When I was a little boy I had a teddy bear. I don't recall that he had a name; or perhaps he was just "Teddy". But he had golden fur and when you pressed his tummy he squeaked. He was just a wonderful teddy bear, and I was heartbroken when one day one of his glass eyes cracked all the way across and fell out. But all was not lost. My father raced to the rescue with glue and sympathy, and the eye was quickly cured. I was happy again, and so was Teddy.
I still have him. The fur is faded now and he lost the ability to squeak many years ago. The crack across his eye where my father glued it back together is still clearly visible. He's nowhere near as handsome as once he was, but he still sits proudly on the shelf, just as he has done for nearly fifty years.
Shortly before I left England to come and live in New Zealand, there was a very popular advert for toilet paper on the television. The toilet paper was called Andrex and the advert starred the Andrex Puppy, a cute little dog that wrapped toilet paper round itself and ran all over the house trailing toilet paper behind itself and tying the paper in knots around the furniture and fittings. For unknown reasons, its owners didn't murder it on the spot. Instead they cooed adoringly and bought more toilet paper. My cousin Carole bought me an Andrex Puppy cuddly toy as a leaving present (I'm unclear as to her motives) and I carried it with me all the way to New Zealand. Twenty two years later, I still have it. I've used a lot of toilet paper in those twenty two years and the puppy has shown no interest in it whatsoever. So much for truth in advertising!
I collect coins. The habit has become so obsessive that I no longer buy things that I really need, or things of particular quality or style. No - I buy things in order to maximise the amount of change that I am given. Then I bring the coins home and pour them into containers. One container for silver, one container for gold (well - brass, anyway). When the mood takes me, I do my world famous Scrooge McDuck impressions and I dive deeply into my vast wealth of coinage and swim to and fro, chuckling and giggling the while, and throwing my riches into the air in delight (always making sure to catch them cleanly again on the way down, for I am, of course, a Yorkshireman and where there's brass there's muck. Hmmmm! That doesn't sound quite right...).
Periodically I take the excessively large number of coins that I have amassed to the bank, and a long suffering cashier counts (or weighs) them carefully, confirms the amount that I have scribbled on the paying in slip, and credits them to my account. Then I start all over again.
It is amazing how heavy even a small bowl full of coins can be. And when you are as anally retentive as I am you need to take periodic muscle building courses in order to build up the stamina necessary to lug the whole lot down to the bank.
I have a cushion shaped like a Buck Rogers rocket and painted in garish primary colours. It is an ideal accessory for a science fiction fan. In my dreams I cuddle my spaceship cushion and fight hordes of marauding Martians (I am always victorious of course). I have been observed to throw the cushion around the room and yell "Warp factor five! Vroom! Vroom!" and I am not ashamed.
I have an open plan stereo system. The components sit elegantly on shelves near the top of the display units. The middle tier consists of a row of CDs and the lower level is stuffed full of LPs (remember them?). Wires dangle seductively down the back and coil attractively on the floor. Porgy and Bess, the kittens, like nothing better in life than to climb behind the stereo units and chew on the wires. I am less than enthusiastic about their hobby and I am trying hard to persuade them to look elsewhere for their fun.
To begin with, all I did was push some of the LPs in the bottom row so far back into the unit that they reached right up against the wall, thereby preventing the kittens from clambering behind the records to get at the wires. But the kittens quickly discovered that the records were not very tightly packed and could easily be pushed to one side as they forced their way to the wires through the stack of LPs. So I jammed the Andrex Puppy between a couple of LPs, thereby crushing the records closer together and (hopefully) preventing the kittens from clambering through. The first time Porgy and Bess saw the angry face of the Andrex Puppy glaring out at them from amidst the records, they did a classic cinematic double take and ran away screaming. Problem solved!
I should have known better.
It wasn't long before the kittens discovered that they could jump up onto the second tier and run along behind the CDs and then jump down to where the wires were. I plonked my containers of coins into the gap they were using. The shelves bowed a little under the excessive weight. There was no way the kittens would ever grow strong enough to move that lot! Problem solved!
I should have known better.
One shelf on the third tier consisted largely of empty space. There were just a few ornaments sitting there looking decorative. Soon the kittens were making prodigious leaps to the third level, scattering ornaments far and wide across the room as they succumbed to the siren song of the stereo cables. I jammed the spaceship cushion into the shelf thereby obscuring the ornaments from view, but preventing the cats from using their new tunnel to paradise. Problem solved!
I should have known better.
Just to the left of the shelf with the ornaments is the shelf that holds my cassette player. There is a small gap between the top of the cassette player and the bottom of the shelf on the next layer up. It really is a tiny gap, far too small for a kitten - particularly given the fact that both Porgy and Bess appear to be doubling in size every single day as they convert their protein packed diet into fur and flesh. So you can imagine my astonishment (and rage) when I observed both of them leap up there one day, dematerialise themselves through the tiny gap, and start chewing blissfully on the cables again. There was only one thing for it - I jammed my teddy bear into the tiny gap. He barely fits and he looks a bit distorted as he crouches uneasily in the small space. I think he might be having trouble breathing. But never mind - problem solved!
A friend came to visit. She expressed surprise at my rather surrealistic looking stereo cabinet, awash with coins, cushions and cuddly toys; the stereo components themselves being barely visible as they peeked coyly around the barricades. She seemed to be particularly affronted by the rather painful looking posture of the teddy bear.
"He looks very uncomfortable," she said sternly. "Don't you think you are being a little cruel?"
I explained what was going on.
"Oh," she said delightedly, "he's a working Ted."
That seemed to make everything alright.