The Migration of the Teddy Bears

The way different animals migrate has fascinated people for countless millennia. From salmon swimming upstream with unerring accuracy to find their spawning grounds, to birds flying south to avoid the cold touch of winter, to herds of wildebeest locating their fresh grazing lands. It’s a reminder that there are some parts of nature that will be forever an unreadable mystery. We know it happens, we can suggest reasons that might explain why it happens, but the true meaning always dances teasingly out of our grasp.

Locally, there doesn’t seem much in the way of noticeable migration. The seagulls certainly don’t seem to buzz off and dive-bomb litter bins in hotter countries at any time of the year. They’re here all the flipping time. Likewise, little yappy dogs can be heard making their horrifying, polystyrene-down-a-wet-window screams throughout the calendar.

There are, however, teddy bears. If you go down to your local charity shop a weekend or two after Valentine’s Day, you’re sure of a big surprise. Every February, teddies and other cuddly toys progress from their homes at the start of the month – first-hand, full-price stores – to the fundraising shops, where they re-establish their colonies by the end of the month. Let’s face it; it doesn’t really take David Attenborough to work out what might have caused this particular migration. Chocolates are scoffable, roses only last a finite time. But what do you do with a teddy bear from an admirer, when you’re just not that into then?

I took the above picture of a charity shop window display one late February day. I promise you, I haven’t added anything to this photo. The fat raindrops, sobbing their way down the window, were there when the ursine display caught my attention.

As somebody who tries to be nice and considerate of the feelings of others, I hope that none of the original purchasers of these bears live in the neighbourhood, and might recognise the hairy tokens of their rejected affections. The white bear in the bottom right of the picture holds a heart with a message that seems to read ‘Special Girlfriend’, although the raindrops slightly obscure it. That one seems particularly poignant in its unrequitedness.

On a tangential point, the charity shop in this case is Save The Children. That these toys, which may very well involve child labour somewhere in their manufacturing process, so quickly end up raising money for that particular cause, sends the irony-o-meter glowing redder than a plushy love heart.

So please, next Valentine’s Day, if you receive an unwanted bear from your one-sided crush, hang on to it until at least the middle of March. The post-Valentine teddy bear invasion of charity shops seems cruel to all the spurned lovers, in its swiftness. It’s also a bit of a downer for those of us who like to peruse second-hand shops with a little bit of hope in our careworn hearts.

On the other hand, if you’re the sort of forward-planner who intends to be romantically involved in just under a year’s time, has some storage space, and wants to save a few quid – get yourself down to the charity shops and bag a beary bargain.

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