At two in the morning instead of sleeping, my brain decides to remember a small knitted bear I had as a child that I named Hooper Stores, after the shop on Sesame Street. It is enough to disturb me from potential-slumber and plunge me instead into less advantageous reverie.
There was also a wombat I bought for 10p from a Christmas fayre and named Ovid in tribute of a cartoon platypus rather than the Roman poet (prophetic Australian links there). And, perhaps most cerebrally, a large yellow duck I named Bertie after Bertie Ahern because he came into my life on the Easter of the Good Friday Agreement. I was nine.
My brother’s naming conventions were more straightforward – Big Ted, Orange Ted etc. Which isn’t to say I was more interesting, I just had so many teddies that eventually one had to think outside the box on the name front.
My main bear was Bruin (source of name unknown), who started out about my size, but eventually I grew and he didn’t. He was usurped by Hockley, who was a darker chocolate brown and more malleable than Bruin had been. He also came pre-named, but Hockley is a suburb of Birmingham so he fitted well into my gallery of nomenclative curios.
As kids we were avid watchers of The Generation Game – the gameshow that ended with a conveyor belt full of prizes; things like a Spanish holiday or a fancy VCR and always always a giant cuddly toy – the sort that teenage boys win for their girlfriends in American films.
An announcer would list all the prizes, then the curtain in front of the conveyor would close and the contestant would have to remember as many items as they could. Any they named, they won. When the cuddly toy was named, the crowd would always cheer.
For the contestants, the car or the TV was probably the goal, but for me the cuddly toy was the ultimate prize. In an ideal world, you’d want a teddy that was much bigger than you and always stayed that way, no matter how tall you got.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 11th October 2020 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.