We recently visited our elder son and noticed that his old teddy bear, Mo-bear, was awaiting rehoming, because there was no room in the new London flat. Perfectly excusable perhaps, when both son and bear are on the verge of their middling years. I mounted a rescue operation and found a new home for said bear within the family. This prompted our younger son to produce his old bear, Poly, from a shelf in his office, rather sheepishly handing him over for care and repair.

Mo-bear is still in good condition, perhaps because of his owner’s detachment from the child-bear relationship at a relatively early stage. Maybe this was a sign of the responsible role our son holds within the family. He did seem to grow up rather more quickly than his younger siblings.

Our daughter’s bear, Bobbin, is well-worn too, although perfectly serviceable. She is cherished almost as much as her owner’s cat. Does this reflect gender issues, where girls and women are expected to love soft toys? I certainly have an extensive collection on my shelf, acquired mostly on my travels.

Poly was in a sad state when he entered my bear hospital – paws abraded, nose almost gone, several seams oozing stuffing, glass eyes almost opaque from scratches. He smelt old and neglected, and yet with something of the comforting smell I have always associated with furry toys. Poly has a chequered history, often taken out and about with an energetic and adventurous boy. He was once used as a missile to knock down a bird’s nest from a tree, leading to a great deal of retribution at school for his 8-year-old owner, an owner who now cares for animals as his employment. Poly’s adventures almost made it into the children’s book I started many moons ago, but never got round to finishing.

Now Poly has undergone major surgery, including eye polishing and a newly-stitched nose. A wash and brush-up has improved him no end. He took forever to dry and I wondered whether to put him through the tumble dryer, but it didn’t feel right somehow. He’s now bright-eyed, and would be bushy-tailed if he had a tail, but there is one thing I can’t change – he smells vaguely of orange blossom and chamomile, but underneath that is the undeniable scent of old age. And yet…I can still detect comfort.

Which brings me to my own story. As a small child, I had a bear, simply known as Teddy. His fur was worn thin, where I sniffed at it while sucking my thumb, a habit my Gran deplored. More than once, Teddy was washed, and he hung very sadly by one ear from the washing line, to drip dry. At the age of seven, however, I was introduced to my 3-month-old boy cousin. The adults around encouraged me to put Teddy in the baby’s pram as a present, which I duly did, but with a heavy heart because Teddy was my go-to whenever I needed comfort, especially at bedtime. The separation has lived with me ever since. Worse still, my cousin didn’t particularly cherish my bear, having other, newer soft toys, and Teddy was given away at some stage. My cousin has since apologised, although of course he was complete unaware of his role in my loss. However, he recently found a photo for me, of his Mum with my grandparents, taken before he was born. In the foreground is a little blonde girl, about two years old, smiling happily. Alongside her sits Teddy, captured forever in black-and-white. And I can still smell him.