The day Padding­ton's sand­wiches al­most started a RIOT!

. . . and how TV bosses wanted the Brown chil­dren to have a drug habit – two of the marmalade-drop­ping tales about our best-loved bear, 60 to­day, as told in the mag­i­cal mem­oirs of his cre­ator

Daily Mail - - DR MAX - by Michael Bond

SIXTY years ago to­day, writer Michael Bond pub­lished his cap­ti­vat­ing child­hood clas­sic A Bear Called Padding­ton — and so be­gan a world­wide love af­fair with the char­ac­ter­ful bear, com­plete with duf­fle coat and stash of marmalade sand­wiches. His cre­ator died last year, aged 91, but Padding­ton lives on in his books and films. Here, in Bond’s own words, is the heart-warm­ing story of how Padding­ton came to be…

‘ MR AND Mrs Brown first met Padding­ton on a rail­way plat­form. In fact, that was how he came to have such an un­usual name for a bear, be­cause Padding­ton was the name of the sta­tion . . .’

When I wrote those few words, I had no idea quite what a change they would make to my life. It re­ally was a case of putting some­thing down on pa­per to get my brain work­ing that morn­ing. My in­spi­ra­tion was sit­ting on the man­tel­piece above the gas fire in our Lon­don flat.

I had bought him as a stocking filler for my wife, Brenda, the previous year. Tak­ing shel­ter from the weather that Christ­mas Eve, I hap­pened to wan­der into Sel­fridges and found my­self in the toy de­part­ment where I came upon a small toy bear left on a shelf — look­ing, it seemed to me, rather lonely.

We called him Padding­ton be­cause Padding­ton Sta­tion was just down the road and it had a nice West Coun­try ring to it, safe and solid.

It was mem­o­ries of news­reels show­ing train­loads of evac­uees leav­ing Lon­don dur­ing the war, each child with all its im­por­tant pos­ses­sions in a tiny suit­case and a la­bel round its neck, that prompted me to do the same for Padding­ton. ‘Please look af­ter this bear’ was the mes­sage on the la­bel the Browns could hardly re­sist, and the ad­di­tion of ‘Thank you’ said even more.

Sup­pose Mr and Mrs Brown had been my own par­ents, I won­dered: what would they have done? My mother, on learn­ing that this small bear had trav­elled all the way from Dark­est Peru as a stow­away, would have un­hesi­tat­ingly taken the line of ‘first things first’, and fed him.

THUS my fa­ther would have found him­self sit­ting in the sta­tion buf­fet, ‘look­ing as though he had tea with a bear on Padding­ton Sta­tion ev­ery day of his life’.

From then on the story fol­lowed a sim­ple but log­i­cal process, and be­fore lunch I had writ­ten the f irst chap­ter of a to­tally un­premed­i­tated chil­dren’s book.

Look­ing back, Padding­ton was quite a lot like my fa­ther. Nor­man ‘Nor­rie’ Bond was the man­ager of the lo­cal post of­fice, and he al­ways wore a hat.

On hol­i­day at the Isle of Wight, he went into the sea with his trousers rolled up and kept his hat on, in case he met some­one he knew. If he hadn’t been able to raise his hat, he would have been mor­ti­fied.

In my story, the Browns took Padding­ton to live with them at Num­ber 32 Wind­sor Gar­dens. It seemed to me that any fam­ily who would take a strange bear home to live with them must be a pretty soft touch, so there was need for a stronger char­ac­ter in the back­ground. Some­one of whom Padding­ton would re­main slightly in awe.

Mrs Bird, the Browns’ house­keeper, was a familiar type of woman in Bri­tain be­tween the wars. They were among the many mil­lions who had lost a hus­band or a boyfriend in the car­nage of World War I and found them­selves re­duced to liv­ing with a rel­a­tive in re­turn for do­ing all the house­work and the cooking. Mr Brown was also very like my fa­ther, who was hope­lessly ad­dicted to his pipe. he once al­most choked af­ter smok­ing a moth­ball that had rolled into the bowl while in his pocket.

On an­other oc­ca­sion, he started to light the gas fire but couldn’t find a live match, be­cause of his tidy habit of plac­ing the burnt ones back in the match­box af­ter get­ting his pipe go­ing. By the time he lo­cated one, he’d for­got­ten the gas was on and lit his pipe in­stead.

I don’t re­mem­ber the ex­plo­sion, be­cause I was in my pram at the time — with the hood up, for­tu­nately. That pro­tected me when the kitchen dresser was blasted on top of me, shat­ter­ing most of my par­ents’ wed­ding china.

Many of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries sprang from my imag­i­na­tion. Each morn­ing, af­ter wash­ing with a jug of cold wa­ter that drained into a bucket, I would use the toi­let, pull the chain and run down­stairs as fast as I could. I had to reach the bot­tom be­fore the cis­tern stopped flush­ing, oth­er­wise the world would come to an end. Small chil­dren’s minds are full of secret fears.

Child­hood imag­i­na­tion came to the fore again af­ter my wartime ser­vice, first in the RAF (I was air­sick) and then in the Army. While wait­ing for de­mob in Egypt, I had sub­mit­ted an ar­ti­cle to a magazine, and re­ceived a cheque for my trou­ble. I de­cided I rather liked the idea of be­ing a writer, and kept try­ing through the Fifties, while earn­ing my liv­ing at the BBC as a trainee cam­era­man (among the shows I worked on were Dixon Of Dock Green and Blue Peter).

My agent, har­vey unna, was a sweet-na­tured Jewish man who had fled Ger­many in 1933 with the equiv­a­lent of just £5 in his pocket.

he had sug­gested that I might do well with chil­dren’s sto­ries, though I hadn’t had a lot of luck be­fore Padding­ton.

As I wrote the first story, with its refugee over­tones, I re­mem­bered the story of har­vey’s flight to Bri­tain, and this partly in­spired my char­ac­ter Mr Gru­ber, the an­tiques dealer. Mr Gru­ber and Padding­ton be­come firm friends, per­haps be­cause the old man un­der­stands what it is like to find one­self an im­mi­grant in a strange coun­try with no money and nowhere to go.

Padding­ton and Mr Gru­ber en­joy a for­mal yet very spe­cial re­la­tion-

ship, al­ways ad­dress­ing each other by their sur­names. It wouldn’t oc­cur to ei­ther of them that it could be any other way.

Padding­ton’s hat and duf­fle coat were sim­ply repli­cas of what I hap­pened to be wear­ing. The bas­ket on wheels, which be­came his trade­mark when­ever he went out shop­ping, was an in­dis­pens­able part of our own house­hold equip­ment. And his love of marmalade came about just be­cause I hap­pen to pre­fer it to honey.

Af­ter eight days of writ­ing, I had a first draft ready for Har­vey Unna. He wrote back to say he liked it, but picked me up on an er­ror: I’d said Padding­ton came from Dark­est Africa. ‘There are no bears in Africa, dark­est or oth­er­wise,’ Har­vey re­proved me. ‘Chil­dren ei­ther know this or should know this, and I sug­gest you make suit­able amends.’

A trip to West­min­ster Pub­lic Li­brary, fol­lowed by a visit to Re­gent’s Park Zoo, solved the prob­lem. I set­tled on Dark­est Peru. And on Fe­bru­ary 10, 1958, Har­vey wrote again to say A Bear Called Padding­ton had been ac­cepted by Collins, the pub­lish­ers, who were of­fer­ing an ad­vance of £75.

They sug­gested Peggy Fort­num as the il­lus­tra­tor. It isn’t easy to cap­ture a young bear’s like­ness in a few lines, but Peggy did it to per­fec­tion with her pen-and-ink draw­ings. With a few deft strokes she cap­tured his eyes, his shag­gi­ness, his lightly hunched fig­ure, his pur­pose­ful air.

By Christ­mas, the en­tire first print-run had sold out and my pub­lisher won­dered whether I would write a se­quel. As Padding­ton would say, I needed no sec­ond bid­ding.

With suc­cess came book sign­ing tours. These were not with­out their haz­ards. Marmalade sand­wiches fig­ure large in any kind of Padding­ton pro­mo­tion and there were times when I wished I had given him a lik­ing for some­thing a lit­tle more ex­otic, like truf­fles or out- of- sea­son as­para­gus. It was too late.

At one school sum­mer fete, a squad of sixth-for­m­ers were seen dis­ap­pear­ing fast over the brow of a hill, car­ry­ing a large trunk­ful of marmalade sand­wiches and pur­sued by a swarm of wasps.

At an­other event in Glas­gow, ex­pect­ing a modest turnout, my pub­lish­ers ad­ver­tised free marmalade sand­wiches. Chil­dren and sundry passers-by turned out in droves. Soon the po­lice were called to con­trol the crowds out­side.

By the time I ar­rived, the sup­ply of sand­wiches was ex­hausted and, to make mat­ters worse, I dis­cov­ered the chil­dren’s books de­part­ment was on the top floor.

Forc­ing my way up a nar­row, wind­ing stair­case, I squeezed past a hun­gry, dis­grun­tled horde who held me per­son­ally re­spon­si­ble for the ab­sence of bread-and-marmalade.

There were other per­ils. One Christ­mas, I was in­vited to switch on the lights in a Devon town and, as of­ten hap­pens, some­one had dressed up as Padding­ton to stand be­side me on the bal­cony. Dur­ing the pho­to­call, a lo­cal jour­nal­ist asked if I would mind hav­ing the bear sit on my lap for a pic­ture.

Once Padding­ton had made him­self com­fort­able I gave him a big hug while bounc­ing him up and down for the cam­era. Dur­ing the in­evitable ar­gu­ment about whether the flash was work­ing, I asked the bear: ‘And how old are you?’

To my alarm, a girl’s voice said, ‘Seven­teen.’ Im­me­di­ately I saw ban­ner head­lines: ‘Chil­dren’s au­thor mo­lests girl, 17! I thought it was a bear, pleads mid­dle-aged writer.’

The first pro­ducer to try to put Padding­ton on film was con­vinced that it would work only with a real ac­tor dressed up in furs. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the ac­tor in the suit was im­pos­si­ble. He couldn’t hear what was be­ing said to him, let alone see where he was go­ing. He could raise his hat, but he could never man­age to put it back on his head.

Bereft of fa­cial ex­pres­sions, he tended to re­sort to fall­ing over back­wards with his legs in the air when­ever he needed to reg­is­ter even mild sur­prise. If any­thing more star­tling was needed, he be­gan run­ning around in cir­cles.

The props de­part­ment cre­ated a head for Padding­ton with eyes that ac­tu­ally blinked. Un­for­tu­nately, they did it ran­domly and not both at the same time, so that the bear looked like it had a par­tic­u­larly nasty tic that caused it to wink at passers-by on both sides.

The pro­ducer’s con­stant search for fi­nan­cial back­ing led to some tire­some meet­ings with moguls chomp­ing cigars in back­rooms and propos­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary changes to my sto­ries.

ON ONE mem­o­rable oc­ca­sion, in the space of about a quar­ter of an hour, Mr Gru­ber’s an­tique shop turned into an em­po­rium sell­ing old Army uni­forms (the de­signer just hap­pened to have a rel­a­tive who owned such an es­tab­lish­ment on the Por­to­bello Road, avail­able on favourable terms) and the Browns’ chil­dren, Jonathan and Judy, gained a few years in or­der to be­come teenagers with drugs prob­lems (this idea came from the di­rec­tor, who was clearly speak­ing from first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence).

There were mo­ments when it wouldn’t have sur­prised me if some­one had got up and de­manded to know what a bear was do­ing in the story. I some­times won­dered the same my­self.

When the Padding­ton mu­si­cal opened in Lon­don at the Duke Of York’s Theatre in 1974, again the lead role was played by some­one in a bear skin, this time with a mask.

The ac­tor came up with the idea of glu­ing a black ping-pong ball to his nose. It worked well enough un­til one night the glue dis­solved. The sound of a ball bounc­ing over a stage, pur­sued by its owner, is dis­tinc­tive and won a round of ap­plause.

Much nois­ier was the oc­ca­sion when, in the open­ing scene at Padding­ton sta­tion, a lug­gage trol­ley (bor­rowed from Bri­tish Rail — enor­mously heavy and with a mind of its own) took off on its own ac­cord, gath­er­ing speed as it headed to­wards the foot­lights. As it dis­ap­peared into the orches­tra pit, there was an enor­mous crash and ev­ery­thing went black.

AN­OTHER prob­lem was Padding­ton’s voice. I imag­ined quite a bear­ish sound — the clos­est I ever heard in real life was on a beach one hol­i­day, when an el­derly Ger­man walked past talk­ing to his wife in a high-pitched growl.

But when Padding­ton fi­nally ar­rived on tele­vi­sion, Sir Michael Hordern was cast as the nar­ra­tor, and I thought he was won­der­ful.

Padding­ton has come a long way since he first ar­rived on a Lon­don rail­way plat­form in 1958, af­ter jour­ney­ing from Dark­est Peru. And it’s a long way too from the house in Read­ing where I spent the first nine years of my life.

A few years ago, I re­turned at the re­quest of a news­pa­per for a se­ries it was run­ning on child­hood mem­o­ries. The house felt warm and friendly, and the mem­o­ries came flood­ing back. I found my­self wish­ing my par­ents could have been there to see it all, and I could have thanked them for my child­hood, which I never did. It is the kind of thing one al­ways leaves un­til it’s too late.

Most of all I could have thanked them for giv­ing me a love of books, for it brought not only im­mea­sur­able plea­sure but my liveli­hood too.

But there is no go­ing back. Be­sides, the bath­room has been mod­ernised and I’m not sure I would trust the sleek new toi­let to keep on flush­ing un­til I reached the bot­tom of the stairs — and who knows what might hap­pen if I didn’t make it?

EX­TRACTED from Bears & Fore­bears: A Life So Far by Michael Bond, pub­lished by HarperCollins. © Michael Bond 1996. to or­der spe­cial an­niver­sary edi­tions of the Com­plete Ad­ven­tures of Padding­ton (£40; of­fer price £32) and A Bear Called Padding­ton (£20; of­fer price £16), visit www.mail­ or call 0844 571 0640. Of­fers valid to 20/10/18.

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