A Motley Crew

I listened to The Reunion on BBC Radio 4 the other day, with Floella Benjamin and fellow ‘Play School‘ contributors.  At the end of the broadcast, I was brought close to tears when they played the melody from Play School’s closing credits, illustrating what an impact this happy little kids’ show must have had during my formative years. Had you asked me to hum it earlier I’d have been at a complete loss yet there I was, practically blubbing into my Lady Grey with a lump in my throat the size of a satsuma.

A similar feeling of nostalgia was recently invoked following re-stuffing and ocular reconstruction surgery on an old toy fox given to me by my parents one Christmas long past.  Having fallen in love in the shop with the massive creature (“Hello, my name is Ferdinand the Fox”, announced the label) I eventually accepted the £5 price tag was an insurmountable hurdle to his purchase, and relegated my desire to lavish girlish cuddles upon his velvety fur to the back of my four-year-old mind.
That December 24th however, as all the greedy cousins poked and prodded parcels beneath my grandparents’ drawing room Christmas tree, we came across a huge, black bin-liner with a red bow round the top (budget present-wrapping  always being  de rigueur at our Christmas festivities).  “That won’t be for me”, I declared, “I never get big ones”.  Whilst this comment may have proved prophetic in regards to the paltry feminine endowments Mother Nature saw fit to bestow upon me a few years later, at this point in time it was completely wrong; on the Big Day, my adorable parents presented me with said bin-bag and Ferdinand the Fox became a stalwart companion for the next thirty-odd years (and counting), dragged impractically around by his ears or tail until time took its toll on his seams, eyes and various other parts and I moved away from home.

Now, thirty-ish years later and having been rubber-necked and blind for much of that period, Ferdinand is possessed of shiny new, sea-blue eyes and a regal posture, courtesy of Ebay’s finest arts and crafts and stuffing suppliers.  Despite still needing new paws and a fresh nose, Boy has dubbed him “not creepy anymore” and adopted him with enthusiasm. And the other night as I tucked Boy in, I was also tasked with ensuring that Ferdinand was suitably ensconced beneath covers.  I felt a  sentimental swelling in my breast as I recalled the many times during my own childhood that I’d fussed over his duvet to ensure no part of Ferdinand’s tail would be peeking out and that his nose couldn’t get cold in the un-centrally-heated ice-box of my childhood bedroom.  To know that half a lifetime later he is receiving the same level of care from my son makes me heart-breakingly happy and terribly, terribly wistful.

There remain in circulation other members of my childhood motley crew.  There’s ‘Nessie’, lovingly knitted by the late, great Auntie Mae who was a Wren during the second World War and a thoroughly amazing character; ‘Eskimo’, my mother’s toy who would obviously be renamed ‘Inuit’ today and whose sex I’ve never quite established, and the inimitable ‘Bionic Hamster’, victim of a frenzied attack by our black lab, Sam, and then rescued from an apparently inevitable demise by my wonderful mother who patched him up with a scrap of Laura Ashley corduroy and re-sculpted a prosthetic arm (albeit a bit fliddy) from a bit of brown suede.  Girl loves the ‘Bionic Hamster’ and as I wrote this first draft stood by my side bouncing him up and down with delight.

More of The Misfits exist but to be quite frank, I spent so long posing these guys to be photographed (badly) when I ought to have been doing something far more constructive, the others will have to remain anonymous.

There are so many crap toys out there today – shitty mass-produced Disney creatures with less personality than an empty car park – that I’m not sure there’s a desire anymore for Pipkin-esque, quirky, scruffy, bedraggled and frankly unpleasant-looking toys.  I think kids expect everything to be shiny new, bright and unscuffed; something Boy’s certainly guilty of. So it was delightful to see how in love with Ferdinand he’s become (now that the fox is eyed-up and less gruesome in appearance). Let’s face it, Ferdinand will never be as plushly silky smooth as Disney’s Tigger and Eyeore, and he doesn’t have 60+ phrases like Buzz and Woody but somehow he still holds the charm for Boy that he held for me the day I clapped eyes on him in the craft shop and pleaded with my mother to let me take him home.

Yes, scruffy old Ferdinand will never replace Fido in Boy’s books, and Mothercare’s Monkey (‘Manky’) holds the key to Girl’s affections but Ferdinand – and his bedraggled cohorts, each with their own story to tell – remain firm members of our family.  Although our little lives will never be recorded in the annals of history, perhaps with great care my old, true friend can be passed down from generation to generation within our non-descript family, so that at least this great lump of tatty fur with clear blue eyes survives, perhaps along with memories of the huge affection felt for him.

To paraphrase another tear-jerker finale from our childhood TV listings; Ferdinand’s an old, saggy, furred fox.  Baggy, and a bit loose at the seams. But we love him.

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10 Responses to A Motley Crew

  1. MrsW says:

    Oh he’s huge! How wonderful it must have been opening him up.

    (I actually thought this was going to be a Vince Neil / Shout At The Devil post)

    Most of my kids cuddly toys are disposable – so the kids think – I have anthropomorphic issues – they’d never ever ever throw any of mine out!

    • jinedin says:

      Ah now, my spelling’s not THAT bad!

      I have serious toy retention issues. Susceptible to anything with eyes (and occasionally without) and am therefore accumulating far too many of these tatty creatures…

  2. I’d like to cuddle up to Ferdinand the Fox; allowing your son to tuck him under the duvet shows real maternal love and devotion.

    • jinedin says:

      Ach, I’m just a big softy meself…
      Honestly, he’s in there now with Ferdinand taking up half the bed. It’s gorgeous!

      • jinedin says:

        Not so gorgeous now. 2 nights on the trot he’s been through to me and am beginning to think it’s a space issue – Ferdinand now getting top-and-tail rights only…

  3. mrshev says:

    Ah, Playschool. I had the good fortune to meet Floella through work once and she was lovely and so touched that every few minutes someone from the studio would wander in and say: ‘Hey! It’s my surrogate mother!’

  4. the dotterel says:

    The remarkable thing about that programme was how little the voices had changed… apart, that is, from dear old Brian Cant who sounded a little weary. The rest could’ve been fresh out of the archives!

  5. car rims says:

    ghost ride that whip

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