Irishmen and their Teddy-bears
By Sue Leonard.
Published in Feelgood, The Irish Examiner, 3rd August 2012.
From Winner the Pooh, to Paddington Bear, Rupert and Yogi Bear, most of us have been reared on talking bears. It’s all very well for children to believe that bears have their own personalities, but surely not adults?
Think again. Meet ‘Ted,’ a bear with attitude, and the star of US box office smash, co-starring Mark Wahlberg, and Mila Kunis.
In the movie, John Bennett was thrilled when his childhood wish came true and his bear comes to life; but fast forward a couple of decades, and Ted’s influence starts to cause problems. John’s girlfriend, Lori, isn’t impressed. She wants John to herself, and wants Ted out of their lives.
John Bennett is not alone. A survey, carried out in England in 2010, found that more than half the adults there still owned their childhood teddy-bear. And a quarter of the men admitted the bear travelled with them on business trips.
That shouldn’t be so surprising, when you think of classic literature. Who could forget Aloysius, Sebastian Flyte’s bear, and constant companion at Oxford University, in Brideshead Revisited? Evelyn Waugh based Aloysius on Archibald Ormsby Gore, a teddy-bear belonging to the poet, John Betjeman. And, it’s said, Betjeman was hugging Archibald on his deathbed.
Dublin man Jason Garland identifies strongly with both with John Betjeman, and with Ted, the movie. But he’s jealous.
“I’d like my teddy-bear, Pooh, to come to life,” says the 32 year old fire protection engineer. “I know, logically, he’s made of fluff, but there’s always that glimmer of hope. When we walk past our balcony I dream I’ll see him dancing around the living room.”
Ted isn’t the first soft toy Jason has loved. That was Monkey, given to him by an uncle when he was a toddler.
“We were inseparable,” he says. “But my sisters, Michelle and Lorraine teased me unmercifully. I’d come back from school, and he’d be hanging from a light fitting, or shut in the oven. That, to me, was torture. I was convinced he had feelings.”
Monkey met a sad end.
“When I was 11, we got a puppy called Shandy. He wasn’t allowed to sleep in the house, and I felt so sorry for him, huddled in a kennel too big for him. He looked lost, so I gave him the monkey to cuddle for the night. The next morning the garden was full of fluff.”
Eight years later, Jason was on a trip to Wales with two friends.
“I was a wingman for this guy who’d arranged to meet a girl in Holyhead. He’d met her on holiday, but she never turned up. On the way home I saw Pooh on the bottom shelf of the gift shop. I had to have him. It was the expression on his face. He cost me £45.
“I pretended he was a present for Valerie, my then girlfriend, whose now my wife. She wasn’t impressed, but soon, Pooh started to exert his personality. I’d talk in his voice if I wanted something, and she began to do that too.
“I began to bring him on holidays, and on business trips. He’s been to Ayres Rock, Tokyo, China, Paris, everywhere we go. This can be difficult. He’s the size of a nine to twelve month old baby. I know this, because of all the clothes he makes me buy for him. He came to my wedding. He wore a tuxedo. He’s brought a whole new dimension into my life.
“Pooh never complains. He never judges. He listens without making it about him. And he’s always ready for a cuddle. He’s not, now, like the Pooh in the books. He has an adult sense of humour, a sharp tongue, and an eye for the ladies.”
What, though, does Valerie make of this?
“I was perplexed when he first arrived,” she says. “Jason and Pooh have a very close bond. Sometimes, I feel, I’m just there to take the pictures on holiday. But having Pooh in our lives has good benefits. Our rows don’t last as long, because he always has an input and lightens things.”
Does she have moments, like Lori in the movie, of wishing Pooh would take a running jump?
“No. Pooh is great company for Jason when I’m not there. Jason doesn’t like to be on his own. Often I come home and they’re in each other’s arms.”
Come January, a baby will be joining the household. What will happen to Pooh then?
“We have all of Pooh’s friend, like Tigger and Piglet, but they’ve been resigned to the top of a spare room wardrobe,” says Valerie. “Jason wanted them all in bed with us, but there just isn’t room. I’ve said Pooh is going there when the baby comes, but Jason, and Pooh weren’t impressed with that.
“I wonder, though, what will happen if the baby takes a shine to Pooh. Like in Friends, where the baby, Emma, adopted Joey’s Hugsy. But Jason says that won’t happen.”
“He’ll be like a big brother,” says Jason. “He will be very much part of the dynamic. The baby will give me a great excuse to carry Pooh around the place!”
To protect your bear, and your business, from fire, contact Jason: Jason@incendum.ie www.incendum.ie
WHAT IRISMEN THINK OF TEDDY-BEARS
Stephen Donnelly. Independent TD for Wicklow and East Carlow.
“I didn’t have a teddy-bear, and my son doesn’t have one either,” he says. “He sleeps with a blue block. I think Teddy-Bears are an English thing. Irish males are repressed. We’re told not to show our feelings. It’s probably a shame, because yes, sometimes I feel I missed out.”
Tom Dunne. Presenter at Newstalk.
Tom doesn’t remember having a bear as a child. But he now shares a bed with one called George, who is about 40 years old.
“George is named after George Best,” says Tom. “He looks unique; he’s been repaired very, very often. He’s been in the bed with me ever since I met my wife, Audrey. Obviously, I love him. But only this morning I threw him to the end of the bed – gently, of course.”
Paul Howard. Creator of Ross O’Carroll Kelly, and editor of Triggs; The Autobiography of Roy Keane’s dog.
“Unfortunately I didn’t have a teddy-bear as a kid,” he says. “Instead, I was weaned on star-war toys.”
TED ON LINE
• To Watch the Official Trailer: www.yuutube.com/watch?v=VxKIC77XAp8
• For more view Ted’s on FACEBOOK. He has several pages dedicated to him, with dozens of clips from the movie.
‘This one time I played hooky from work and watched a nature Channel documentary about bears. Turns out I’m nothing like a real bear. Real bears hibernate. I like getting high and having sex with hot chicks....but hibernation sounds kind of awesome.’
‘I don’t need clothes, they make me look like Snuggles accountant; but you guys do, otherwise all your junk hangs out like Flash Gordon.’
• For more clips, look at Ted at Tumbir.
• Follow Ted on Twitter: @whattedsaid. Ted has 396.1K followers.
Typical Tweet. ‘Boston bars in summertime smell like base makeup and pussy.’
• Ted has a Blog too. Ted is Coming.
© Sue Leonard. 2012