Paddington Bear is back 50 years on
It has been 50 years since Michael Bond asked people to 'please look after this bear'. To celebrate the occasion, Bond has created a new adventure for the much-loved bear.
It all began with this paragraph: “Mr and Mrs Brown first met Paddington on arailway platform. In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual namefor a bear, for Paddington was the name of the station.”
That great English (and Darkest Peruvian) institution, Paddington Bear, is 50this year. His creator, Michael Bond, is 82. Together they have sold morethan 35 million books in 40 languages. Now Bond has written a newfull-length Paddington book, which throws the much-loved bear with the hardstare into the mad modern world of car clampers, anti-burglar paint, limos,refugees – and being doorstepped by tabloid journalists.
Doorstepped by the quality press in his white stuccoed house on the canal inLittle Venice, London, Bond could not be more welcoming. He has, as onemight expect, Paddington’s good manners. Visitors’ coats are hung on properhangers, and his wife Sue brings tea in china cups and rounds of shortbread.Bond settles down in a leather chair in his study, where the walls arecovered in watercolours of R.W. Alley Paddington illustrations, and hundredsof books about France.
Bond seems a mite surprised to be back in the spotlight with Paddington. “Ihaven’t written a long one for nearly 30 years, wasn’t planning to, but thepublishers asked me for the 50th birthday.” Perhaps he doubted his writerlyskills in their ninth decade, but the book Paddington Here and Now isas funny as ever, going by tests with the proof copy on a willingeight-year-old.
“I wouldn’t take an advance for it,” said Bond, raising bushy eyebrows. “Iwanted to be sure it worked. If a disaster hadn’t befallen Paddington withina few pages, something would have been terribly wrong. But it did.” The bearis arrested after his bun-filled shopping trolley is taken away by carclampers. We all know the feeling.
The original storybook, A Bear Called Paddington, was written in a mere tendays and published in October 1958, but it spawned an empire that was to gofrom picture books to television series to millions of stuffed toys and evenPaddington dustbins. It is a fortune – to put it baldly – made off anillegal immigrant from Darkest Peru.
When Bond put the label “Please look after this bear” around Paddington’sneck, he was thinking mostly of the child refugees in wartime Britain andEurope. He was born in Newbury in Berkshire and left school at 14 during thewar. “I saw those cinema newsreels of refugees pushing all their belongingsacross the countryside. People uprooted in mid-life. I see it again inDarfur – the worst thing is there is nowhere to escape to. That was thefirst image I had of Paddington, left alone with all his belongings in asmall suitcase on a station platform.”