60 facts about Paddington Bear on his 60th birthday

The most British of literary bears is celebrating his Diamond Jubilee tomorrow, with his publishers HarperCollins encouraging Paddington fans to organise parties in his honour.

Baby Bookworm has developed an obsession with the well-mannered furry fellow, watching the films endlessly and demanding repeat readings of his Paddington picture book.

So we couldn’t let the occasion pass without a marmalade sandwich and a tribute to the quite extraordinary life of the stowaway from darkest Peru.

Happy birthday Paddington! It’s been a pleasure looking after you.

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1. A Bear Named Paddington was published by HarperCollins on 13 October 1958.

2. The story was written by Michael Bond, who was born in 1926 in Reading.

3. He began writing while stationed in Cairo in 1945 and produced several plays and short stories before he got his big break.

4. Michael was also a BBC cameraman and worked on Blue Peter, until he was able to give up the job in 1965 and write full time. The author also wrote another series of children’s books about a guinea pig named Olga da Polga, who was the family pet. He wrote for adults too – culinary mystery stories featuring Monsieur Pamplemousse and his faithful bloodhound, Pommes Frites.

5. He based the character on a lone teddy bear he noticed on a shelf in Selfridges on Christmas Eve 1956, which he bought for his wife.

6. The first book took just ten days to write and was published by William Collins & Sons.

7. It was named the best children’s novel of the year by UK Book Trade Journal, Books and Bookmen.

8. Paddington is found at the station of the same name by the Brown family and he tells them he has travelled there from “darkest Peru”. Michael Bond originally planned for Paddington to be a stowaway from Africa but discovered there were no bears indigenous to that continent.

9. Bears from Peru (like Paddington) are spectacled bears, also known as Andean bears.

10. In the first story, Paddington has a note attached to his coat that reads ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you.’. It was inspired by newsreels Michael Bond remembered of child evacuees during the war.

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11. Paddington is known for his iconic outfit of a red hat, blue duffle coat and red wellies. But he arrived in Britain with just the hat – which was given to him by his uncle.

12. The Brown family are Mary and Henry, and their children Judy and Jonathan. The age of the children is never made clear and which of them is older.

13. The live with an elderly relative called Mrs Bird, whose first name is never revealed.

14. They take Paddington to live with them at 32 Windsor Gardens in Notting Hill. There is a Windsor Gardens between Notting Hill and Maida Vale but the one in the book does not resemble the real road, much to the disappointment of fans who go there.

15. Paddington is named after the station he is found at because his Peruvian name (Pastuso – which is pronounced by roars) is too hard to say.

16. Because Paddington was adopted by the Brown family, he gives his full name as Paddington Brown.

17. His only known relatives are Aunt Lucy and Uncle Pastuso, who raised him after he was orphaned in an earthquake.

18. Aunt Lucy lives in Lima in the Home For Retired Bears and taught Paddington to speak English.

19. More than 35 million Paddington books have been sold around the world in the last 60 years – and counting.

20. They have also been published in more than 40 languages.

21. Peggy Fortnum was the first illustrator to bring Paddington to life. He has also been illustrated by Fred Banbery, Ivor Wood, Barry Macey, RW Alley and Elmer creator David McKee.

22. Ivor Wood designed the puppet that was used in the TV animated version of Paddington. He also worked on The Magic Roundabout and Postman Pat.

23. While Paddington is famed for his manners and kind-hearted nature, he inflicts those who are rude with a ‘hard stare’ that causes them to get flushed. He was taught this technique by Aunt Lucy.

24. Paddington spends much of his time in the Portobello Road area of London.

25. His best friend is an antique trader based there, called Samuel Gruber, a Hungarian immigrant. The pair take elevenses daily at Gruber’s shop.

26. The original Paddington books are written in chapters, with each chapter a standalone story although the whole book has a timeline.

27. In 1972, the first of the Paddington picture books were published, adapting the stories for younger readers with full colour pictures.

28. There is a bronze statue of Paddington Bear by sculptor Marcus Cornish at Paddington Station.

29. Two 50p coins featuring Paddington will enter circulation in Britain from October 2018.

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30. The very first Paddington toy was created by Gabrielle Designs in 1972, a small business run by Shirley and Eddie Clarkson. The prototype was a Christmas present for their children Joanna and Jeremy Clarkson – the latter being the TV presenter. You can see it on display at Newby Hall.

31. Shirley dressed the stuffed bear in wellington boots to help it stand upright. Paddington had received a pair in the 1964 book Paddington Marches On. The earliest bears wore small children’s boots manufactured by Dunlop until production could not meet demand and then Gabrielle Design made their own with paw prints moulded into the soles.

32. A Paddington Bear soft toy was chosen by British tunnellers as the first item to pass through to their French counterparts when the two sides of the Channel Tunnel were linked in 1994.

33. But one of the toys called a political scandal in Australia in 1986, when cabinet minister Mick Young failed to declare the contents of his wife’s luggage at customs. The bag he tried to avoid paying duty on included perfume, handbags and a Paddington Bear.

34. The Paddington TV show was first broadcast by the BBC in 1975 and was produced by Michael Bond. In the programmes, Paddington was a stop animation puppet in a 3D world with 2D backgrounds. The episodes were narrated by Sir Michael Horden.

35. There were two more TV adaptations, in 1989 and 1997, both using traditional 2D colour animation.

36. Paddington also appeared in The Official BBC Children in Need Medley with Peter Kay along with more than 100 other animated characters.

37. In 1964, Paddington appeared in the Blue Peter Annual in a specially written story. He was to appear in 14 editions of the annual over the years.

38. A group called The Paddington Bears was formed in New Zealand in 1969.

39. Such was Michael Bond’s eye for detail, he would ask RW Alley to re-illustrate new editions of the picture books to reflect changes in London, such as a remodelling of Paddington Station and new fleets of red double decker buses.

40. The Adventures of a Bear Called Paddington, the first musical about the stories, was staged for the first time in 1973.

41. Three special half-hour shows were made in 1981, including one called Paddington Goes To The Movies. It featured a recreation of the famous Singin’ In The Rain dance sequence and had the full approval of Gene Kelly. The film was nominated for an Emmy.

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Watch Paddington Goes To The Movies on YouTube

42. There is an official biography of the literary bear called The Life and Times of Paddington Bear, which was written by Russell Ash with Michael Bond.

43. Paddington has been fundraising for Action Medical Research since 1976.

44. He is also a mascot for UNICEF.

45. The first Paddington film had its premiere in 2014, with actor Ben Wishaw providing the voice of the bear. The cast also include Hugh Bonneville as Henry, Sally Hawkins as Mary, Julia Walters as Mrs Bird, Jim Broadbent as Mr Gruber and Peter Capaldi as Mr Curry.

46. Michael Bond has a credited cameo in the film, as the Kindly Gentleman.

47. Paddington 2 came out last year and sees Paddington wrongly imprisoned by the actions of villain Phoenix Buchanan, played by Hugh Grant.

48. At the end of the film, his Aunt Lucy finally makes it to London – voiced by Imelda Staunton.

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49. Paddington’s favourite food is marmalade sandwiches but in 2007, he tried a switch to Marmite during an advertising campaign.

50. He has also been the face of Robertson’s Marmalade for the last eight years.

51. Because the Browns did not know Paddington’s age or birthday, he celebrates twice a year, like the Queen, on 25 June and Christmas Day.

52. While Paddington is rarely parted from his suitcase, which is embossed with P.B. and always contains a jar of marmalade, he is often seen in the market with a shopping basket on wheels.

53. Paddington also has a treasured scrapbook where he likes to write about his adventures.

54. In January 2018, GWR named one of its first new Intercity Express trains after Michael Bond and Paddington.

55. The song Shine by Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams is about Paddington and was part of the first film soundtrack.

56. Michael Bond was surprised by the global success of his bear. He said: “I thought that Paddington was essentially an English character. Obviously Paddington-type situations happen all over the world.”

57. Paddington Here and Now was published in 2008 and sees the bear’s refugee status catch up with him when he is interrogated by police. It came out 29 years after the previous book and Michael Bond was inspired to write it after observing the growing tensions in society about immigration.

58. The last of the traditional chapter books was Paddington’s Finest Hour. It was published in 2017 and was the 15th book of that style.

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59. The very last story written by Michael Bond before he died was Paddington at St Paul’s. The picture book came out earlier this year and the author was inspired to write it after visiting the cathedral for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations.

60. A memorial service for the writer was held at St Paul’s after his death in June 2017, at the age of 91. Attendees were told that when Michael Bond had a dilemma in life, he would ask himself: ‘What would Paddington do?’

Planning a Paddington party? Get ideas and free resources here

Read more…

12 of the best books about bears

In praise of Paddington by Sophy Henn

The Tiger Who Came To Tea turns 50

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