The time has come for our youngest child to get a new bed. His cot bed no longer contains his flailing limbs in the night and, by his own admission, he needs a big boy’s bed. This, coinciding with eldest child’s wobbly tooth, is a milestone I was ill-prepared for. Two large children in proper beds always seemed such a fanciful notion.
All the beds in our house come from Warren Evans. They used to have a showroom round the corner from our flat and, even though we’ve moved 100 miles away, they are still our first port of call. And browsing on their website this week saw a call for tales of the toys that protect us in the night.
Every child has a favourite toy – one that can always be relied upon to stay by their side in times of trouble or adventure – usually both. For Fred, that toy is Superted. Yes Superted – the 1980s Derek Griffiths cartoon classic. He was kindly donated by our friend Dan in a scene reminiscent of the closing scene of Toy Story 3 and is never very far away.
Arthur, on the other hand, has Happy Feet. Far from being a toy, Happy Feet truly has become part of the family. He is a rather large polyester penguin which I believe came free from WH Smith with some or other purchase some years ago. It irks me more than I can say that both favourite toys are, quite literally, irreplaceable (actually a friend does also have the same penguin and she has offered to part with him for £50 when the inevitable day comes).
It’s not just at bedtime that Happy Feet excels. He can usually be seen, dragged around the village. He often holds onto the handlebars on the scooter run to school. He often has the only seat in the Supermarket trolley or his own bowl at breakfast.
I would be sad to see the back of Happy Feet because Happy Feet, unlike all other mere stuffed toys, doesn’t just protect our dreams; he lives the life that we can only dream of. Some children have imaginary friends – figments of their imagination who represent the insecure, vulnerable sides to their nature. Not Arthur. Arthur has Happy Feet and Happy Feet can do anything. More to the point, Happy Feet can do everything you want to do – only just that little bit better.
For example, in conversations with his father over breakfast, it will become clear that Happy Feet owns a Ferrari. He has told me several times that Happy Feet lives in Italy. However it is Fred that bears the anguish of watching Happy Feet live out his unfulfilled dreams. An advert for amazing new toy Fred doesn’t yet have? – ‘Happy Feet has that’. Most weekends Happy Feet will have spent at a party, or a fun fair and is a regular visitor to Legoland. More importantly, at Happy Feet’s gymnastics class ‘everyone is allowed on the big trampoline’.
The cruellest so far had to be on our return from holiday, when asking them what had been their favourite thing to do ….. ‘Happy Feet really enjoyed the Torture Museum’ – the one place Fred had begged to be taken and was repeatedly refused.
It’s not yet clear whether Happy Feet’s adventures come from a genuine desire to see good in the world or a vicious display of one-upmanship. As I creep in to see him tucked under Arthur’s arm as he sleeps, I’m inclined to think the former but who knows.
And now, apparently Happy Feet has an imaginary friend. He’s called Chappy Feet. I have a feeling things could get a lot more complicated.