Buy back your childhood with eBay!

Actually don’t bother, because there’s always someone willing to pay more than you for worthless but fondly remembered tat. Anyway you get enough of a nostalgic rush if you just go window shopping, which is what I was doing when I typed “ventriloquist dummy” into an eBay search and came up with these two bizarre toys, both of which I owned as a child.

The character on the left I knew as Mr Paliarchin. He was a popular, mass-produced dummy in the Seventies. I believe it was marketed as Parlanchin, or something similar, but he was Paliarchin to me. I must have read the box incorrectly. You might think it odd, to look at him, but I was very fond of Mr P. He was a close companion for several years, much to the annoyance of my family. My uncle got so fed-up with Mr P’s comedy shtick one Christmas that he ran off with the wee plastic fella. Mr P was later found hanged from the light-switch cord in the bathroom. These days I could probably sue for emotional trauma.

The guy on the right was called Hugo. He was not a ventriloquist's dummy at all; his eyes and mouth remained stubbornly immobile. The point of Hugo was that you stuck disguises on him and hideous scars and wounds. Except of course that you were a child so you stuck them on yourself instead, and Hugo became the world’s most useless ventriloquist doll.

The thing is, looking at these slightly scary looking characters now, I’m amazed that I turned out so normal and well balanced. And it gets worse: I also had a ventriloquist doll based on Frankenstein’s Monster. No, really. But it seems that today’s models are no less scary. Witness the George W. Bush dummy:

For a while as a child I thought I would be a professional ventriloquist when I grew up. How absurd an ambition was that? Now cartoonist, that’s much more realistic …