Teddy Brown is a venerable old gentleman. My mother was given him by her birth mother in 1934, but had been bought for her sister Jill in 1928.
Teddy Brown crossed the Atlantic several times in the heyday of the great Ocean liners alongside little Jill Jones, before settling down with Baby Jennie, adopted by her mother’s brother and his wife, in Portsmouth.
The sunny little house on Portsdown hill was full of cats to snuggle with and Teddy Brown happily passed his days sitting on the colourful quilt on the huge dark bed in the box-room upstairs, looked down upon by mawkish Victorian framed prints and Biblical texts as he faced the saucer with its night-light, and the china jug and bowl on the wash-stand.
Night time was spent absorbing Little Jennie’s tears as she cried for her new daddy, away at sea, or in China or India.
All men shave don’t they? Teddy Brown is no exception. Little Jennie helped him out with this with the aid of a cut-throat razor found in the bottom of the wardrobe in the spare room, and this was how Teddy Brown became bald and how some of his threads became raggedy.
Time moves on and the sunny little house becomes overshadowed by War. Daddy stopped coming home and Mummy and the two little girls often had to escort Teddy to the Anderson shelter which was very dark and full of damp and spiders.
None of them liked the Anderson shelter; it felt very exposed in the large hillside garden with the Blitz raging all around
Often they just crowded under the sturdy dining room table rather than go out in the dark. Teddy Brown would worry terribly about what Daddy would say if he knew his girls weren’t in the shelter. The Stoakley girls down the road had had to be dug out of their cellar, and it’s best not to think about what happened at the Carlton Cinema……
Every night the docks would take a pounding and even miles away, from the house on the hill, Jennie, Mummy, Maureen, Teddy and the cats could see figures of fire-fighters silhouetted, their shadows projected by the fire-light, like huge phantoms in the smoke and dust clouds. It was scary!
Time moves on again, Teddy gets set upon by Spitfire, the ginger and white cat, and loses the threads that marked his mouth, his paws are worn through and his right arm has come off. Jennie does her best, but she is no needlewoman and the reattached arm gives Teddy Brown a rather rakish leftward lean.
Jennie is growing up. She becomes Hampshire’s first Queen’s Guide in 1948 and has the honour of meeting Princess Margaret and Olave, Lady Baden Powell. Teddy Brown is still staring at the big green jug on the washstand, but his eyes are not so good as they were, and eventually they fall off.
Teddy is a bit confused what happened next, but he knows that Jennie got married and took her with him to live in Reading. Teddy didn’t mind that Jennie was too busy with two new babies to find him some new eyes, he was confident that better times were just around the corner.
The family moved to Winchester and another baby was born.
Teddy and Baby took to each other right away and became inseparable. On a visit to the old sunny house, a pair of “new” glass eyes was found. Grandpa had bought them a long while ago for Teddy Brown, but had forgotten. Grandpa’s days of sailing the world were done, and he made his last journey in 1970 which is when the eyes were found among his things.
Teddy Brown had a complete makeover, (admittedly lo-tech)
Fabric runs were stopped with clear nail varnish, pads were removed, legs and arms re-stuffed with chopped stockings and reapplied. A permanent new mouth was marker penned on carefully, and the longed-for eyes attached.
Every fortnight Teddy Brown would accompany his little girl and her family back to the sunny old house to visit Nanny, until she too passed away in 1978.
The next few years were quiet. The girl grew up, left home, and came back, as Teddy Brown sat patiently in an exalted place above her other jumble.
When the girl married, Teddy Brown went too… another Baby Jenny came along, and another little bear came to live with them, called Baby Brown. Teddy Brown is old now, and retired. Baby Brown is the one that now goes to Guide Camp and on Foreign Holidays. Teddy Brown is right now sitting by my left elbow, and I am taking dictation…….