Companions ever close

How difficult it is to shed the trappings of one's childhood without a pang; difficult, at any rate, for the English who, never having read Freud, are not at all ashamed to have accumulated over the years a large quantity of toys.

We do not think it in the least odd to find a collection of Beatrix Potter animals on a Cabinet minister's mantlepiece, or a woolly dog on a judge's windowsill. I recall straying into a distinguished don's bathroom -- he was elderly, bald, and precise -- and there, alongside a frayed face cloth and a tablet of unscented soap, was a toy submarine. "It dives," he told me austerely , "while I am having my bath." Not the hint of a blush pinkened his parchment cheek. Neither was I very surprised that a middle- aged intellectual should have a submarine dipping round his torso as he bathed. It was obviously a loved relic of his childhood --

As Tubby and Fifi were of mine. They were a plush dog and cat, given me when I was around five and I loved them. On reaching adolescence I tied them up in a brown paper parcel and put them away in a cupboard, simply because I couldn't bear to part with them entirely. Every so often, as decade followed decade, I would, when I was doing a tidy-up, come across this parcel, wonder what was in it, open it, be struck to the heart by the reproach in Tubby's china eye, the rebuke in Fifi's hairless tail, tie the parcel up again, and put it back in the cupboard with a smothered expletive. It was not until I moved into a smaller home that I finally steeled myself to get rid of these redundant old friends.

Still, I never had them out,m never actually played with them after the age of twelve (you will be glad to hear). Whereas my husband had a collection of toy sea lions that were always cropping up in unexpected places showing, despite protestations to the contrary, that they had been moved by some "interested party."

As I survey my flat I am slightly aghast at the number of toys I still seem to possess; well not toys exactly, not clockwork cranes or building bricks, not things I have to do anything to:m more in the ornament line, really. A china rabbit asleep in bed, its ears spread neatly over the coverlet, a woolly lamb, a cocker spaniel minus an eye, and of course the sea lions, which are now clustered round the foot of a very grand Regency candlestick. I cannot bring myself to part with any of these darling things, even though I am sure many people have a word for it. But I say, never mind.

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