Hey cHEwY gum gums!

I’m coming back from Bendigo, where I visited some cool Year 7 kids at Bendigo South East College. It was a two night, three day trip, yet I’m lugging around a giant red suitcase with me. It’s not too heavy though, because it’s just full of toys.

It’s the last thing that kids expect when they come and see me for an author talk. A table full of toys. They sit down and try to name all the toys. It’s pretty easy because most of them are based on TV shows and games that I love. A few kids ask me if these are audience prizes. But the burning question that everyone is thinking (adults included) is, why do I have so many toys?

I’ve always played with toys since I was a kid. I remember my first teddy bear was a blue bear named Besty, who I would carry around all the time. But I used to play with happy meal toys, action figures (Ninja Turtles and Transformers) and I would create stories with them. Some of them I would share with my little sister. Others I would act out by myself, like I was Andy in Toy Story.

Fast forward to when I’m all grown up (that’s a loose term for me haha) and I started to collect toys, rather than play with them. I would play those claw machines at the arcades, hoping to score one of the latest plush toys. These days, I just take a short cut and buy the toys outright at various stores like Toys R Us (RIP), Big W, and Zing/EB Games. My toy collection at this stage is almost at 600 plushies, and more than half of them were obtained when I first started doing school visits.

You might think it’s a gimmick, and maybe it is, but I can’t imagine visiting a school without some of my toys. They are reflected in my childhood writing days, where playing leads to stories. It’s the nerdy collector side of me. I’ve even created a character based on them (Hello Mr Winfree from Thai-riffic!). Sometimes I do voices with the toys, and they become part of my comedy routine…I mean presentation ha!

This is me trying to justify it to everybody else. But you know, it’s not like adults can’t have toys anymore. They’re just called something else, comic hero figurines, those Pop Vinyl bobble-heads…

But on a deeper level, I get a kick out of being different and standing out. Sometimes I bring my favourite toy, Grumpy Bear with me out in public, like on the flight to Moree as I went to Yetman. The passenger beside me looked bemused. “Not a good flyer?”

I shrugged. “No, Grumpy’s been on heaps of planes.”

We struck up a conversation where I spoke about my books. But I can see where the passenger is coming from. Maybe I did look like Mr Bean and his adorable teddy bear. Maybe these toys are my security blanket. But I think it’s one of the perks of working with children, you can wear your inner child on your sleeve. I’ve visited plenty of classrooms where there are toys littered everywhere. My own classroom was like that too.

Toys carry so many memories for everyone, big or small. I mean, I still get teary thinking about the ending of Toy Story 3.  I have to pinch myself sometimes as I’m talking to T-Rex in front of kids, how long can I get away with this insanity. Hopefully as long as I can. I’m going to keep playing with my toys and bringing them with me on my cHEwY journey. Besides, Grumpy Bear has racked up so many Frequent Flyer points, and he wants that Gold status upgrade haha.



About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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