Sunday, October 12, 2008

My favourite bear

He usually wears a blue duffle coat, a rather shapeless red hat and, on occasions, Wellington boots. His favourite food is marmalade and he orginally comes from Darkest Peru. His name: Paddington Bear, the polite immigrant bear from Darkest Peru and a true classic English children's literature icon.

Tomorrow the world's cuddliest bear will be celebrating his 50th birthday. Author Michael Bond recalls in his own words how Paddington first came into being:
"I bought a small toy bear on Christmas Eve 1956. I saw it left on a shelf in a London store and felt sorry for it. I took it home as a present for my wife Brenda and named it Paddington as we were living near Paddington Station at the time. I wrote some stories about the bear, more for fun than with the idea of having them published. After ten days I found that I had a book on my hands. It wasn’t written specifically for children, but I think I put into it the kind things I liked reading about when I was young."
Michael Bond sent the book to his agent, Harvey Unna, who liked it and after sending to to several publishers it was eventually accepted by William Collins & Sons (now Harper Collins). The publishers commissioned an illustrator, Peggy Fortnum, and the very first Paddington book "A Bear Called Paddington" was published on 13th October 1958.
Bond's invention proved a huge success, as the Paddington books have sold more than thirty-five million copies worldwide and have been translated into over forty languages.

About Paddington
Paddington is an anthropomorphised bear. He always addresses people as "Mr.", "Mrs." and "Miss" and very rarely by first names. He inflicts hard stares on those who incur his disapproval. He has an endless capacity for getting into trouble. However, he is known to "try so hard to get things right".

In Bond’s first story, Paddington is found at Paddington railway station in London by the Brown family, sitting on his suitcase (bearing the label "WANTED ON VOYAGE") with a note attached to his coat which reads, "Please look after this bear. Thank you."

Bond has said that his memories of newsreels showing trainloads of child evacuees leaving London during the war, with labels around their necks and their possessions in small suitcases, prompted him to do the same for Paddington.

Paddington arrives as a stowaway coming from "Darkest Peru", sent by his Aunt Lucy (one of his only known relatives, aside from an Uncle Pastuzo who gave Paddington his hat), who has gone to live in the Home for Retired Bears in Lima.

He tells the Brown family that no one can understand his Peruvian name, so they decide to call him Paddington after the railway station in which he was found. Bond originally wanted Paddington to have "travelled all the way from darkest Africa", but his agent advised him that there were no bears in darkest Africa, and thus it was amended to darkest Peru, home of the spectacled bear.

They take him home to 32 Windsor Gardens, off Harrow Road between Notting Hill and Maida Vale. The stories follow Paddington's adventures and mishaps in England.

About the creator
Paddington bear was created over half a century ago by the English writer, Michael Bond. Michael Bond was born in Newbury, Berkshire, England on 13th January 1926. He was educated at Presentation College, Reading. During World War II Michael Bond served in both the Royal Air Force and the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army.He began writing in 1945 and sold his first short story to a magazine called London Opinion. This experience helped him decide that he wanted to be a writer.

Michael Bond never thought of writing for children but, after producing a number of short stories and radio plays, his agent suggested that he adapt a television play for children.His first book, A Bear Called Paddington, was published in 1958 by William Collins & Sons (now HarperCollins Publishers). At the time, Michael Bond was working as a television cameraman for the BBC.

After the first Paddington book was accepted, Michael Bond went on to write a whole series and by 1967 his books were so successful that that he was able to give up his job with the BBC in order to become a full-time writer.In 1997 Michael Bond was awarded to OBE for services to children’s literature. He is married with two adult children and lives in London, not far from Paddington Station.

Or go to the London shop right in the middle of Paddington mainline railway station! Here you can actually buy clothes for bears.