chew on.
Despite my lack of interest in these things, and of course because my own two played with them for a little while, (before Care Bears, He-Man and Lego took over), I do recall some of them in great detail. There was a grey, almost square elephant with white leather tusks; a poodle, (so iconic of the sixties, with it’s pom-pom tail and belled collar); a rather odd version of Donald Duck who’s hard plastic beak could easily poke your eye out; a pig in dungarees who stood upright, (think he was ‘Pinky’ or ‘Perky’ from the same named TV show… whoever bought him obviously couldn’t afford both), and of course Jacko the monkey… a hugely popular toy at the time.
I remember going into Woolworths and looking up, to see what seemed like hundreds of these rather scary, I thought, apes, hanging from the rafters by their eerily human-like plastic hands. Their faces were made of the same molded plastic too and were formed into a fixed grin that made the eyes crinkle. Anthropologists these days, would most likely say they had expressions that indicated the desire to tear ones face off…
Unfortunately, my father mistook my look of curious horror as one of desire, quite a common error I’ve encountered in men over the years, and bought me one of the blasted things. To make it just slightly worse, he chose one of the ‘special addition’ versions with a Beatles hairstyle!
He too lay in the dark for a long time. My only regret is that I didn’t hang on to them, they would probably all be worth a fortune now on Ebay!
However, three playthings were given the privilege of sitting out in the light. Gilly and the ‘two teds’. Gilly was the most beautiful black doll who stood two feet tall and would ‘walk’ if you pressed down on her shoulders and propelled her forward. She was dressed in a white lace gown with red leather shoes and had her ears pierced with gold coloured loops. Sadly, all the rubber bands that held her together, perished and she too ended up in a box. The intention was for a toy hospital to one day be found for her. Never quite got round to it and she went off to a charity shop about three years ago. (Spent ages searching for an image for one like her to show you but with no luck sadly).
So we come to the two Teds. In my childish mind, the bigger of the two was male and was vaguely referred to as ‘Big’ or ‘Dad’ Bear, so logically the slightly smaller was ‘Little’ or ‘Mum’…what kind of child can’t even be bothered to give a proper name to their teddies?… (please don’t answer that.) 🙂 Both bears were also straw stuffed and made of a pretty gold coloured mohair. Their paws were patched with brown leatherette and they had glass eyes. The smaller of the two was particularly special because deep inside her belly was a music box.
I can still feel the cold brass key in my fingers as I inserted it into the tiny gap in her back, wound up the cylinder inside and listened in delight to the plink, plink, plink of Brahms Lullaby. As the years passed, the sound became so faint that even laying down with my ear pressed tightly against her, it could barely be heard. An operation was called for (obviously!) and one day, to my big regret, I did indeed cut out the music box.
I don’t have any recollection of what happened to ‘Big Bear’ but astonishingly, ‘Little’ still survives!!
And here she is, in all her battered glory.
The golden mohair is faded and very worn, the paw patches too and her belly is not as plump because the straw has disintegrated and of course a gap remains where her music box once lay. Even my original, childish ‘operation’ stitches remain.
You may well be wondering what triggered this rather long diatribe about stuffed toys. Well, Pat Alinejad, a lovely facebook friend and fellow pattern designer sent me a really sweet gift recently.
Pat designs the most wonderful patterns for soft toys and when I opened the small square box from her, I actually said ‘Awww’…out loud. Inside was the most adorable little teddy, soft and plush with the prettiest face shining out. I immediately named him Toffee and fell a teeny weeny bit in love…
Now, I am NOT going to return to a second childhood and cover my bed in a mountain of fluffy stuff but by the same token, neither will I put Toffee or his well-worn companion away in a dark place. They can keep each other company and sit and watch whilst I get old.
Perhaps just a little bit of me is a cuddly gal after all…