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Elizabeth Hawksley: Creative Writing – a poignant exercise

February 21, 2011

I’ve just returned from the Writers’ Weekend in Fishguard where I took the Novel workshops. One of the workshop topics was Description – a topic which, I believe, has an important part to play in getting across emotion, amongst other things.

The final exercise shows this perfectly. I asked the group to describe their favourite childhood toy and this simple exercise obviously touched an area of deep emotion. There were several much-loved teddies, a wonderful rocking horse, a toy bus whose route followed the pattern on the carpet and so on, all deeply felt and some very sad.      

Afterwards, I found myself thinking of my own teddy bear, a koala, much loved and hugged threadbare. The only bits of fur left were in the creases of his arms and legs. He also had a visible scar across his tummy sewn up in dark blue blanket stitch.

When I was about nine, I went to France with a twelve-year-old cousin to stay with a French family in Normandy. We flew, unaccompanied by an adult, on a small plane that hopped across the channel. The French customs officer thought our unaccompanied state highly suspicious. He grabbed my teddy and prodded him. Then, to my horror, he cut him open and pulled out the stuffing. I burst into tears.

Fortunately, my teddy was found to be innocent. Other passengers who were watching began to protest and the man pushed the stuffing back in roughly and handed him back with a large rip in his tummy and the stuffing showing. It felt as if he’d been murdered.  

I have never forgotten it.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Prem Beggs permalink
    February 24, 2011 10:48 am

    What a harrowing tale! And what a nasty, heartless man. Our dearest toys did assume lives of their own. I too had a small teddy bear with silky fur and melting brown eyes. He was called Drainy, because I once heard some grown-ups discussing drains and felt it was rather a friendly kind of word. When I was ten I went to boarding school, leaving him to await my return, but during my absence my mother kindly donated him to my infant niece and he was lost on a train. I still wonder who found him, and always hope that whoever it was really needed him and gave him a good home.

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