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It’s no secret we’re more than a little mad for Paddington here at Alphabet Soup.

The resident bears were extremely excited about the new movie (have you seen it yet?) and Michael Bond’s latest novel, Love from Paddington. The lovable bear from Darkest Peru is fast winning new fans on this side of the pond, marmalade sales are booming, and plush Paddingtons are flying off the shelves. Yay!

Recently, we happily read about a Paddington Bear who’s been in the same window of a home in Maidstone, Kent (about 35 miles SE of London) since 1970. He was purchased by the Waite family a month after they moved into the house, and has been charming and cheering up passers-by ever since. I can easily imagine myself purposely walking by the Waite house in Sittingbourne Road whenever possible just to catch a glimpse of him. :)

Now an adult, Sittingbourne resident Tracey Cooper first saw Paddington when she was six. Through the years he made such an impression on her that she decided to write a poem to thank him and the Waites for the joy they’ve brought to the community. There’s nothing like a beloved bear to warm your heart.

PADDINGTON BEAR — a poem about myself as a child

Bundled into the car again, this girl of six,
Travelling from Lordswood, Chatham (out in the sticks).
Cutting through Boxley and fields stretching wide –
A regular car trip, our “Hospital Ride”.

Turning left at Penenden Heath and heading straight on,
We approach Sittingbourne Road, on the outskirts of Maidstone.
Swinging right at the end, we start to roll down the hill,
Past neat rows of houses with empty window sills.
Then all of a sudden, we look and he’s there-
Standing dutifully in his window, it’s PADDINGTON BEAR!

Dressed in his outfit that is suitable for the day,
Our little furry “weather forecaster” gives up his time to play.
He proudly does his duty with his shoulders pulled back,
Awaiting some eager faces to notice his shorts or plastic Mac.

I can’t help but feel affectionate towards this wee brown bear,
And dread the thought of passing by and finding him not there.
It’s thirty years later, and I am still looking with my Son,
Through a steamed-up car window, (I’m a sentimental mum!)
To find Paddington still standing there, in clothes all shining bright,
Has his jumper now got holes in? Or his Wellingtons feel too tight?
Does he have the same family, with children now all grown?
Is he tied into the deeds so that he will never lose his home?
Has he ever been photographed, his story put to print?
If you find a few minutes would you kindly try to fill me in.

Transferred to Medway Hospital, my trips are more remote,
But I still look out for my old, old friend, with his smile and duffle coat.

~ Copyright © 2010 Tracey Cooper, reposted by permission of Kent Online.


Naturally Paddington answered Tracey with a little poem:

I watch for my friends

As I look from this place,

So as you pass by

I’ll know your kind face.


The bear in the window is so well known, that should the Waites ever move, they’ve decided Paddington should remain at his post. You just never know when someone might need to see his friendly furry face. :)

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Most of us remember when we first read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and how it profoundly changed and affected us. It’s just that kind of book.

I was in sixth grade and read it for Mrs. Whang’s English class. We were all a little afraid of Mrs. Whang — she was notorious for being unfailingly strict and rarely smiled. No matter the assignment, only the best would do. For Little Women, we were divided into groups of four and asked to act out our favorite scene(s).

We decided on the first chapter and I was to play Jo. We dressed up in long skirts and shawls and I remember bounding onto the “stage” in my best tomboy fashion and blurting out, “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” So began a lifelong love for all of Alcott’s books and a fierce yearning for the quintessential New England Christmas — a dreamlike fantasy of snow-blanketed landscapes and cozy fires, something about as foreign as you can imagine when you live in the land of palm trees and eternal summers.

(click to enlarge)

Heather Vogel Frederick’s new picture book adaptation of the Christmas episode from Little Women is a lovely way to meet the March sisters for the first time and bask in cherished holiday scenes brimming with the spirit of giving and gratitude. Frederick interweaves key elements from Alcott’s novel as she distills the essence of this holiday story (Beth’s frail health, Father away at war, Jo and Laurie’s friendship, Jo cutting and selling her hair, making do with what they have).


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Happy Halloween!

No tricks here today, just a rich, spicy, scrumptious treat — parkin!

I was compelled to bake a batch of this Yorkshire gingerbread after reading Diane Wakoski’s evocative, affecting poem.

Her musings about the Brontës brought back my own fond memories of visiting Haworth – absolutely fascinating how creative genius can flourish in such a carefully circumscribed, isolated world.

Sip a cup of hot tea, have a good bite of parkin, and find comfort in the words of this generous poet. The “small things” are not so small after all.


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