This morning, I drove my son to school and pulled up in the school road.
And we were in a tearing hurry. But everything stopped for quite a minute, as Felix strapped Bumpy The Elephant into his passenger seat.
It was a solemn business. It took a good while, because Bumpy is a tiny fraction of Felix’s height, and a seat belt didn’t come naturally. But he succeeded. And for the rest of the day- an unbelievably trying one – I would look at the passenger seat and nod to Bumpy, my partner in crime.
But Kate, I hear you say, he’s just an amalgam of stuffing and velour, a once glorious child’s toy which has been loved into shabbiness. And I would answer: Mate, this morning at 9am, in a very posh suit indeed, I was roasted in a very important meeting. And as a consequence, no-one is prizing that small blue elephant from my car. He’s Bumpy, and he’s in my team.
I mention this because I am not the only grown up who occasionally sets store by the strange menagerie of cloth creatures who inhabit the houses of man.
I was wandering the huts of Bletchley Hall on Saturday. Bletchley: the place where the government’s Code and Cypher School was run during the war. Here, some of the finest minds of the time tackled challenges which ultimately helped win the war. Here, the codes generated by the German Enigma Machine were decrypted.
And in this bastion of grown up-ness, what should I come upon but a great big teddy bear.
Porgy sits in a glass case, and I can’t help thinking he must be a little lonesome in there. He is there because one day, long ago, that genius and inventor of the first computer, picked him up in a toy shop. And he was not a youngster when he bought Porgy. He was all grown up.
He used to practice his lectures in front of Porgy, it is said, while at Cambridge. And one Christmas, say the signs at Bletchley Park, he delighted a niece – Shuna Turing – with a gesture of pure childlike elation.
“My mother, “she recalls, “Alan’s sister-in-law, made me a little skirt with braces and red buttons and as a surprise, I woke up the next morning to find Porgy wearing matching trousers, braces and buttons.
“Porgy has worn them ever since – approximately 67 years.”
Just occasionally, a cuddly toy can acquire significance, even when we are grown up.
As Bumpy and Porgy so ably demonstrate.