I never could stand dolls and teddy bears. All I ever got were hand-me-downs. My brother’s teddy was small and insignificant, with dull button eyes and thin, patchy fur that must have once been yellow. By the time it came to me it was a seedy dun colour. I tossed it to one side pretty quickly, l can tell you!
Teddy bears are one thing but dolls are quite another. Girls are expected to like dolls. Well, I hated mine. But that was the point - she wasn’t “mine”. She belonged to my mother. A nasty sharp little thing it was, all dressed up in frills and flounces. Hard as nails. Her face was pinched, with a poky little nose that always managed to jab me whenever I went near her. She was meant to be beautiful and I suppose she was, in a cold kind of way - real hair and eyelashes, porcelain skin, perfect pink cheeks, dainty rose-bud mouth…. But I hated her. Even her name was handed down. Ruth – or was it Rachel? – a hard name for a rather hard creature. I mean, if you’re going to love somebody you’ve got to be able to give them a cuddle, haven’t you? But how can you cuddle something so hard?
So imagine my surprise when, at the ripe old age of 72, I fell in love with Henry! I’d bought a raffle ticket for Cancer Research – couldn’t not really after my own brush with cancer. I had to give something back. The first prize was to be an enormous teddy bear. “Now what would I want with that?” I thought. “Still, I don’t suppose I’ll win, so why worry?” But then they were calling out my numbers! As I went up to collect my unwanted prize, I wondered who I could give him to. A children’s ward? Dr. Barnardo’s perhaps…? But from the moment I held him, and felt his sumptuous golden fur brushing against my face, I knew there’d be no question of that. He was mine!
When I got home I sat him up on the sideboard and took a good look at him. What a handsome beast he was! Big and strong. Not a soppy bear at all! Oh no! And those eyes of his eyes – so very brown, and deep. And real. My best friend thinks I’m potty. “Fancy falling for a teddy bear – and at your age!” But I don’t care what she thinks. When I cuddle him I know I’m not potty. Just happy.
My Mam was married 62 years and never bought a loaf in her life. Every Thursday she’d make a stone and a half of bread, and then she’d make a potato pie at the end of the cooking day because the oven was nice and hot. In a big yellow dish with an inch crust on the top. Hooray Pie, we called it because in the war we used to shout Hooray! if it had a piece of beef in it - 6 pennyworth of meat, cut up fine. Meat, taters, onions, carrots, swede - followed by a big rice pudding. We used to fight for who had the skin. Those were the days! None of your ready made meals. My Mam was the best cook in the world
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