Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Paddington Bear Creator Michael Bond R.I.P.

Michael Bond, best known for creating Paddington Bear, died yesterday at the age of 91.

Michael Bond was born in Newbury, Berkshire on January 13 1926. He grew up in Reading. As a child he regularly visited Reading Station to see the Cornish Riviera Express. As a result he developed a life-long love of trains. He attended Presentation College in Reading, but would have little in the way of fond memories of his time there. Because of his bad experience with Presentation College he elected to forego college to work in a solicitor's office for a year and then work as an engineer's assistant for the BBC.

It was after an air raid on Reading in February 1943 that he volunteered to serve in the Royal Air Force. Unfortunately Mr. Bond suffered from acute air sickness and, as a result, was discharged from the RAF. He then served in the the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army. He was demobilised in 1947. It was during World War II that he began writing, and he sold his first short story to the magazine London Opinion.

While continuing to write he took a job at the BBC as a cameraman. It was on Christmas Eve in 1956 that he visited Selfridge's department store and noticed a lone teddy bear upon a shelf. He bought the bear as a present for his wife and then set about right away writing a story about the bear. The first book, A Bear Called Paddington, was published in 1958. It centred on the bear of the title, who came from "darkest Peru". His Aunt Lucy sent him with a jar of marmalade to England to live, where he was taken in by the Brown family. They named him for Paddington Station, the train station at which they found him.

A Bear Called Paddington would prove very successful, so much so that it was followed by several more books about the bear. Paddington Bear would also be adapted several times. From 1966 to 1970 many of the books were adapted as episodes of the children's show Jackanory. In 1976, 1989, and 1997 there would be TV series based on Paddington Bear. There would also be TV specials, including Paddington Goes to the Movies in 1980 and Paddington Goes to School in 1986. In 2014 there was the feature film Paddington.

Michael Bond wrote several other books besides those about Paddington. In 1971 he began a series of books about Olga da Polga, a guinea pig who would tell tall tales. He also wrote a series of culinary mysteries for adults centred around French detective and gourmand Monsieur Pamplemousse starting in 1983. He wrote many other books that were not part of a series, as well as the TV movies Simon's Good Deed (1955) and Napoleon's Day Out (1957) and the 1968 animated series The Herbs.

There can be no doubt that Michael Bond had a huge impact on British popular culture, and to a large extent on popular culture in the rest of the Anglosphere as well. More than 30 million copies of Paddington books have been sold worldwide, and the books have been translated into 70 different languages. Indeed, so beloved is Paddington Bear in the United Kingdom that when the two sides of the Channel Tunnel were connected in 1994, a Paddington Bear stuffed toy was chosen as the very first item to pass over to the French. Paddington has twice appeared on 1st class Royal Mail stamps, in 1994 and in 2006. A statue of Paddington is at Paddington Station in London. Of course, Michael Bond wrote many other books than the Paddington series, many of which were quite successful. Ultimately he is perhaps one of the most successful English writers of all time.

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