I was much saddened to read about the death of Michael Bond today, aged 91. Mr Bond worked for the BBC, served with the RAF during the war, and of course was the author of the Paddington Bear series of children’s fiction books, which so far have sold over 35 million copies worldwide. The books were made into an animated TV series and also a successful film in 2014. A sequel to the film will be released this year.
On his way home from work on Christmas Eve in 1956, Michael looked in a shop window and saw a lone teddy bear. He took it home as a stocking filler for his wife. He called it Paddington because they lived near Paddington Station at the time. This made him think of a story where an unaccompanied bear turned up at a railway station looking for a home. He based the bear’s personality on his mild-mannered father who always wore a hat, even in the sea on holiday in the Isle of Wight, in case he had to raise it to acknowledge somebody he knew.
In 1965 Michael gave up his job with the BBC and became a full-time writer. I was a lucky child, as my mother was one of the 35 million people who bought the Paddington series of books for her daughter. I remember there were about 6 or 7 books that came in an open-fronted box. Each book was brightly coloured, and I devoured them over and over again. My favourite book was the yellow one and it quickly became well-thumbed. I cannot remember now which story it told, but apart from Paddington I quickly got to know the other characters; Mr and Mrs Brown and their children, Mrs Bird, and Mr Gruber.
How many others of my generation grew up with Paddington Bear? The books gave me a love of reading, and transported a lonely only child off into her imagination for hours at a time. Let’s give three cheers for author Michael Bond!