The one and only Michael Bond is 90 years old today!
All of us here at Alphabet Soup — especially the 50-something resident Paddingtons — are in a full out tizzy of joy. We’ve been rereading the stories, noshing on marmalade sandwiches, sloshing about in our wellies, and ever-so-politely tipping our bush hats to honor the man who gave us our beloved bear from Darkest Peru some 57 years ago.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rescuing a lone bear from a department store shelf on Christmas Eve says a lot about a man. This small kindhearted gesture would prove to be delightfully fortuitous, spawning a bear chapter book written in just 10 days, 25 more published novels, numerous picture books, board books, an avalanche of Paddington-related toys and other merchandise, several television series, a play, and an award-winning motion picture. Paddington’s likeness has appeared on postage stamps and marmalade jars, and a Paddington balloon was recently introduced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
As my most favorite bear character ever, Paddington is as charming as they come with his unfailing optimism and politeness, capital bargaining skills, strong sense of right and wrong, uncanny knack for getting out of scrapes, and masterful hard stare. It’s no wonder he’s a British institution — he seems to bring out the best in people, and his immigrant status — a stranger in a strange land — makes him instantly relatable as well as refreshingly contemporary. If I spotted him on a railway platform, I’d adopt him in a minute.
9 BEARY NICE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT MICHAEL BOND AND PADDINGTON BEAR
1. Paddington was inspired in part by Mr. Bond’s father, a very polite man who got into scrapes and always wore a hat — even while wading in the sea.
2. When Mr. Bond was growing up in Reading, Berkshire, he liked to visit the railway station to watch the steam locomotives. Later, during WWII, he sometimes saw child evacuees there with tags around their necks carrying suitcases (city children escaping the Blitz and Jewish refugees) — a sad sight that profoundly affected him.
3. Mr. Bond began writing while serving in the British Army during WWII. In addition to publishing short stories, he wrote radio and TV plays during his spare time while working for the BBC. He was an avid reader as a child, favoring a magazine called “The Magnet,” where he noted the value of catch phrases and repetition — something he would later use in his Paddington books. He started out writing plot-driven stories; Paddington taught him to write character-driven fiction. He maintains that Paddington is a very real person to him.
4. He never intended to write a children’s book. As a writing exercise (after catching sight of the bear stocking stuffer he’d purchased for his wife), he imagined what it would be like if a real bear landed at Paddington Station. He named the bear Paddington, since they lived near the station, gave the bear his clothes (an army surplus duffle coat and hat) + a love for marmalade (since he liked toast and marmalade for breakfast), and used familiar places in his story like Portobello Road and Notting Hill.
5. Mr. Bond’s daughter Karen was born two months after the first Paddington book was published (1958), and some of her childhood experiences found their way into subsequent stories. Karen was born with a debilitating hip condition requiring numerous surgeries and many years in the hospital. These experiences heightened Mr. Bond’s awareness of the desperate need for medical research into a wide range of diseases and disabilities, eventually prompting him to offer his (and Paddington’s) support to Action Medical Research. Paddington has been AMR’s Official Mascot for 40 years, participating in many fundraising events. A former AMR trustee, today Karen is the Managing Director of Paddington & Co.
6. Recently a group of mums in Sheffield, England, organized “Project Paddington” to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq. They collected and shipped 25,000 teddy bears with handwritten welcome messages donated by children to give to refugee children. They also raised approximately £40,000 for Tearfund’s Refugee Crisis Fund and Samara’s Aid Appeal. Through the magic of social media, this local grassroots effort rapidly expanded to include 560 school districts across the UK with support pledges from around the world. Personal messages like, “When you hug this bear, remember somebody loves you” were both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
Paddington’s likeness even made an appearance in last September’s big Solidarity with Refugees rally in London, where tens of thousands gathered to show their support.
7. Paddington travels in royal circles! Both Prince Harry and Prince William seem to have a soft spot for him. The medical students at St. Mary’s Hospital gave Prince William his Paddington when he was born, and when George came along, William purchased a Paddington for him from Harrods. Prince William was also delighted to be greeted by Paddington when the movie premiered in China.
As for Harry, he totally rocked a Paddington apron while making little cakes during a charity event in Lesotho. 🙂
8. Speaking of the “Paddington” movie, it was named Best Feature Film of 2015 at BAFTA’s Children’s Awards! Hooray! Even more good news — a sequel is in the works even as we speak. 🙂
9. Mr. Bond was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to children’s literature in the Fall of 2015. He was previously awarded an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1997. Paddington attended both the OBE and CBE ceremonies at Buckingham Palace with Mr. Bond, even though Mr. Bond was a little worried about Paddington sneaking in a marmalade sandwich under his hat despite the palace “no food” policy.
TIME FOR MARMALADE!
To celebrate Mr. Bond’s birthday, the resident Paddingtons made marmalade sandwiches and a yummy Yogurt-Marmalade Cake. Naturally they also brewed a nice pot of tea and would love for you to help yourself.
The Yogurt-Marmalade Cake recipe is from Ree Drummond and seemed just the thing for those who like a simple tea cake with a sticky marmalade and yogurt glaze drizzled over it. The full cup of plain lowfat yogurt in the cake batter adds a sour cream-like richness without all the calories (not that Paddington needs to diet). The recipe is so easy to make, even accident-prone Paddington couldn’t mess it up. Wait. On second thought . . .
- 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 heaping cup plain, lowfat yogurt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 whole eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 whole zest of lemon
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup prepared orange marmalade
- 1/4 cup yogurt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a loaf pan with non-stick baking spray or grease and flour it.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, mix together 1 cup yogurt, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and canola oil until just combined; do not over beat.
Pour into a loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Remove from pan.
While cake is cooling, pour marmalade into a sauce pan. Heat it on low until melted, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup of yogurt to the pan and turn off the heat. Stir to combine, then pour slowly over the top of the cake, allowing icing to pool around the sides.
~ Adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe.
THE MANY FACES OF PADDINGTON
While you’re enjoying your tea and cake, check out this little gallery featuring Paddington as he’s been illustrated by different artists over the years, and as he’s been produced as a plush toy by different manufacturers.
Plush Toy Makers
Well, I think he’s quite handsome no matter what, and it’s fun to see his different looks. Whether you like him with or without wellies, fluffy fur or smooth, dressed in his classic duffle coat or one of his occupational outfits, his essence remains the same: a bear with a good heart and impeccable manners who represents tolerance, acceptance, and traditional values, and who’s able to endear himself to people of all ages, ethnicities, and political persuasions. So much more than just a storybook character, Paddington marches on for charity, health, and humanity. He’s just the sort of bear you can count on — quite like the man who created him. 🙂
HAPPY 90TH BIRTHDAY, MR. BOND!!
WE LOVE YOU!!
♥ Other Paddington posts at Alphabet Soup
- The Bear in the Window and Paddington’s Bread and Butter Pudding with Marmalade
- Love from Paddington by Michael Bond
- Five Paws Up for Paddington Bear’s Apple Tart
- Happy 50th Anniversary to Paddington Bear!
Hmmmm, 90 seems to be a good number. We presently have 50-something resident Paddingtons. Only 30-something more to go . . . 🙂
Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.