"It's nice having a bear about the house." - Michael Bond
It made me quite emotional today to learn that Michael Bond has passed away at the age of 91. His creation, the wonderful haphazard Paddington is one of my first and fondest childhood memories. The theme music and Michael Hordern's narration of the original animated series provoke profound memories in me of childhood cosiness and simplicity. Paddington is accident-prone, messy, kind, warm, open-hearted and a beautiful example of how imperfect we all are but how that imperfection is completely loveable.
The BBC obituary by Nick Serpell noted: "On his way home from work on Christmas Eve in 1956, Bond spied a lonely teddy bear on the shelf in a shop window, and took it home as a stocking filler for his wife. He called it Paddington because they were living near Paddington Station at the time. While musing over a typewriter and a blank sheet of paper, he wondered idly what it would be like if an unaccompanied bear turned up at a railway station looking for a home."
This is how ideas begin. It is said that Michael wrote Paddington to please himself. He was rejected by seven publishers before Collins offered him a deal for £75 and the first book was published in 1958. I love stories like this. It reminds me that we should all stay true to ourselves and that all of our creative paths are meandering.
A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to help out with the Paddington Trail, which raised money for the NSPCC. At the end of the project, we went out on New Years Eve to collect all of the Paddingtons from the London streets. As we arrived at each one with our removal van, the statues were surrounded by people taking pictures, posing and smiling. Children of all ages completely enamoured by this little bear. Almost to the point where we had trouble removing them! How wonderful to create a character that inspires such love and warmth and is such a wonderful example of kindness.
Thank you Michael Bond, you were a real inspiration.