Thursday, July 07, 2011

From Darkest Peru

So. I've been reading A Bear Called Paddington (1958), the first book in the famous children's series by Michael Bond.

I suppose it's an unlikely choice of reading matter for someone who turns 46 in three weeks time but then, to be fair, I have told you I'm a Soft Southern Jessie. I started June with a hardback copy of Tony Blair's A Journey from the library, but after the early chapters on the first few months of power, the Irish peace process and Princess Diana's death, my interest has started to wane a tad. I'm at the stage of it where Iraq is looming like a great toxic cloud and I'm not sure I've got the stomach for it, or the authorial self-justification it'll bring. That the bloody thing weighs a ton and is not easy to lug about on the train, tube and bus hasn't helped either.

The Paddington temptation came my way when the youngest daughter dumped it by the front door it in a pile of books to be donated to the school summer fair. I fished it out, a little piqued, since it was a favourite from when I was her age I'd spun heavily with her hoping she'd love, and harrumphing 'You can't throw that out!', commandeered it.

I thought I'd just read the first page over a cup of tea on Saturday, but of course I got (re)hooked. I'm a pretty miserable bugger at the moment, for a number of reasons to dull to go into here, and to move about again in that cosy late 50s world of hot baths, housekeepers and marmalade sandwiches, grumpy London Underground inspectors and stuffy department store managers (rightful recipients of the Paddington Hard Stare) and convivial cocoas with Mr Gruber in his Portobello Road antique shop was.....therapy. I slept better than I have for months.

Clearly I am a troubled individual retreating into the comforting meta-topography of a retrospectively idealised childhood when I should be squaring up in a manly fashion to the raw challenges of Now.

Or maybe I'm just tired.

Herbert Chappell - 'Paddington Bear (TV Theme)' (1975)


  1. I saw the title of this post and thought "He can't be playing The Paddingtons" so good work there.

    A few years ago, I was reading 'His Dark Materials' to my elder daughter, and we zipped through the first two books but she was just too young for the third, we were having to stop and talk about every page, so I suggested we come back to it later (we're just getting to it again now) and instead jumped to Paddington, about half a dozen books - aren't they lovely?

    You stick with it, mate.

    (My little one is just getting rid of a shelf and a half of 'Rainbow Magic' books to the school fair. I have not been tempted to pick one up to read over a cup of tea).

  2. wife - who works in publishing production worked on the Rainbow Magic books....thankfully we have none in the house....

  3. i forget who now but someone quite good picked paddington as their favourite fictional londoner on elms a while backwith the brilliant and entirely just right justification that said bear embodied everything great about the city and it's people and i meant to get down the library and grab me some but i think for now all that 30 day thing has dredged up enough of the past so i'm sticking with more nature facts. none of which i can remember for more than a second.

  4. Retreat into childhood is always a good bolt-hole for glumness.. I tried reading Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang to my two - but think I was more into it than they were..

    Have you checked Marianne Dreams - spooky doings from the 50s for kids, that will give you a fidgety night's nod. Turned into Escape Into Night for ITV in the early 70s

    Word Veri = Qidch would you believe. Almost Harry Potter

  5. 'Originally made in colour, Escape Into Night now exists only as black and white telerecordings made for overseas sales, the original colour videotapes having been junked many years ago'. Clowns! Sounds brill that.

    I am cheered to hear that Paddington remains widely appreciated. I have been thinking too that they are great London books. With them and seeing the actual Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on that station concourse and my Londoner Uncle Bill driving us through Piccadilly Circus at night time when I was at an impressionable age, it's no wonder I always wanted to be here.

    PS: More nature facts! Yes!

  6. I cannot recommend highly enough Paddington Here And Now written a year or two ago by Michael Bond to commemorate our favourite bear's 50th. Seeing darkest Peru's greatest export deal with having his shopping basket wheel-clamped and being mistaken for an asylum seeker, amongst other things, well it's not quite that genteel land of yesteryear but it is still utterly excellent.

  7. Excellent! Sold! Thank you kindly Mr Pip sir!

  8. You need a holiday Mr H.

    At the moment I am reading Dany The Champion Of The World with Max and I'm not sure who is getting the most out of it. I didn't read Dahl when I was a kid so it is all new to both of us.

    I di buy him a copy of Tuck Everlasting as it was my favourite from childhood along with Leon Garfield's Smith but not sure if he is ready for it yet

  9. Me and ET are heavily into Horrible Histories. Might give Paddington a go.

  10. I remember 'Me and my Million' by Clive King as another really good London kid's book.

    I'm just getting to the end of The End of Lemony Snickett with my little one (having read them all to the big one a few years ago) and they're okay, I think. Danny.. is a lovely book - the film's good too.

  11. A bit heavier than those already mentioned but a book which made a big impact on me when I was a youngster was 'The silver sword' by Ian Serraillier.

    I loved Paddington too.


  12. I think when you are a kid the stories are nice and amusing, but reading them as an adult was a revelation in subtle humour that caught me off guard, my kids remember more about me laughing my head off rather than the actual story itself and they always asked for Paddington or Winnie the Poo for that reason! Sorry to hear you are feeling a bit Eeyore. Can Piglet offer you a slightly damp and deflated balloon to cheer you up?

  13. It sounds like a touch of midlife crisis is setting in there old boy. Perhaps it's the London smog. First this blog and now you're censoring your daughter's discards. It'll get worse, but then you won't care anymore and life will be better than ever so stiff upper lip and all that rot. And let me be the first to wish you a happy birthday in advance since I'm sure I won't remember come the time. It's Summer and I'm busy.

    Still, stunning post. I'll go with either bear, Winnie or Paddie, despite all that rubbish some psychologists push out about those who identify with them. The bears, I mean.

  14. Thank you. I think you should all be made honorary bears.

    Lila, the Piglet/balloon story was the very first thing I can remember laughing out loud at in a book x

  15. Growing up in a barbarian land I did not know Paddington at all and only the Disney version of Pooh but someone gave me all the real Pooh tales when my elder son was born and we are just about to finish our second read through and I haven't wanted them to end but at least now I know what we are reading next. Thank you as always x.

  16. I'd like to think that if Paddington hadn't settled so happily in London, he'd definitely enjoy San Francisco x

  17. somebody know why Michel Bond get inspiring in darkest per as a born place to paddington?

  18. Sounds exotic I guess anon.


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