Finally some good news about Prince Andrew. It appears that I am not the only adult in Britain who runs around with a teddy, although I have just the one, Wilson (now 12 years old) whereas his former Royal Highness has 60. Wilson may be an Instagram star, but Prince Andrew's teddies have appointed positions on his bed. There is even a laminated photograph for maids to follow for correct positioning.
We are not the minority. Many adults still travel with their teddies and, shock horror, forget them. Travelodge actually did a survey. Of the 6000 people they contacted, a whopping 35 per cent (most of them male) admitted to still sleeping with their teddies (the rest probably lied). The travel group have had to return 75,000 teddies to their often-adult owners to date, most of them in the throes of PTSD, I imagine.
When I once forgot Wilson on a flight to Miami, I frantically organised a taxi to bring him to me at the airport (I would not have boarded the plane without him). British climber Kenton Cool also takes Stripey, his teddy, wherever he goes as a kind of lucky charm. "There have been a couple of occasions that he hasn't come with me and, while I don't want to say bad things happened, every time he's there, things seem to run more smoothly" he says. I doubt the artist Grayson Perry ever forgets Alan Measles (his teddy, named after a childhood illness) who is about to be made into a sculpture. We know Jean Paul Gaultier's teddy, Nana, was the first model to wear Madonna's famous cone bra. He's so famous that he's preserved in the Brooklyn Museum.
A study found that up to a third of university students bring teddies with them to their student lodgings. Not all take them go to dinner parties like Brideshead's Sebastian Flynne who was never without Aloysius, but as the mother of two grown boys, I can assure you the attachment continues long beyond boarding school and uni (both my sons still have their childhood teddies in their rooms).
We should encourage this dependency wholeheartedly. For one, Harvard researchers found people are more honest when a teddy is in the room. The desire to cheat when playing games decreases by 20 per cent thanks to the furry presence. "Child-related cues might unconsciously activate notions of goodness and drive us to get to a pure state and not want to pollute it," said professor Sreedhari Desai, a research fellow at the Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.
Then there's play, the most underrated health benefit of our time. When Janet Street Porter was depressed after her sister's death, she purchased Ted. "He's my best friend – his quizzical expression is non-judgmental, the epitome of serenity. He's a role model to aspire to," she says.
I bought Wilson, a Jellycat Bashful Mutt, just weeks after getting a real dog (also called Wilson). Within weeks the teddy version seemed to develop Oppositional Defiance Disorder (eg. no respect for authority).
One game I play with Wilson is to see if he can get into The Telegraph without the editors noticing (he has). I was having so much fun with Wilson that friends started asking if they too could take him on trips. He's been to Brazil, Ethiopia, Las Vegas, Greenland, Alaska and even Iran. When Wilson debuted on Instagram, I upped my game and took PhotoShop, animation and video-editing classes. My dedication to fun has since led to several collaborations including with Anderson & Sheppard, the Savile Row tailor (makers of the famous 007 pink dinner jacket).
When fun is the driver, it's all upside as far as brain chemistry goes. This is because the opposite of play is not work: it's depression. In his book Play, author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown compares play to oxygen.
"It's all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing," he says.
Playing with teddies as an adult is neotenous, meaning "extending youth". Characteristics of neoteny are joy, spontaneity and curiosity – all of which have anti-ageing and mood boosting benefits. "Adults lose the ability to play because they get embarrassed, unless you give them permission to play by plying them with alcohol," says Dr Ronda Beaman, author of You're Only Young Twice, who happens to be a big Wilson fan. Play keeps you in the present, which is why I much prefer it to mindfulness.
I was recently at a long Covid clinic where a 23-year-old patient asked if she could copy me. She bought herself a fluffy bunny and within hours the haggard expression on her face had lifted.
Wilson certainly cheered up the ICU doctors when my father was dying. He gave us all something to laugh about (my father famously said of Wilson: "I don't trust him one little bit").
I can completely understand how one would have strict ideas of how and where teddy sleeps, but I'm afraid shouting at maids when they're not lined up is not neotenous.
Prince Andrew would do better to play with his teddies than shout at staff: it might offer the mental relief he clearly needs.