After a cold, drizzly morning spent helping out at my primary school’s sports day, I was cradling a hot cup of coffee when I heard the news that Michael Bond, creator of one of the most-loved bears in fiction, died today, aged 91.
image courtesy of the Telegraph
Everyone around the table in the staffroom expressed sadness, and social media sites have been filled with sad faces and posts mourning a person who had given so much joy to so many children’s childhoods. While the stories were always gently humorous, they also were comforting. Reading them was the literary equivalent of a warm hug and I never lost that feeling moving into adulthood when sharing them with my daughter or the children at school.
What I’d never known until today was Michael Bond’s inspiration for Paddington. According to an interview he gave to the Telegraph last year, he had gone into Selfridge’s on Christmas Eve and seen a solitary bear on a shelf. “I felt sorry for it, and I bought it and gave it to Brenda, and it lived on our mantelpiece.” (I was delighted to read about another person who worried about teddies being on their own…)
Soon afterwards, Bond admits that he “…mentally dressed it in the same duffel coat and hat he [Bond] wore while riding his scooter bought from the government surplus shop. A legend was born.”
As is often the case, Bond didn’t find overnight success. He admitted to his interviewer, Victoria Lambert, that he could have pasted his room with rejection slips but never gave up. And thank goodness for all of us that he didn’t. Just think how much duller the world would be without the antics of Paddington.
I may just read one of the books tonight. With this sad news, I feel like one of those literary hugs.
Thank you, Michael Bond.