Friday, May 17, 2013

the cuddly toy conspiracy

Sienna is sitting on the edge of her bed, crying into the phone, whilst two of the other hostel residents look in at the door.
‘I’ve made too many mistakes,’ she sobs. ‘I just can’t cope anymore. I can’t cope.’
Along with a packet of tobacco and an asthma inhaler, there’s a neat mound of empty blister packs beside her.

When we’ve chatted to her for a while, calmed her down, established that yes, she will come with us to the hospital, Rae asks if she has everything she needs. Phone, keys, money for the taxi home?
‘Humphrey,’ says Sienna, reaching for a tatty owl that’s reclining on her pillow. She stuffs it in her handbag along with the rest of her medication.
I carry the bag and her coat so she has her hands free to support herself as she goes down the stairs.
The owl stares up at me from the bag as we descend.


Waiting with Sienna in the triage area of the A&E department.
Another crew comes in, pushing a young man in a wheelchair. He’s slumped forward over something; at first I think it’s a vomit bowl, then I see a little more of it and think it must be a furry hat, but when they park themselves next to us I can see that it’s actually a little toy fox. He moans slightly, and strokes the head of it.
When the triage nurse comes over to them, the attendant smiles and waves a little bundle of empty blister packets in the air.


Giles buzzes us into the flat. A twenty year old man, he has the bland and fleshy complexion of celery forced in the dark.
‘I took all my meds at once and went to sleep. I’m a bit disappointed I woke up, to be honest.’
Have you got everything you need to go to hospital, Giles? Phone, keys, money...?
He hands me a canvas bag whilst he pulls on a Slipknot hoodie.
And yep, there in the bag, just visible beneath the headphones, the magazine, the drink bottle and cigarettes, a cuddly little toy hedgehog, staring up at me with an off-centre kind of smile, as if to say: Sssh! Don’t say anything. I’m hiding.


The Girl said...

Yes I the ruffty tuffty biker chick admit that I need the small manky oil covered soft toy penguin know as Penge (long story) in the pocket of my jacket when I ride.

AND the small yellow bear to be there when I wake up in the hozzy.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

A small bit of comfort in a cold and often cruel world. Those who need that bit of softness are the ones who lack it most I think.

Spence Kennedy said...

TG - I think those old and tatty mascots are the most powerful. They soak up all that time & experience and just radiate. Great name for a penguin, btw. What was the bear called?

Lynda - The toys were definitely a comfort for the patients, but as onlookers they did seem to amplify the sadness of their situation. What struck me most that particular shift was that three consecutive cases, all the same age (young adult), featured a toy. It's odd sometimes how these little details stand out.

Thanks for the comments :)

tpals said...

Now I'm trying to remember if I had a favorite toy...but all I can see are the pets. Maybe real animals fill that need.

Spence Kennedy said...

I agree, tpals. You can't beat the real thing!

jacksofbuxton said...

I don't do teddy bears,although Mrs Jack still has hers from her youth.

I tend to spend a fortune in the Build a Bear shop for the girls.

At least Dick Turpin wore a mask.

Spence Kennedy said...

I used to have a rhinoceros soft toy, but it got terribly scorched and almost caught fire when I left it on the TV, and I couldn't look it in the eye after that.

Petrolhead said...

I've still got quite a few teddies, but the one I still sleep with at night is a yellow elephant - Puffalump. Technically it's a girl but the dress got lost years ago, and it's always been a boy to me!

Spence Kennedy said...

I like the sound of a yellow elephant - although if I woke up and found it looking at me on the pillow I might scream.

Did you ever see 'Friends' (stupid question) and Joey's penguin, Hugsy?

Petrolhead said...

Haha, no I didn't! But I can imagine, bless him.

Laura Elizabeth said...

Due to multiple admissions for a chronic condition, my friend actually bought me a travel version of the teddy I sleep with at home! He's slightly less conspicuous and definitely a lot cleaner than my 21 year old, well loved version!

Anonymous said...

hm. I was a thumb sucker, no real soft toys for me. However we have a thumb sucker at work (in their 30s) and I think I'd prefer they brought a cuddly toy in instead.. *shudder*


Spence Kennedy said...

Laura - That travel version sounds like a good idea. Is it like those travel cushions that stuff away into an envelope-sized bag? Your 21yo teddy sounds pretty venerable. I like those soft toys where the eyes have been replaced and the stitching badly done. I suppose because they feel like kindred spirits... :)

Spence Kennedy said...

I used to suck my thumb, too. Everyone used to say my teeth would grow crooked (p.s. they didn't ha, ha). But I think if you're sucking your thumb at 30 there's something def amiss. Maybe there's an electronic thumb they could use to wean themselves off it.

Laura Elizabeth said...

He's just a mini version! I can hold him in one hand but he's made of the same material so feels similar :-) I like the word venerable, very fitting in my opinion!