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Lori Anderson: More than the bear necessities

Kate Moss apparently burned Pete Doherty's favourite teddy bear. Picture: Getty

Kate Moss apparently burned Pete Doherty's favourite teddy bear. Picture: Getty

  • by LORI ANDERSON
 

I have always believed in the maxim “all is fair in love and war”, but there should be an extra provision in the Geneva Convention of the heart that protects a person’s teddy from the scissors and matches of an enraged lover.

If such a protocol had been in place, then it might have stayed the hand of Kate Moss and Pete Doherty’s furry childhood companion might still be around, averting his button eyes from the latest bout of his owner’s chemical abuse.

At the weekend, the Libertines singer revealed that his biggest, “genuine and totally heartfelt regret” was “that I didn’t keep my eye on Pandy, who was my first ever teddy bear. My sister gave him to me as a huge gesture of love and kinship. I held on to Pandy all my life, but he ended up getting burned by Kate [Moss], along with a lot of other stuff, when we split up. There was no need for that – unless she simply wanted to cause me as much emotional damage as possible.” Is it true? Could Kate be so cruel? He is, after all, a havering drug addict.

But this wasn’t the only example of teddy abuse that recently appeared in the papers. The writer Kate Morris also revealed this week that at her boarding school the matron cut up the teddy bear of a girl who had wet the bed.

Docherty is not alone in his ursine passion. One report, which I believe must surely be exaggerated, claimed that one in three adults still retire at night with their teddy. However, Travelodge has also reported that each year it reunites tens of thousands of bears not just with heartbroken children but also with what the hotel chain’s spokesman described as “frantic businessmen and women”.

My favourite TV bear was not Winnie the Pooh, or Paddington, not even Balou, whom even as a child I considered an annoying big slavering lump with loose fat lips. No, my favourite bear was called Aloysius and he was blessed with elegance, grace and exquisite good taste, for how else could he find himself cradled in the arms of Sebastian Flyte?

I met Aloysius and Sebastian in the pages of Evelyn Waugh’s wonderful novel Brideshead Revisited, where they were first introduced under the family Christmas tree. The bear was originally meant as a present for Sebastian’s sister, Cordelia, but the little boy snatched him up first and, throughout his entire life, never let him go, carrying him to the dreaming spires of Oxford University.

As Sebastian said of youth: “If it could only be like this always – always summer, always alone, the fruit always ripe and Aloysius in a good temper.” Or on his travelling plans: “I have a good mind not to take Aloysius to Venice. I don’t want him to meet a lot of horrid Italian bears and pick up bad habits.”

Aloysius made the leap from page to screen with typical elegance when the novel became the celebrated 11-part drama, broadcast on ITV in 1981 where he earned his own fans and inspired a new generation of young scholars to pack their own furry childhood companion when setting off to university. It wasn’t until many years later that I learned Aloysius was based on a real teddy bear called Archibald Ormsby-Gore, or Archie for short, who belonged to the future poet laureate John Betjeman, a close friend of Waugh with whom he studied at Oxford. Betjeman, like Sebastian, carried Archie everywhere and later wrote a story about him for his own children called Archie and the Strict Baptists in which the little bear rode a hedgehog to church each Sunday.

The teddy bear as a childhood toy had emerged from both Germany and the United States at the beginning of the 20th century, but it was Morris Michum who christened him. In 1902 the manufacturer saw an illustration in the newspaper of how the US president, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt had refused to shoot an American black bear that had been tied to a tree in Mississippi by his host to provide an easy kill. (A black shroud is usually drawn over the fact that the president instructed that the bear be killed anyway.) Inspired, Michum released a little stuffed toy known as a Teddy’s Bear, which became a huge success.

I can understand why Pete Doherty continues to feel the loss of Pandy. A teddy bear comes packed with more than just stuffing, he’s filled up with all the love and security that comes with childhood, or he dispensed it himself if it was lacking at home. Teddy bears are our childhood, their little woollen legs have walked beside us through that confusing world populated by giants. Their button eyes have seen all that we have seen, their cloth ears have listened to our whispered hopes. However old we grow, they will always remain loyal and silent. No wonder John Betjeman cradled Archie in his arms in his final hours.

 

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