Saturday, 21 May 2016

What shall I do with Fang?

This is about cuddly toys. And - at the end - rather more than that.

Toys are a wider subject than you might think, but for most of this post I'm going to concentrate on one cuddly toy in particular: my collie dog Fang. And it's a serious post, concerned with use of limited space, and what on earth to do with a toy if it becomes redundant.

First things first. Unlike Teddy Tinkoes, given to me when I was only one, and my lifelong cherished home companion, Fang is neither an especially cherished friend nor any kind of toy. I do not often do more than smooth his fur (hair?) if it has become ruffled, and move him from spot to spot inside the caravan.

For Fang has been 'the dog that guards the caravan when I'm not in it'. That's where he stays, all year round. That's his 'job' and sole purpose. Other caravanners have told me that, when seen from outside, he does look like a small but real collie dog, stretched out and watching them through the front window of my caravan.

I'm amazed to hear this. I mean, he's a cuddly toy dog and looks like one. He's primarily a soft fabric accessory for the caravan. I thought that when buying Fang in December 2009 in Salisbury, and still feel that way about him. We haven't grown close. I have more feeling for his well-being than I would a cushion, and I look after him, but that's about it. I am not, nor ever have been, neither as child nor adult, soppy where cuddly toys are concerned. I may feel a certain loyalty towards them as time goes by, and Fang gets that, but I don't love him. Only Ted is loved.

Fang isn't my only travelling companion. Ever since buying her in Scotland in 2013, Rosie my china Wemyss Cat has come with me on all my caravan trips. She is also inhabits my bedroom at home, and therefore she is an amphibious little friend. Rosie definitely has personality. You can tell that from this photo from 2013:

That's Fang in the left background. He's floppy and sleepy-looking, and just lies there facing out at the passers-by. Rosie is perky and alert, shapely, lovely to hold in the hand, with friendly eyes, and not only does she too look at the world through the window, I can turn her about to look at me while I'm doing things - in this case, some photo-editing. You can 'talk' to Rosie, just as you can 'talk' to Ted, or at least greet them, and like Ted she is an antidote to being solitary and sometimes feeling far from home. But Fang is just an object, with expressionless eyes; and it feels daft saying anything to him. Here's a picture at home in 2014, with all three together (Fang coming indoors specially for the shot):

This shows Fang at his very best. He's pleasant to look at, but he doesn't do anything for me. If I were on a cruise, and the ship hit a rock, and we had to take to the lifeboats, I'd grab Ted for certain, and Rosie too, just as in the Titanic film A Night To Remember someone grabbed their 'lucky' china pig - and survived. But Fang wouldn't be a priority. He wouldn't even get taken on the cruise in the first place.

Fang is OK, but he takes up valuable space in my little caravan. Look how crowded it gets. Here are some shots from 2015. Photo-editing at night (Fang is behind the radio):

Mealtimes, with and without handwashed knickers drying overhead:

I could spread out a bit more if Fang wasn't there. He adds very little to my holiday experience. I'm seriously thinking of leaving him behind on my next trip.

But then there's the problem of where to put him in the house!

Ted is pre-eminent. He rules in the lounge. He guards the house from the bedroom when Rosie is away with me. He won't tolerate Fang for long in either room. I don't blame him. Nor will Rosie want to share the bedroom with Fang when home. I won't either.

Fang obviously can't go in the kitchen, bathroom or toilet. That leaves the study or the conservatory. I can't think of any spot to place him in the study where he won't be in the way. So it'll have to be the conservatory. At least that will be a sunny place for him, indeed the place most similar to what he has been used to. I'll put him on the green leather recliner there. He'll be perfectly comfortable, and can watch the birds and scare off the cats and squirrels.

And if by chance I miss him on my next trip, why, he can return to the caravan, and stay there. I won't know how I'll feel until I go somewhere without him.

How odd that I should care about Fang's comfort, when I profess not to love him! But I've noticed that those who are tender towards plants and pets tend to to be tender towards the people in their lives too. I reckon Ted and Rosie and Fang are, in a manner of speaking, my substitute pets. If so, my feelings towards them, and the confidences I share with them (spoken or not), and the companionship I get from them, may all be perfectly understandable. And this kind of caring, even if it does nobody any good, may suggest that I'm not at core irredeemably hard and cold and selfish.

Well, I've done it. Fang has been moved from the front of the caravan, where he was dozing because there was nothing to look at except my house, to the green recliner in the conservatory, where there is the whole back garden to study, and keep him alert and interested.

He didn't protest, and no wonder, because he looks good in his new position. And I can see him all the time from my kitchen, so actually he'll get more attention now. And any burglar or housebreaker studying my home from beyond my rear boundary will see that a closer approach might well bring forth a cacophony of barking from a watchful little dog, and that intruder will accordingly stay clear. Toy collie dogs have their serious uses!

And now I can wake up in the caravan and say 'Good morning, Rosie!' without feeling guilt from not saying 'Good morning, Fang!' as well. And 'See you later, Rosie!' and 'I'm back, Rosie!' - also without guilt.

Am I nuts? No: I'm just practising for when I buy my first household robot. We'll all have to find a way with them. And I don't think they will be entirely emotionless, programmed or not. After all, what is consciousness? What does it mean to have a relationship with another entity? If you live with responsive beings, who are sentient and capable of learning, why wouldn't you treat them with sensitivity, courtesy and kindness? If, that is, you want them to be discerning, knowledgeable, empathetic, utterly loyal to you, and to serve you excellently?

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