Once upon a time, if your dolly was very poorly, you’d send her off to the dolls’ hospital. They could do more miracles than a human hospital: replace eyes, furnish missing limbs, and transplant whole sections of hair.
I remember being severely traumatised by the window display in a dolls’ hospital in my home town when I was little. Trays of blue eyes, trays of brown. Stacks of heads. Tangles of hair. Angles of limbs.
The trouble was, I had still not got over the idea that my dolls were real. Well, of course they were REAL. I didn’t imagine Judith and Juliet into existence. But they were also… real. You know what I mean.
They listened when I spoke to them, even though they were rather reticent about replying. They appreciated having their hair brushed. They kept me company in my cot. To see them reduced in a window to a series of replaceable constituent parts was instructive. I promised my dolls I would never chop off one of their arms or legs. At least, not intentionally.
Nowadays, however, there are few remaining places in the UK where you can get your precious doll or teddy bear made well again. Maybe we are a nation where dolls don’t need to be mended, just replaced, their plastic ingredients possibly ending up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
But maybe we are still — some of us — a nation that likes to make do and mend. A few years back, I had to get my daughter’s walking doll mended. The doll limped, rather than strolled. To the rescue came Recollect in Burgess Hill which made the poor love sprightly again. Thank goodness there is still somewhere that can make our toy babies well.
Because, you know, they are REAL.