A Teddy Bears’ Picnic

I have a confession to make! I have an addiction. A pretty serious one. A life long one! It’s cost me a fair bit of money and I have several stashes of my addiction around the house.

Teddy Bears!

Stuffed toys strictly, I suppose, rather than bears, but to me they’re my bears. A friend of mine challenged me to take a photo of all of them so yesterday I gathered them from all their various homes (and they all have definite homes) and assembled them together on our bed.

Wow! That’s a lot of bears! I have to admit, I didn’t realise I had quite this many. Am I sorry? Absolutely not! They give me lots of pleasure. There are worse addictions to have.

I’ve always loved bears and I think it was inevitable that when I grew up I’d choose to be a cat Mum instead of having babies. I didn’t play with dolls as a little girl. I found them cold and hard and in stark contrast to the soft, fluffy sqidginess of bears. You can’t rest your head on a doll when you’re tired.

My bears aren’t just random though. I can remember where each one was bought, and many of them are reminders of special occasions. Most of them have names.

This is the oldest bear that I still have, and she’s called Dilly Trent. When I was twelve I broke my leg and this was a catalyst for my parents to get a second car because they needed to be able to share the school run whilst I was unable to walk. The car was a bright yellow mark one Fiesta registration TDD 358X (weird what you remember!) and its horn sounded like a duck so it inherited the name Dilly the duck. We bought Dilly from Lichfield, and on the same day Mum and Dad bought me this bear so she was named Dilly (after the car) Trent (after Lichfield Trent Valley).

Pendigo was a Christmas present from hubby a couple of years ago. He was from Resorts World at the NEC which overlooks Pendigo lake. He’s so big he needed to use the seatbelt on the way home!

These are my Wimbledon bears bought from the shop at Wimbledon during the championships. Two of my passions rolled up in one (or three as the case may be) bear! Fingers crossed for this year’s ballot so I can get another one!

These are my bears from Cliff Richard concerts. Don’t think I’ve mentioned this particular little secret before, but here’s the evidence.

My best friend and I used to go on an annual Christmas pilgrimage to Harrods until Al Fayed sold it and it went downhill! There used to be a MASSIVE teddy bear room and it was my heaven, but the new owners drastically reduced it. This is my Harrods collection.

These are my Steiff bears. You could say that these are an investment because Steiff bears are very collectible. You may have spotted that the delight on the end in the waistcoat has appeared in both the last two photos. This is because he’s a Harrods Steiff bear. He was ridiculously expensive but I couldn’t care a jot. He’s beautiful. He used to growl when you tipped him forward but I noticed when I got him down to take the photo that he seems to have lost his voice. Poor thing. The little rabbit next to the Harrods bear is my newest bear. I spotted him in Frankfurt airport on the way home from a work trip and couldn’t resist. He’s called Hoppi and he’s the softest rabbit ever! The little blonde one, Sammy, was my first Steiff bear and I got him with vouchers that my Dad gave me for a very special trip we took to London in 2007. Little Wonky Donkey on the end was also from Harrods, although he’s not a Harrods branded Steiff bear. He’s just adorable.

Jellycat! Who can resist a Jellycat bear? Clearly not me! Sweetie kitten at the front was a must because well, she’s a kitten! Grey sitting behind is a bit obscured by Sweetie kitten, but he’s an owl. Hubby bought him for me on a day when I was feeling a bit under the weather. Grayshott the elephant I bought from a village in Hampshire when I was visiting my Mum called Grayshott (hence the name). Dapple the giraffe and Bashful lamb came from a shop near us that I have to do my best to avoid (for obvious reasons!)

These are all bears that I’ve gathered on my travels. The purple Triceratops was from Orlando airport. I have an affinity with the Triceratops because I used to call them TriSarahtops when I was little after myself! The two Toys R Us Geoffreys are both from Toys R Us on Times Square bought on different trips to the Big Apple. The Ocean Village bear is from our first cruise. He’s called Mr Shel which is made from the initials of all our ports of call on the cruise (Mykonos, Rhodes, Santorini, Heraklion, Ephesus and Limassol). In the pink jumper is Macy who came from Macy’s in New York and in the stripy jumper is Treasure who came from Las Vegas. Finally is my coati and her baby, Conchita and Chica, who hopped in our suitcase when we came back from Mexico.

Last but by absolutely no means least are my gloom of Eeyores and his Hundred Acre pals. Gloom, I have decided, is the collective noun for a group of Eeyores. You may argue that nine Eeyores is enough for one house. We’ll see! There are Eeyores here from New York, Orlando and London – he gets around! The group of Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Owl and the nearest Eeyore to Pooh Bear were also bought with the Harrods vouchers on that special London trip.

So, there you have it. Lots of bears, all very much loved and here to stay!

It’s a family thing

I’ve mentioned this topic a couple of times in previous posts, but I promise I haven’t been trying to tease you. It’s a very important topic which is absolutely integral to who and how I am, and I so want to do the topic justice and I also want to make sure that I don’t cause any upset to the characters of my tale so for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking really hard about how to write it.

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Always a Pooh Bear moment for everything!

I want to explain, but without making light of anything that may have happened or anyone’s feelings. I don’t recall ever speaking in any great detail about this with any of those involved, so this will be the first time they’ve been aware of things from my point of view. Hopefully this will be a good thing!

I am completely a product of my parents. All four of them. Yep, you read that right, four of them. So, you don’t have to be Einstein to work out that there is at least one parental divorce (conscious decoupling to the Gwyneth Palthrows of the world) in my background. There are in fact two of them.

The first was when I was tiny. Really tiny, without a hope of reaching the grasshopper’s knee in fact. I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened, and I don’t need to. I suspect I was far too engrossed in the very important business of growing teeth and figuring out how to climb out of my cot to analyse what was going on around me at the time. I don’t have any recollection of it.

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The second was twenty years later. By this time I was in possession of a full set of teeth (minus four I grew that were surplus to requirements) but actually still hadn’t mastered getting out of bed in an effective way. I guess I understood a bit more of what was going on this time, but with hindsight I don’t think I had enough life experience to fully appreciate the heartache and how difficult the decisions were that were being made.

Both biological parents were remarried by the time I was five, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have four parents, other than the odd snippet here and there.

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For me this is a perfectly normal situation and it actually seems really odd to me that I have peers whose parents are still together. I guess they might consider me the unlucky one, but for me I feel that they’ve missed out on things that I’ve had in abundance. I’ve always had the love of four parents, been able to ask the advice of four parents, had four sets of eyes looking out for me.

I hate the phrase broken family. I don’t come from a broken family, there is nothing broken about my family. Broken means faulty, and my family isn’t faulty, it just had to go through a couple of changes to find its optimum format.

I know it doesn’t always end well for the children of divorced parents, but I was lucky in that all four of my parents are sensible, intelligent and reasoned people, and even though there must have been incredibly difficult times for them, not once can I ever remember any negative effect on me. As a child, obviously I lived with one set of parents, but I regularly saw the other set. I will forever be grateful that I grew up before the technological age. These days we can so easily keep in touch electronically, but my Dad and I used to write to each other when we were apart. Actual letters written on tangible paper, with thought put into them. I can still remember the excitement of receiving a letter and knowing it was from my Dad. So much more special than an email.

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From standing here in my boots, I can only see the positive outcomes, by which I don’t mean to belittle the pain that must have been endured to get to this position. As well as two extra parents, I have two brothers, two sisters-in-law, a niece and another on the way, aunts and uncles, cousins, a goddaughter, grandparents, all of whom would have been someone else’s relatives if life hadn’t happened this way. Not having all these wonderful people in my life doesn’t bear thinking about. I have so many happy memories involving these people filling my head with joy, and the very notion that these could never have existed is just horrendous.

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When I say I have two brothers, strictly, of course, they are half brothers since we only share one biological parent, which leads me on to probably my only issue with the whole situation; nomenclature.

I never ever call them half brothers, I don’t call either of my non-biological parents ‘step parents’. I realise that sometimes it’s necessary for reasons of distinction, but to me they are simply my brothers and my parents. I don’t want to qualify that with any kind of prologue or preamble. This does, however, often lead to people not having a clue which Dad I’m talking about! Some people ask me, do you mean your real Dad? Nope, don’t like that! What’s the alternative to that? My fake Dad? No no no! Others give them a number – Dad number one or Dad number two? Again, no! Is it one or two in chronological order, height order, order of greatness? I have found that the mode of distinction that fits most comfortably with me is to define them geographically. I will mention the city in which they live.

Luckily I don’t have this issue with my female parents. My Mum is my Mum and I have always called my step mum (see, sometimes it’s necessary for distinction, however much I don’t like it) by her Christian name, C. Don’t know why this is. Maybe because we didn’t live together or maybe because I was that little bit older when she and my Dad married.

I think I’d make a great study of the impact of nature and nurture. I haven’t lived with my biological Dad since I was tiny, but I’m so so like him, even down to the kind of music we like. That’s got to come from sharing genes. I’m confident in a quietly assured way just like he is, I enjoy playing with words like he does. I’ve found an aptitude for DIY that comes from him (although I have to point out that I have absolutely nowhere near his level of skill). I often make a conscious decision to remain in the background and watch and appreciate my life happening in front of me and I’ve seen him do the same thing on many an occasion.

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I can be stubbornly determined and that’s my Mum coming out in me. I look like my Mum, although she sees Dad in me (incidentally so does my hubby). One of my major joys in life is making and creating, whether it be with yarn, paper or fabric and that’s my mother in me. I am never without a book and neither is she. I was once described by my managing director as stoic and that’s her through and through, as well, actually, as my Granny on Mum’s side.

I’m a natural introvert, that comes from both biological parents, but I have learnt how to be more socially outgoing and engaging by watching my step Dad (eugh, again necessary for distinction) interact with people over the years. This has been vitally important for success in my career. He has always guided by example but never forced an opinion on me and that taught me to think for myself, but to realise that just sometimes other people might know better because although they aren’t in your shoes, they have walked in very similar ones, and did so a long time before you even grew into your shoes.

From C, I have learnt caregiving. When you are in her company you just feel nurtured, and although we don’t have children to look after, I try to emulate that in my relationships with the important people in my life. She makes sure that her house is ship shape and Bristol fashion and that it contains everything you could possibly need, from Diet Coke and crumpets, to comfort and love. She manages to be thoughtful at the exact moment that you need it. She is also supremely organised and I like to think that some of my organisation skills have come from her example.

I really REALLY hope that I haven’t said anything to trivialise any events as others experienced them. I’m aware that a lot of what I remember, I’m remembering through the rose tinted brain of an uncomplicated child, because that’s what I was. This is testament to a happy childhood. That is what I had.

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These events happened around me, not to me. I guess what I mean is, I’m very happy with how life has turned out, and while I wouldn’t wish hurt on any of my parents, I wouldn’t change the present for the world. It’s just perfect!