It seemed a winter’s evening like every other as Mary busied herself in the basement of a shared house, waiting for husband John to return home for tea. As the Second World War had ended nine months previously, the outside air was no longer filled with the acrid smell of cordite from fallen explosives. Yet, chilly nights like this were still thick with pungent locomotive smoke drifting down from London’s nearby King’s Cross station. A sharp rapping on the front door had Mary running upstairs.
At first, she saw no one. But as her eyes fell to the step, there was a brown paper carrier bag. Inside was a bundle of fabric. And suddenly the fabric moved. Mary held her breath as she peered into the bag, now getting a better look at the baby inside, a tiny girl, small enough to be a newborn. When John came home soon afterwards, he was stunned; first to hear the unfamiliar mew of a baby, then to see his wife cooing over the child.
Next stop for the baby was an institution in Lewisham, where her mother came forward, not to claim her but to relinquish parental rights. Undaunted, the couple fostered her until an adoption process was completed, naming their new daughter Lesley. One of the first gifts Mary bought her was a teddy bear, which became Lesley’s lifelong confidante, taking pride of place on her bed.
Almost 20 years later, when Lesley was about to get married and leave home, she realised her faithful companion Ted was looking a bit worse for wear. Cautiously, she set about him with some soap suds and a nail brush, then set him in front of the electric bar fire to dry. Distracted by something, she came back too late to save him from harm and Ted now had charred paws.
She was distraught but couldn’t face disposing of the ruined bear. Instead, she kept him in a bag for more than 50 years to stop him disintegrating before bringing him into the Repair Shop.
It was a case of returning Ted to his best life. For Lesley, he was an emblem of all the love that her mum and dad had lavished upon her from the moment she was left on their front step. Bear ladies Julie and Amanda identified Ted as a Chiltern bear, made in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, during the 1940s, and set about restoring him.
A new future now awaited Ted as he would be put proudly on display in Lesley’s home.
“Ted has been in a bag for the last 53 years because I was frightened of him falling apart,” Lesley explained. “Today he is wonderful. You would never know that I had toasted him. My parents always knew Ted was my comfort blanket. They would be pleased that he can come out again where everyone can see what a wonderful little bear he is.”
The Repair Shop returns to BBC1 at 8pm tonight. They also have a book out; The Repair Shop: Tales from the Workshop of Dreams by Karen Farrington and Jay Blades. It is in all good bookshops now, priced £20 in hardback.
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