Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Felix, the knitted toy

The earliest toy I can remember was a simple knitted "rag doll" style soft toy I called "Felix" that one of my parents' friends in England had made me.

My earliest memories are from when we first lived in Auckland, New Zealand when I was three and Felix was my constant companion. I don't know if we brought him overland with us when my parents drove their car halfway around the world from the UK to Aotearoa, or if it had been mailed out, but the one thing I do recall is that he was there and I have no memory of being given him.

In those days we lived in Takapuna and when I was four we moved to the East Coast Bays, Mairangi Bay was home, but my grandparents lived in Murray's Bay and the other bays were visited often enough for shopping or picnics. Back then this was an idyllic corner of NZ for kids. Like all children I had a vivid imagination and as everyone we knew seemed to live in a bay, I invented "Stingins Bay" (with a soft G sound) where Felix's father lived, and I was forever trying to find it. Looking back I have no idea why he didn't have a mother -- just one of those kid things, I guess. Being only a few km away we kept in touch with the next door family from Takapuna which was good as I had made good friends with their son who my own age.

We moved again when I was five, this time about 400km south to New Plymouth and in the summer holidays visited Auckland, including our old friends in Takapuna as well as the friends in Mairangi Bay.

Disaster Felix went missing! There was a search, but he could not be found and I could not be consoled. For weeks I was heartbroken.

Here's were it gets weirder. Several months later, Felix turned up, he'd been pushed down behind the sofa at the Takapuna friends house. He was returned to me, but the magic had been broken and I don't think I ever played with him again.

This would have been 1964 or 1965 and as Peter, Paul and as Mary sang a couple of years earlier in Puff, the magic dragon "Dragons live forever, but not so little boys. Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys." I'd moved on and now had little room in my life for soft toys.

Looking back from forty-four years later it makes little sense that Felix should have been so important, perhaps we had him on the trip and it was that he had been my travel companion as we drove half way around the world, perhaps he just represented stability as as we moved three times before finding a permanent home in NZ. As I write this I find myself wondering what did eventually happen to Felix? I still have a wind-up toy from that same era, now no-longer working, but occupying pride of place above my desk at home.

 Originally published on Qondio

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Big ribbons a better luggage tag

When you fly with checked luggage, at the end of your journey the bags and suitcases of hundreds of people all end up on the same carousel. If your luggage is a standard type it can have a dozen or more close twins as travel "companions".

When you get close to the bag it's usually possible to tell your bag, but even if you haven't done it yourself I'm sure you've seen people pick up a bag, then see it isn't theirs and put it back.

As people pick up their bags and leave the luggage collection area the crush around the carousel dies down, but if your bag is one of the first ones out it can be quite a mission to get to the front just as your bag comes past.

Distinctive luggage tags can help, but if they are small they don't help when the bag is in the distance and bags can be treated pretty roughly in transit and if the tags are large they can get caught and detach from your case.

A few years ago a travel companion put me onto a great idea. Get a large (minimum 2" - 5cm), distinctive ribbon, and wrap it tightly around the outside of the case, through the handle, and securely tie it. Now when my bags come onto the carousel I can see them from a distance and get to them as they come past.

I've used this technique flying from New Zealand to Australia, Singapore, India, back to NZ and internally in good old Aotearoa without problem. Wide stripes and bright ribbons work best, but anything that contrasts with your suitcase will do. If you can't find a unique ribbon, just get two or more thinner ones and tie them beside each other.

If you're traveling on holiday or for a tourist vacation you can pretty much use any pattern, but on business trips you might want to be a little more sedate. You should also consider any cultural issues when choosing your ribbons. Many countries use a tricolor (three stripes) as a flag and national symbol. Flying into Pakistan with something looking like the national flag of India might not be the wisest thing you can do.

Finally, don't forget that this is an aid to help you identify your luggage at a distance, it isn't a substitute for clearly marking your bags with your name and contact details. You need that in case your bags are mislaid by the airline and they need to get them to you later.

I've often considered painting a large identifying mark on my bags, but have so far refrained. The ribbon can be cut off and discarded at journey's end but the paint is there forever.

Originally published on Qondio