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Living in a Material World...

I picked up a new car last week. It’s nothing fancy or particularly special; just a Ford Fiesta, but I happen rather to like it. I have a weird bonding process with cars. Sometimes I get into a car and fall in love. Other times, I never really get that attached.

This led to a conversation in the office last week about our first cars. I was able to openly admit that my first car – also a Ford Fiesta as it happens – broke my heart when we parted company. Some guy turned up to my house (I was living in Evesham at the time), paid me cash and drove away in my first ever car. I cried. I couldn’t help it. I’d had it for two years and we’d been through some amazing journeys and disasters together. This was the car that broke down at Leicester Forest East services and left me, to this day, with a fear of breaking down at that place.

The old design meant that the accelerator cable rested in a clip on top of the air filter. My Big Brother had changed the air filter for me before I left for the drive to the Peak District, but not put the cable back in the clip. Thus, it spent the whole trip lying on the exhaust manifold. And comprehensively melted. I still remember the horrors of driving around Leicester on a rainy evening, trying to find somewhere to buy an accelerator cable, with Phil the Very Patient AA Man. I also remember Phil being remarkably startled when I bought him a coffee, saying that nobody ever did that for him. What was I meant to do? YOU JUST SAVED MY LIFE, MR. KNIGHT IN SHINING YELLOW VAN-TYPE ARMOUR!

But it’s an odd thing how we form attachments to material objects. I’m sure most of us had a favourite toy when we were kids; you know, the one thing that went everywhere with us and woe betide if it were lost. Here’s a confession for you.

I have a stuffed toy; a lop-sided, decidedly misshapen little dog who goes by the name of Smudge. Smudge and I have been together since I was about seven or eight years old. Smudge has been all over the world, because for years (I joked) I had massive paranoia that if I was away, my house might get burgled and Smudge dog-napped. Truth was, I am so attached to that little toy, that the thought of it being in the house whilst I’m away used to give me terrible anxiety that the house would burn down. Screw all my other possessions; this is the only thing I TRULY cared about.

Smudge no longer comes on holiday with me. This is as a direct result of him being pulled out of my hand luggage the last time he travelled and being put through the scanner independently, presumably to be sure that I wasn’t smuggling drugs in him. I can see how mad I must have looked. A grown woman, lugging a stuffed toy around. I sort of smiled sheepishly at the airport security guy, muttering something about him thinking I must be a bit stupid only for him to then smile and say ‘don’t worry, I have this bear that goes everywhere with me’. So now, instead of house-burning down paranoia, I have worries that they’d cut him open and perform some kind of Smudge-ectomy on him. And that wouldn’t do. He may be battered, lop-sided, missing patches of fur and long ago lost the black pupils from his eyes (he now has this faintly terrifying, dead stare), but he’s mine. And I love him.

And I DO love him. Is that a strange thing to admit? That I have love for a stuffed toy? That I loved my first car so much that I was able to cry genuine tears of separation when it left?

I suspect that I love this toy so much because it represents a link to my childhood and a reminder of places I’ve been. It reminds me of the time I first got him; a single dog in a basket of similar dogs. He was the only one with an off-centre nose. He was the one who got the name ‘Smudge’ after my big brother whipped him out of my hands whilst we were up at my grandparents and threw him in the fireplace (the fire wasn’t lit – he wasn’t THAT mean) so he got all covered in soot. He’s the one who’s travelled to Florida, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santorini, St. Lucia, Las Vegas and Rome. He should have his own passport.

Alright. It’s a weird confession. So this is where I need you guys to help me out and reassure me that I’m not – ah – barking mad. (Pun re: dog stuffed toy entirely intended). What are your most cherished material possessions?

Smudge. Intrepid explorer, trusted friend and protector of the Universe.

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