I’m giving you a gentle blog today, because it makes a nice change and because I’m too much of a coward at the moment to offer a tough one. I’ll adjust my protective shell and get back to work on those later.
This one is about much loved toys and it was my younger daughter Caroline who set me thinking about it.
She has had a toy seal since she was a baby. She called him Dodo and loved him dearly and he went everywhere with her, as is the way with much loved toys. But at 61 years old he was rather the worse for wear, no longer his original snow-white, cuddly self, but grey and grubby, totally eyeless and decidedly flat. So, as she is temporarily off work and has some time to spare, she decided to resuscitate the poor thing He’s been washed and dried and all his elderly stuffing has been taken out of him and replaced by new, (Oh how I wish someone would do me that service!) he’s got one new eye (she stitched one in with brown wool but didn’t have enough left for the other, which will have to wait until she can get out and buy some) and he’s now quite his old cuddly self. She brought him round to see me today, trailing lovely memories with him. It was like meeting an old friend.
The second loved toy is the bear in the red bow. He is called Jingles because he had bells in his paws. and he belonged to my first daughter Mary and was another much loved animal and omnipresent animal who went everywhere with her. Now like Dodo he is very old – 64 to be exact – and the bells have long since fallen silent, but like Dodo, he has been brushed clean and lovingly repaired with a new muzzle and new paws and a brand new red ribbon, as a final admiring touch.
The third is the very elderly and hairless bear sitting in the middle between the other two. He needs very tender care these days, because he belonged to Larry and was the first special toy in the family doing service as a bed-mate and pillow when they were both very young, and continuing in office from then on, presiding over his workroom from the top shelf, above all the books, when his master was a six-foot much loved teacher. He can’t be repaired now because his fur is so worn and he’s been flattened by so much wear but he is still an object of great affection. because of the man he belonged too. Ah my dear Larry, we do miss you.
And here’s the final much loved ‘toy’ (if books count as toys). I found it in the library in our house in Longley Road And took it with me when I left. It’s on my library shelves still and it’s so old it’s an antique. Printed in 1915. I wrote the poem about it when I was in my thirties when I’d begun to understand how poetry worked.
‘Jack Bruin or love-lies-bleeding.’
My favourite fairy story as a child
Was cruel and frightening and little known
And so absorbed with triplefold delight.
The hero was a hairy commoner
Called Bruin for he looked so like a bear.
Newly arrived at manhood, off he set
To seek his fortune. And he found a well
Both Freudian and deep, which he descended
(Such the intrepid folly of our youth) and once below
Fought dogs and dragons wading in their blood,
And won a bride, willing and beautiful
(Such the simplicity and ease of dreams).
There seemed one problem only in his way
How to ascend the tunnel with his love
And find again the common world of day.
New friends and knowledgeable offered aid.
There was an eagle made a daily flight
Straight up the tunnel, and if he were paid
With hourly slices of some tender meat –
Two sheep were quite sufficient in this case –
Would carry passengers. The deal waas made
His shoulders firmly in the eagle’s claws
Bruin departed carrying his mate.
His friends were helpful, but Arithmetic
Was quite beyond their fairy story minds.
Bering the weight of two instead of one
The trip took longer and the meat ran out.
The carcases were clean. The eagle shrieked.
Without his pay, he’d cast them down to die.
Jack Bruin hesitated, kissed his girl
And carved the next slice from his quivering thigh.
And so throughout the rest of the ascent
He fed the heedless eagle with himself
Emerging to the world a bloody wreck
Unconscious, with his bride about his neck.
But wait, read on, the story isn’t done.
There’s more to come and it’s miraculous.
Out of the Forest, bearing magic salves
A goblin came to heal our hero’s wounds
And grow a covering of new young flesh
Without a hair in sight, a perfect mend.
So love and ointment conquered in the end.