Introducing Mr Lickwood
I recently saw a picture of Grayson Perry’s exquisite vase depicting the wedding of his teddy bear, Alan Measles, to his own alter ego, Claire Perry, and it reminded me of my own long-lost bear, Mr Lickwood. He may not have had the flamboyant — I’d go so far as to say priapic – allure of Alan Measles, but I was devoted to him.
He was a small, flat, unremarkable brown teddy, without even articulated arms and legs, so his activities were pretty much restricted to lying around. At age four, I didn’t necessarily see him as husband material, but he was my constant companion, and as the space between his ears was exactly the size of my chin, cuddling him was a very comforting experience.
His unusual name came from a television science programme in the black-and-white era. This was long before the days of the Open University’s earnestly bearded presenters, so the camera dwelt solely on the matter in hand while a voice-over told us all we needed to know. On this occasion I was mesmerised by images of drops and streams of fluids of various viscosity flowing and dripping from tubes and flasks, accompanied by recurrent use of the word ‘liquid’. I decided Mr Lickwood would be an exotic, yet respectful, name for my bear.
Sadly, Mr Lickwood’s career as an attachment object was all too brief. One Christmas, we ended up with a Christmas tree so big it had to stand outside in our tiny back yard. (After that we stuck to miniature fake ones you could plonk on top of the telly.) Although Mr Lickwood usually went naked, for some reason he owned a pink and white crocheted tutu. As a family we decided that the Christmas tree could have no finer fairy to top it off than Mr Lickwood in his pomp.
So for twelve days Mr Lickwood braved the cold and rain on top of the tree, and I managed without him at night, proud of his contribution to the festivities and confident that we would soon be reunited.
Mr Lickwood may have looked the same when he was brought in on Twelfth Night, but he had changed. He had got sodden in the rain, and as soon as he had been dried out and normal service resumed, it was clear from the kapok stuffing that began to sprout from his sides that his stitching had rotted and given way. I was cool with this, of course, but he was deemed to be ‘unhygienic’. Even at four, I knew that there were few worse things to be than ‘unhygienic’. Sewing him up or sending him to a toy hospital didn’t seem to be options. He would have to be disposed of, and as they* knew I wouldn’t give him up willingly, they warned me that he would be taken from me one night while I slept. They didn’t say which night, just some night. And that’s exactly what happened. I woke up one morning and he was gone. It’s amazing that I’ve ended up the well-balanced individual that I am today, really.
Oh, Mr Lickwood, when I think of your irresistible combination of high camp and furry faithfulness, I could weep! You coulda been a contender.
* Those people Philip Larkin wrote a poem about.