Saturday, July 12, 2008

In honour of Paddington Bear

Little bear stays young at heart

Paddington's popularity has outlasted numerous fads and fashions.

It has been 50 years since Michael Bond wrote the first book about Paddington Bear who was found in London, having just arrived from Darkest Peru with a battered suitcase and note pinned to his coat saying "Please look after this bear. Thank you".

Since then, millions of readers have been charmed by the little bear, who always carries a marmalade sandwich under his hat in case of emergencies.

Nearly 30 years after the last book, Bond has this year written Paddington Here and Now, which was released in New Zealand last month.

The books have been translated into 30 languages, including Spanish for Peruvian readers.

However, the books are yet to be published in Paddington's homeland and need to be ordered in.

Bond came upon the bear that was to become Paddington one cold Christmas Eve while he was sheltering from the snow in Selfridges department store on Oxford Street.

"There's something about bears that are quite appealing really, they've got this kind of look in their eyes."

He bought it for his wife as a stocking filler and named it after the nearest station to their home, Paddington.

Bond said he wrote the first Paddington book because he wondered what he would have been like if he had been alive.

The Browns, who found Paddington, were based on Bond's parents.

"The note around his neck was important and I think my mother would have felt sorry for him and my father would have gone along with it."

Bond said Paddington had become an integral part of his own life, and he was very fond of him.

"I sometimes find myself doing things like trimming the hedge and I think I wonder what Paddington would do and what would go wrong?"

Through the decades Paddington has broached important subjects, such as being a refugee in England and breaking through the colour barrier.

"Soon after the first book was published I had a letter from somebody saying what he liked about the book was my attitude to the coloured question.

"I think it was probably a black person in a white environment and he saw Paddington in a similar situation and admired him because he always came out on top."

In his latest book, Paddington comes across modern technology such as cellphones, and he gets to ride the London Eye, which was opened in 1999.

"When I came to sit down to write the book I suddenly realised how much the world had changed.

"The first story in the book has to do with Paddington losing his shopping basket because it's been towed away, and that wouldn't have happened 30 years ago."

And now Paddington is part of a modern day custody arrangement.

Bond, who is divorced from his first wife, shares custody of the original Paddington bear, and is able to keep him for six months of the year.


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