In which I reveal why I showed famous comedians my pants

In my last post, I planted what Sarah (our excellent editor at Historic Royal Palaces) calls a ‘witch’s tree’.

Here’s an example of a ‘witch’s tree’:

‘I wanted a cup of tea, but we’d run out of milk.  So I got my bag, and went out of the house.  As I was walking down the road I went past the witch’s tree.  Then I got to the shop, bought the milk, and came home again.’

Obviously the reader thinks: ‘Witch’s tree? Huh? What on earth’s that all about?’

Many readers emailed me last week and they all had the same question: ‘What on earth were you doing in the lift with Dara O Briain and your first ever pair of pants?’


Blue Rabs clothesWell, I planted the tree deliberately because I wanted the excuse to write this week about Blue Rab’s Suitcase.

Blue Rab’s Suitcase is one of my most treasured possessions.  Inside it live all of Blue Rab’s little clothes, and my own little pants.  Last Christmas I took it to Television Centre for its contents to be filmed for a programme about the toys of my youth (hence the lift and the famous comedians).

The suitcase itself is pretty small.  But when I was ten I took it to stay with my grandparents in Grimsby, and my clothes were so small that a whole week’s worth of them fitted inside just fine.

Blue Rab herself is around 50 years old, and has spent about 35 of them with me. Until around 1977 she was a he, and belonged to some cousins of mine.  Apparently I requisitioned their rabbit for myself and gave him a sex change.

Blue Rabs pantsBlue Rab’s wardrobe was made by my mum, and she knitted the tiny sweaters in hospital during the time when my younger brother was born.









Blue Rabs Creaky smilingThe suitcase contains other old friends like Blue Rab’s pillow, Fingermouse, and Creaky the very old hobby horse, made out of a sock of my dad’s.

Doesn’t Creaky have a lovely smile?








Blue Rabs communicatorAnd there are lots of other things too.

You could be forgiven for thinking the bottom picture is my grandmother’s Coty powder compact.  But in fact it’s a communicator, of the type that Captain Kirk uses to talk to the Starship Enterprise when he’s down on a planet.

Some readers, if they even get this far, will be rolling their eyes, and wondering:

‘Why on earth is she banging on about her toys?’

But others, who share my belief in the emotional power of objects from the past, will know.  They’ll understand that these funny little things plunge me, just as gravity pulls a stone to the bottom of the pool, straight back to a time of innocence and creativity.

I hope you might share your own equivalent of Blue Rab’s Suitcase, if you have one, by leaving me a comment …

2 thoughts on “In which I reveal why I showed famous comedians my pants

  1. Msconduct

    Your request for comments on this post seems to have fallen on deaf ears, which is a little heart-wringing after such a nice story, so here’s one: I have a toy rabbit handmade by my beloved grandmother. So what, right? Who doesn’t? But one of the things that makes it so special for me is that she made it during her (preantibiotic) lengthy stay in a tuberculosis ward. It’s a tiny slice of medical history.

  2. Angantyr

    What a sweet post. My love of toys has actually lead me to create historical clothing and parts for 1/6 figures (I am actually just a beginner, but have taken up the unashamedly ”unmacho” hobby of sewing since about three years ago) and writing a book on the subject that I will, unfortunately, probably never get finished at this rate!

    As for an equivalent of Blue Rab’s suitcase, I think that would have to be either a stuffed toy monster that I have in a cupboard somewhere (could never through it out) or perhaps my Lego or Britains knight. I had a lot of great science fiction and historical toys as a kid but unfortunately most have gotten lost in the mists of time!


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