Farewell to Michael Bond who created a marmalade-loving bear from “deepest, darkest Peru” who comes to live in London. A character whose enthusiasm and optimism has given pleasure to millions across the generations. Let’s raise a glass (and a marmalade sandwich) to him.
As well as Paddington, he also created characters including Olga da Polga, A Mouse Called Thursday and a French detective named Monsieur Pamplemousse. A sequel to the Paddington film will be released later this year. “So sorry to hear that Michael Bond has departed,” Stephen Fry wrote on Twitter. “He was as kindly, dignified, charming and lovable as the immortal Paddington Bear he gave us.” Comedian and author David Walliams also paid tribute, remembering the author as “a dazzling wit and perfect gentleman”.
Today is a very sad day. Michael Bond CBE will be missed by many. pic.twitter.com/ZoCb5sU2V9
— Paddington (@paddingtonbear) June 28, 2017
Despite leaving school at the age of 14, Bond is known for writing the Paddington Bear series featuring the eponymous character. More than 35 million Paddington books have sold around the world and the characters have also featured in film and on television. Bond was made a CBE in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours. His first book was published in 1958, and his last in 2015, a span of nearly 60 years.
Bond was born in Newbury and raised in Reading, Berkshire, where his visits to Reading Station to watch the Cornish Riviera Express go steaming through started a love of trains. His father was a manager for the post office. He was educated at Presentation College, a school in Reading, Berkshire. His time there was unhappy. He told UK newspaper The Guardian in November 2014 that his parents had chosen the school “for the simple reason my mother liked the colour of the blazers. She didn’t make many mistakes in life but that was one of them”. Consequently, he left education aged fourteen, despite his parents’ wishes for him to go to university. World War II was under way and he went to work in a solicitor’s office for a year and then as an engineer’s assistant for the BBC.
So sorry to hear that Michael Bond has departed. He was as kindly, dignified, charming & lovable as the immortal Paddington Bear he gave us
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) June 28, 2017
In February 1943, Michael Bond survived an air raid in Reading. The building in which he was working collapsed under him, killing 41 people and injuring many more. Shortly afterwards he volunteered for aircrew service in the Royal Air Force as a 17-year-old but he was discharged after suffering from acute air sickness. He then served in the Middlesex Regiment of the British Army until 1947.
Paddington Bear, the creation of author Michael Bond may have been may have been around for 50 years but it seems he is still made of the right stuffing. Many of us have harboured suspicions about the marmalade eating bear from Peru as being too goody goody to be true? He might have a penchant for getting into trouble but Paddington has always been the politest of bears. Now the creator of the family favourite has told of his shock after the film version of his adventure stories was deemed unsuitable for young children.
Michael Bond said in 2014 he was “very upset” after the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) warned that big-screen debut of the children’s book featured sex references, bad language and dangerous behaviour. Voiced by Ben Wishaw, who replaced Colin Firth, the film saw the marmalade-loving Paddington despatched from his native jungle, and smuggled on board a boat to England.
The BBFC warns that “parents should consider whether … content may upset younger, or more sensitive, children” on films awarded a Parental Guidance (PG) certificate. A homoerotic comic sequence in which “a man disguised as a woman is flirted with by another man” was flagged up by the censors for containing “mild sex references.” The board also warned: “There are occasional sequences of mild threat when Paddington is chased by the villain who threatens to kill and stuff him, as well as a brief sequence in which Paddington lies unconscious on a table while a taxidermist prepares their tools nearby.”
Dangerous behaviour which may be imitated by children includes “Paddington hiding from a villain inside a refrigerator and riding on a skateboard while holding on to a bus, as well as a brief scene of a boy strapping fireworks to his shoes.” A single mumbled use of “bloody” also attracted the BBFC’s attention. The censors advised: “Parents should consider whether the content may upset younger, or more sensitive, children.”
They Film Censors (oops Freudian slip) would appear to be very sensitive souls – for instance the “mild sex references” turn out to be Actor Hugh Bonneville (aka Lord Grantham) dressing up as a women in one comedic scene, as happens in —errr—– every Children’s Christmas Pantomime and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”?
Before his fictional version appeared on page, Paddington Bear existed as a real teddy bear. Bond saw it “left on a shelf in a London shop and felt sorry for it” on Christmas Eve 1956, and took it home as a present for his wife Brenda. The couple were living near Paddington Station at the time, so Bond named the bear Paddington and started to write stories about it, “more for fun than with the idea of having them published. After 10 days I found that I had a book on my hands. It wasn’t written specifically for children, but I think I put into it the kind of things I liked reading about when I was young.”
Say what you like about Paddington but there’s more to him than marmalade and duffle coats!
Paddington Bear was a refugee with a label. ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you’ and he had a little suitcase.
Thomas Michael Bond, CBE (13 January 1926 – 27 June 2017), publishing as pen name Michael Bond, English author, best known for his work in the genre of children’s literature
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