Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear, 1926-2017 #inmemoriam #MichaelBond #Paddingtonbear

I don’t struggle for posts, not usually and mostly I know from a way out what I’ll write about. But today my plans were thrown when the news came through that Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear had died. Regular readers will know of my love for that little Peruvian Ursus. But, at the risk of trying your patience, dear readers, I have to repeat this post as I have a lot for which  to thank Mr Bond and his clever creation. My life would have taken a  very different course, of that I am certain but for Paddington, and Mr Bond.

***

If I look back up the bannister of my life there have been very few splinters to discombobulate me during my smooth progress to the present day. And that is in large part because of a little Peruvian, marmalade guzzling, antique shop frequenting bear called Paddington. He is, after all, nearly as old as me, having first appeared in 1958. But it isn’t the similarity of our personalities (he’s loyal and a klutz who means well) nor our mutual longevity that links us.

I have many things to be grateful for. My timeless and ineffably lovely wife the Textiliste tops every poll. But I wouldn’t have gone to university without Paddington and never met her over cheese and wine at our tutor’s introductory soiree (yep, I’m old enough to have gone to soirees). I did promise I’d never embarrass her here but since this is a special post and this photo from our time at uni is fab, I break my rule just this once.

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Uncle Bulgaria seems rather perturbed

I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer at primary school. Possibly being in the Archaeologist’s shadow played to my detriment. You might think that is false modesty but here are two school reports to put the truth onto to that statement.

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the constant references to haste and ‘could do better’ possibly point the way forward

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easily my greatest report ‘Geometry – ‘Utterly confused in exam’. Exquisite! ‘PE and Games – he tries’ Was any report more damming?

In 1968 the Education reforms of Butler in 1944 had morphed into a two tier system. The original conceit was to treat academic prowess and technical prowess in identical ways, devoting as much time and resource to each and to provide quality education for both sorts of pupil. However, while the grammar schools were succeeding in providing a quality academic secondary education previously only available to the rich or those lucky enough to win scholarships, the technical colleges were underfunded and thought of as frankly second class. If you didn’t get to a grammar school and ended up at the nearest Secondary Modern, (these were the schools where those who failed at the 11 plus were sent), you were hothoused to failure. Or that was the received wisdom. To fail to win a place at grammar school meant my educational fate, certainly in the eyes of my parents and probably in truth given I needed a lot of help back then, was sealed.

I scraped in (as to how that is coming). I ended up at Purley Grammar school in Surrey for a year and a half before my family moved to Hampshire where I continued at the local grammar school (there known as High Schools) in Brockenhurst. I had a fantastic education and some great teachers. Mr Boun in History stands out but Messrs Gifford (Latin), Bain (French), Hucker (Physics), Sims (Chemistry), Doubleday (English), Pearce (Maths) and Meredith (form teacher) as well as Miss Post (also French), Miss Davies (English) all worked their magic. Between them they turned me from an also ran into a pretty decent learner with an increasing appetite for knowledge. I made it to Bristol university which I left three years later with a Law Degree of which I’m still quite proud…

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Ok, so all pretence at false modesty has now officially gone – and still I’m the token bloke!

My career in the law provided me with both intellectual stimulation and a comfortable existence, neither of which might have followed without that bear. My university friends knew of my love for and loyalty to the little chap, so much so that they clubbed together to raise the £25 – a veritable shed load of little green drinking tokens back in 1977 – to buy me a Paddington of my own for my 21st. Never was I given a better present. Moth eaten and dusty he still stands sentinel at the top of our stairs.

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No hat and his label is long gone but that’s affection for you

For those for whom Paddington Bear is still a mystery, you need to buy the book ‘a Bear called Paddington’ and live a while in 1950s Britain of imagined tolerance and innocence, toast and marmalade and old men called Gruber in whose shops a small bear and twin children can spend time absorbing wisdom and elevenses without any eyebrows being raised. Paddington was explorer, detective, loyal if befuddled friend and, given his experiences as an orphan, stowaway and illegal immigrant, a great example to those who do not realise that lonely immigrants are not just wastrels and spongers but can and do enrich us if treated with humanity.

And why is Paddington so important to me?

As noted, to be granted a grammar school place I needed to pass my 11 plus. I failed it. Not by much. I was ‘borderline’, an expression now reserved for mental illness which perhaps is apposite given the strain my exam failure put on my parents’ mental health. There were a few spare places to be allocated so those who’d missed crossing the line were interviewed to determine who would benefit from a grammar school future. Interviewed at 11? What were they thinking?

I must have known it was important because I have some memories of it. Partly it was because the interview took place in the headmaster’s study, a place you only went when you were in serious trouble. I remember sitting down and swinging my legs and being told to stop by someone. I have no memory of making any sort of impression until I was asked what books I liked to read. I said Paddington and the only lady on the panel cooed. She asked me which I liked best and I told her. Back then I had a good memory for stories and could have given her the plots of all the books had she asked. In my memory now – I could be making this up – I recall a smile passing between the panellists as I rattled off one of the stories. I was in. My love of that gorgeous little South American lump of fake fur and kapok saw me to a better future than might otherwise have been the case.

And for that, Paddington Brown, orphan and Peruvian expat, I will forever be eternally grateful.

Michael Bond 13 January 1926 – 27 June 2017 RIP

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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47 Responses to Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear, 1926-2017 #inmemoriam #MichaelBond #Paddingtonbear

  1. Another Paddington fan here, although without such a nice story as your’s. Very sorry to hear of Michael Bond’s passing but what a lovely legacy to leave behind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Smith says:

    A fitting tribute to Michael Bond. Did you ever tell him how much his bear meant to you?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lucy Brazier says:

    I was very sad to hear this news today. This is a beautiful tribute to the great man and – it must be said – the most excellent of bears. A nice and unexpected treat to see Uncle Bulgaria, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely, lovely post! My heart sank today when I saw the news flash up. The whole Paddington scene is full of such goodness and generosity and fun, like its creator. But this tale has cheered me up!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Geoff Le Pard as do all of us with fond memories of Paddington Bear were saddened at the news of the passing of his creator Michael Bond.. Geoff has more than one reason to be grateful to that marmalade loving bear… so please head over and add your memories..

    Like

  6. Ritu says:

    Such sad news but hey! Paddington will always be with you His Geoffleship!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. willowdot21 says:

    Sad news indeed, at least you and Paddington have something else in common you both survived!
    It is always a pleasure to read that post. RIP dear Michael Bond, long live Geoff and Paddington. 💜😊

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A wonderful post, Geoff. I absolutely love Paddington and I have read them all to my boys more than once.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. gordon759 says:

    I agree that ‘Geometry – ‘Utterly confused in exam’. is a superb school report entry, you should be very proud.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anabel Marsh says:

    I too loved Paddington and was sad to read that Michael Bond had died.

    I also sat the 11+ and passed, but we moved house that summer to a city which already had comeprehensive education so I didn’t take up my grammar school place. I still remember the stress of the months leading up to the test though, and the despair of the children who failed. Your achievements reinforce my view that passing judgement on children at 11 is an iniquitous system.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. A lovely tribute to Michael Bond, Geoff. I think we’ve all held and read one of his books at some time or another.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Michael bond lived a long life and left a wonderful legacy – and your relationship with that delightful bear and the success of your life is now part of his legacy. Isn’t that wonderful! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  13. dgkaye says:

    A lovely story Geoff and a beautiful tribute to Bond. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great tale, Geoff. Loved all of it. Actually, I was interviewed at 11 – having passed the 11+ I still need ed to satisfy Wimbledon College that I was up to the job. One of my lasting embarrassments was when I, who had never played any sport, was asked which I preferred. Being a smart arse and knowing the school’s bent, I said: “Rugby, Father”. “Oh”, came the rapid reply, “Where have you played that?” “With my brother and sister” was my lame reply.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Helen Jones says:

    I enjoyed this post the first time around and today it seems especially apropos. RIP Michael Bond, gone but never, thanks to a small brown bear, forgotten x

    Liked by 1 person

  16. josypheen says:

    What a sweet post. I loved that bear too.

    RIP Michael Bond.

    Do you mind if I send this post to Michael Bond’s Granddaughter? She is one of the loveliest people I know…I think she might appreciate how much he helped and inspired you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Oh that would be delightful. Please.

      Liked by 1 person

      • josypheen says:

        Right. I’ll send it over. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Robyn J says:

        Hi Geoff, I’m Robyn, Michael Bond’s granddaughter and friend of the wonderful Josy. This is such a lovely post, and truly touching to read. I’ve lost track of the number of people who have shared genuine, heartfelt reasons for loving Paddington in the last couple of days. Not just “I loved his books” or “I had a Paddington lunchbox” but truly important memories or experiences, just like yours. And every time I read one, it makes me cry, because they’re all unique, all so special, and none of them would have happened if it weren’t for my grandfather. It’s an awful lot to take in, and I miss him already, but reading tributes like yours makes the grieving process that much more bearable. How wonderful that you can trace your life back to that moment. I bet my grandfather would have been delighted. Although, since he himself left school at just 14, perhaps he’d have added that you would no doubt have succeeded regardless of how that interview went. Thank you for sharing this, and for the photo of your bear… it’s fair to say that all of the best ones get a little bit bedraggled over the years!

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        Robyn, thank you for this. I’ve been touched by people’s responses and how much that little chap has meant to so many. So many people enriched by your grandfather’s beautiful idea. My children benefited from his treasured prose and so will theirs. Such joy in deed timeless. I’m truly sorry for your family’s loss as he was grandpa to a lot us in many many ways.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Christy B says:

    Oh Geoff, I adore that you still have your Paddington Bear, albeit without the hat or label. I can tell that it brings back many a memory. Your tribute to Michael Bond here is very touching.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sad to hear about Michael Bond, I enjoyed reading about Paddington and his adventures. I love the fact that you have stayed loyal to the little bear after all this time, Geoff. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Sacha Black says:

    Love this post, the terror tot loves Paddington too ATM. I had no idea you loved him this much! How awesome that the bear saved your future, also mucho congrats on the First Class – think that’s my proudest moment ever too 😍

    Liked by 1 person

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