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Paddington Bear 'inspired by evacuees' says author Bond

By Emma Midgley
BBC News

image captionThe character of Paddington Bear was influenced by Michael Bond's childhood experiences in Reading

Paddington Bear may have emerged in 1958 but much of his character was developed from memories of life immediately before and during World War II, according to the bear's creator author Michael Bond.

Mr Bond grew up in Reading and says the character of the polite bear from "darkest Peru" was inspired by his childhood and watching newsreels of children being evacuated from the capital.

"When I was small, I had memories of children being evacuated from London with a label around their necks and all their possessions in a suitcase, and this became part of Paddington as well," he said.

"Paddington Bear was a refugee with a label - 'Please look after this bear. Thank you', and he had a little suitcase."

As a young adult Mr Bond worked in Reading. It was while working on the roof of a building in the town centre, that the area came under bombardment by a low-flying German aircraft, and the structure collapsed underneath him.

'Mr Gruber'

He escaped without injury and went on to work at the BBC Monitoring service in Caversham after the war.

"At that time Caversham Park was staffed almost entirely by refugees: Russian and Polish people and different nationalities," he said.

"My Paddington Bear books also had a character who was a Hungarian refugee - Mr Gruber.

image captionMichael Bond worked as a cameraman on Blue Peter

"I have very happy memories of Reading and Caversham."

After a series of redundancies at Caversham Park, Mr Bond continued working with the BBC in London as a cameraman on programmes including Blue Peter.

"As a cameraman I was paid to stand within a few feet of Yehudi Menuhin performing. I saw Rudolph Nureyev dancing. I couldn't believe I was being paid for that," he said.

In his spare time he began writing the first Paddington Book, using a small bear he had bought for his wife as inspiration for his main character.

'Duffel coat'

"I was wearing a duffel coat myself at that time," he said.

However, Mr Bond felt the hapless bear was more similar in character to his civil servant father than himself.

"My father was a very impractical person," he said.

Mr Bond also created and wrote a script for The Herbs, a popular children's programme in the late 1960s, starring Parsley the Lion.

The animator, Ivor Wood created the Paddington animations, which were voiced by Sir Michael Hordern.

Mr Bond has recently created two podcasts for Reading Museum.

The children's author talks about his inspiration for the Paddington Bear books, which include his experiences of World War II, his years at the BBC in Reading and Caversham, and his early love of Reading Football Club.

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