JENNI MURRAY: Why we never let go of our childhood teddies

JENNI MURRAY: Why we never let go of our childhood teddies (… and I have still got mine!)

  • Studies claim up to 70 per cent of children develop an attachment to an object
  • The hero of J. K. Rowling’s book The Christmas Pig, was inspired by her son
  • UK-based columnist Jenni Murray, recalls the teddy she brought everywhere  

How very clever of the amazingly prolific J. K. Rowling to come up with a Christmas story which celebrates the bond between a child and a comforter.

Studies by child psychologists at Bristol and Yale have found that up to 70 per cent of young children develop an attachment to an object such as a toy or blanket.

The phenomenon tends to be more common in the West, where children usually sleep apart from their parents at an early age. Apparently, children anthropomorphise the object and look at it as if it has feelings. They know it’s not alive, but believe in it as if it is.

Jack, the hero of J. K. Rowling’s book The Christmas Pig, has a habit of hiding his pig and not remembering where he put it. Enter No. 2, an identical pig kept for when No. 1 can’t be found.

Studies by child psychologists at Bristol and Yale have found that up to 70 per cent of young children develop an attachment to an object such as a toy or blanket (file image) 

The root of the tale is what does it mean to be a replacement or understudy — not the one who is loved beyond reason, but the one who has to work hard to satisfy the child?

It was inspired, says J. K., by the day her son, David, then a toddler, found a pristine pig in a cupboard. It had been bought as a back-up in case he lost the original.

It’s unusual for her to reveal anything about her children. Like so many writers, she’s taken care to protect their privacy. But there are, I hope, times when it’s OK to include them in a personal story that happened long ago and will chime with so many parents.

David, she revealed this week, ended up with two towelling pigs, but the first one remained his favourite; the one he couldn’t go to sleep without.

How to account for which toy becomes the Chosen One? No idea. I still find it curious that my elder son, Ed, chose as his constant companion the cheapest, scruffiest creature, rather than one of his far more elegant soft toys.

She was known as Skinny Lizzie. She was about eight inches long, homemade and bought at a Christmas fair.

She was the first thing I spotted on the toy table. Her body, legs and arms were wool, her head was stuffed with cotton wool and she had yellow woollen plaits. Her dress was brown-and-white checked gingham. She had big eyes and a lovely smile.

Jenni Murray (pictured) said the teddy she was given at birth slept in her cot and accompanied her everywhere 

I’ll never understand why Ed’s face lit up the minute he saw her. It was love at first sight and they were never parted. She came everywhere with us and he couldn’t sleep unless Lizzie was with him.

Keeping her clean was a bit of a trial. A neighbour came up with the idea of a stand-in for when Lizzie No. 1 was wet. She was sort of accepted, but there was always a sigh of relief when the original was returned.

Ed could be quite cruel to Lizzie, throwing her in the air and not remembering where she’d landed. She never seemed to mind, even when she spent two weeks behind the microwave — I should have cleaned the kitchen better — and the stand-in took over. Later, Lizzie No. 1 quickly re-established herself as the indisputable favourite.

Ed grew out of his obsession, and I have no idea what happened to either of the Skinny Lizzies.

I do, though, remember my own comforter — a more conventional choice. Teddy was the first gift I received from my godfather, given to me at birth. He slept in my cot and accompanied me everywhere.

I doubt Ed even remembers Lizzie now he’s a grown man. But Teddy is a different matter.

He lives in my bedroom. He became my companion 71 years ago. He came to university and I have, occasionally, been heard having a chat with him.

Could his enduring presence be the result of my being an only child? All I know is he’s now the only one left who knew me when I was little.

The new Adele is no longer someone like me

Jenni said Adele (pictured) looks beautiful, but she hopes no one thinks they can achieve a similar result with exercise alone 

Adele, pictured, on the cover of Vogue magazine

You may disagree with me on this, but I am disappointed in Adele’s extreme makeover.

Yes, she looks beautiful, but only in that rather overdone, over-posed way we’ve come to expect of glamorous ‘influencers’. What we loved about her was her great voice, songwriting talent and the fact that she was a bit like the rest of us — pretty, plump and a little sweary.

Well done on the weight loss, but I hope no one thinks they can achieve a similar result with exercise alone. How many of us have the time or the money to work obsessively with a trainer three times a day — morning, noon and night?

  • For years, when out buying toys for my boys at Christmas, I would fume at the way they were displayed. The boys’ toys section was always black, mechanical and industrial; the girls’ was pink and full of dollies, pretend vacuum cleaners and stoves.

Three cheers for Lego, which has promised to end gender stereotyping in its products. It’s a start.

Toys should just be toys. That’s all!

Police must act now to stop protest thugs

I have watched in disgust as Professor Kathleen Stock of Sussex University has been physically threatened by student trans activists because she has dared to express what most of us know to be a fact — it is possible to change the gender with which you identify, but you can’t change your biological sex. There are two sexes: male and female. For this she’s been branded transphobic.

Despite the support of her vice-chancellor, who defended her right to free speech, she does not have the backing of the lecturers’ union which ‘extended solidarity to all trans and non-binary members of our community’. She now fears her career at the university has effectively been ended.

All of us who have expressed gender-critical beliefs have suffered online abuse, but something far more terrifying is happening here. Professor Stock says the police implied she should hire bodyguards or teach only from home. She shouldn’t need to. It’s the vicious students who need to be stopped.

Threats are now moving off the internet and on to the street. On Sunday, Jeremy Vine’s home was targeted by anti-vaxx protesters who disagreed with the BBC’s support of vaccination, and handed his wife an ‘anti-vaxx writ’. Chris Packham had dead animals left at his gate by those who disagree with his opposition to blood sports, and a Land Rover was torched outside his home. It’s madness. There is a right to free speech and protest. But there is no right to threaten violence. The police need to arrest these thugs for intimidation, whether they’re students, hunters or daftly think vaccination is a bad idea. And we must stand by those who are silenced and protect them.

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