Michael Bond is dead

by Harry on June 29, 2017

During my second visit to Cincinnati, in 1993, we went to the mysterious Beechmont shopping mall [1], and I noticed, to my great surprise, a remaindered VHS of Paddington Goes to the Movies (with one episode of The Herbs tacked on). I thought to myself “oh, that’ll be handy when we have kids” and, indeed, when we did, 4 years later, the first kid loved it (as do the others, and as do the many young kids who still come to our house). According to the graunaid obit Michael Hordern said that Paddington was one of his three most challenging roles (the others being Lear, and God)—and the truth is that what Bond, Hordern, and Ivor Wood produced in those programmes is magical. But the books are magical too. Paddington causes as much trouble as William Brown or Dennis the Menace [2] or Wooster, but lacks the mischief or malice of the first two and the doltishness of the third: he always reminded me of a mixture of Jennings and Darbyshire about whom I read alongside him. As an adult, with a child who is Paddington-like in many ways, its Mr. Brown I most empathize with. People who don’t like the politicization of children’s literature may have found the recent movie, a flagrant piece of left wing multiculturalist, pro-immmigration, propaganda, a bit much—but it actually stuck close to the books and the TV version: rooting its politics in a long and optimistic English tradition not just through using Bond’s characters (it’s not an accident that Paddington is only the second most English person in the books; the first being Mr Gruber, a Hungarian emigre), but even through the choices of music it used.

I have one Peruvian friend. After I’d gotten to know her well enough to notice how she dresses I realized that I always see her in a duffel coat. Once I knew her well enough to be confident she wouldn’t think I was engaging in some sort of obnoxious national stereotyping I asked her if all Peruvians wear duffel coats (I did not ask if she was from darkest Peru), and was delighted that she got the joke.

Bond’s legacy is almost entirely wonderful—not just Paddington, but The Herbs, Olga da Polga, and Pamplemousse. (For those of you who like crime, the Pamplemousse books are light, funny, but excellent: start with Monsieur Pamplemousse ). One complaint—he is indirectly responsible for the success of the odious Jeremy Clarkson, whose school fees (Repton) were paid for by the income his mother derived from creating and commercializing the stuffed Paddington Bear. Remember that, next time you buy one.

Here he is, singing in the rain:

[1] Much lamented….
[2] The British Dennis the Menace, not the American one, an entirely different kettle of fish who, nevertheless, and by some bizarre coincidence, also first hit the news-stands in March 1951.



Gareth Wilson 06.29.17 at 9:55 am

That was an interesting article by the immigration lawyer, but he doesn’t explain why it’s in Britain’s interest to allow Paddington to stay. All I’ve really seen is the trailer to the movie, which I understand is about a sympathetic, well-meaning Hispanic immigrant who nonetheless ends up causing total chaos and destroying his hosts’ property. Maybe you don’t want to push the analogy too far.


Harry 06.29.17 at 4:28 pm

That’s one way of interpreting it. If you watch the movie you will see exactly why it is in Britain’s interest to allow him to stay. And why even the Browns would want him to stay.

He does, it has to be said, adopt the English way of life alarmingly quickly.


oldster 06.30.17 at 5:46 am

We had a different Paddington video from the same series–with Michael Hordern doing the voices–in which Paddington goes to a charity ball. They really are splendid. The stop action animation gives just enough vitality, and the rest is all Hordern and the text. Excellent theme song, too.

RIP Michael Bond. A celebratory toast with marmalade sandwiches is the right tribute, I think.


soullite 06.30.17 at 12:16 pm

I’m fine with politicizing anything, as long as you’re willing to accept a full ideological spectrum when it comes to such things.

The problem is, in recent years–in all sorts of circumstances, but notably internet moderation–leftists have taken to pretending that only conservatism is ‘bad’. They allow pro-leftwing politicization, but then crack down on anything right-wing. This is especially true in publishing, as the reaction against the ‘puppy’ groups (who sounded crazy until the ideological organization against them started, at which point it became apparent that no matter how scummy they may be, they clearly had a point).

At times, left-wing moderators seem to declare that only conservatism is ideological, while progressivism, liberalism or even socialism don’t, because they are simply ‘common sense’. so forums that typically ban political organization will still allow pro-gay or feminism organizing on the grounds that those aren’t ideological at all, but simply a matter of human rights (which, even if you agree with the sentiment behind it, is a creepy and Orwellian distinction to make; if issues have been voted on in our lifetime, they are political no matter what else they may be by virtue of them having been decided by the political process).

Will progressives be as welcoming to viewpoints they don’t agree with, or will they pull their usual tantrum-throwing and demand that everyone who disagrees with them has to be stripped of all public position and banished to the boonies?


Harry 06.30.17 at 3:39 pm

Does preferring PD James to Ruth Rendell (and even to Julian Symons, which I do, though its a very close call) count? Loving Enid Blyton (though… one can’t be wholly sure she was a Tory I suppose).

Bit weird to declare that feminist organizations aren’t political if the personal is political. I’d never heard of the puppy groups and think I wish I still hadn’t….


Doug K 06.30.17 at 5:54 pm

thank you, I had not seen that animated version nor knew about Monsieur Pamplemousse – $3.03 on Kindle, will read it tonight..


Greg 06.30.17 at 6:12 pm

Defending the “puppies” as having some kind of valid point beyond “if I shot my pants and rub it on you you’ll have to pay attention to me” pretty much invalidates your claim to a reasonable point of view, soullite. They were hardly “just” protesting against PC (which, when used unironically, gives Newt Gingrich a half-erection) or ideological orthodoxy. They were performing all of the worst of troll behavior and rebelling in being the source of that smell. This isn’t debatable in good faith.


Greg 06.30.17 at 6:13 pm

*shit and **reveling


praisegod barebones 06.30.17 at 6:17 pm

I’d have thought that Jennings and Darbyshire counts, myself. (I’m also a fan though I find it hard to reconcile with my political views.)

I think the only good thing to come out of the puppy mess was discussion of voting procedures it spawned. It’s interesting and illuminating to see that protracted erudite and civilized discussion described as a ‘tantrum’.


Harry 06.30.17 at 6:31 pm

“I’d have thought that Jennings and Darbyshire counts, myself. (I’m also a fan though I find it hard to reconcile with my political views.)”

Buckeridge was a lifelong left wing socialist. For what its worth. I actually found that unsurprising. Read the Rex Milligan books (which are terrific) and it comes through.

Maybe my equally deep fondness for Just William? Richmal Crompton was a lifelong Tory, and Boris Johnson, for example, seems to have decided that emulating a demented, immature and lazy version of William Brown is a way of becoming Prime Minister.


J-D 07.03.17 at 1:17 am

You think that right-wing moderators don’t crack down on left-wing ideas? What would make you think that?

And are you suggesting that it’s wrong to take sides? What would make you suggest that? Or have I misunderstood your point?

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