When I was five years old we lived in Bushey. which is just north west of London. My father was in the army and he was preparing to travel down to Bisley which is just south west of London on army business for a week. He hooked our little caravan up to the car and off he went.
The second day after my father’s departure started normally but soon changed as I was ordered to pack my favourite things. My mother had decided we were going to visit my father in Bisley. Boredom had got the better of her and we were off on an adventure.
She called a taxi. In 1966 families rarely had more than one car and anyway my mother didn’t drive. We set off in the early evening for what was going to be a long drive.
As we rolled along I explored the interior of the taxi. To my astonishment I found a teddy bear on the parcel shelf. I had never been in a taxi before, for all I knew they came with teddy bears as standard. My mother explained the reality and suggested the bear had been left by a previous occupant.
The bear was small, quite manageable for my little hands, no more than 20cm high. He was covered in thick, bristly golden brown fur and had swivelling legs and arms. He was exactly what I pictured when ever anybody said “teddy bear”.
I played with him for the whole trip.
When we arrived at Bisley Camp I wanted to keep him. Obviously this was out if the question but the taxi driver gave us his company details and said if nobody claimed the bear in 30 days it would be lost property and we could collect it then.
We spent a week at Bisley living in the caravan and I had a good time playing with other children I met there. I didn’t forget the bear. Nor did I forget him during the remainder of the thirty days which went by maddeningly slowly. I pestered my mother continually.
Eventually time was up and we went to the taxi office to see if the bear was there.
Thankfully he was and I got to claim him as my own. I named him Taxi Ted for obvious reasons.
I kept a Taxi Ted with me for many years. He had to stay home when I went to boarding school for his own safety but he was waiting for me when I returned home in the holidays.
He moved with me and my wife into our first home when we got married. He sat on a high shelf in the living room so the cats wouldn’t be tempted to eat him and when my daughter was born in 1991 he transferred to a shelf in her room.
In 1996 my wife put together a care package for some foreign orphanages. She trawled my daughter’s room for unwanted toys and scooped Taxi Ted into the pile, he did look old after all.
It was some time before I asked where he was and we worked out what must have happened. By then of course it was too late, Taxi Ted had gone to a new home.
I still wonder today, twenty years further on, where he is and how he’s getting on now. He stayed with me for thirty years which is a good innings for a teddy bear but clearly travelling was in his blood from the start.
Wherever he is, I hope he’s happy.