While strolling down the King's Road and into Duke of York Square I was delighted to bump into one of the Paddington Bear sculptures which have been planted around the city to raise awareness of child hardship and raise funds for the NSPCC.
The 50 bears were released onto the streets in November under cover of darkness just prior to the new Paddington film which opened on 28th November. The bears will be at venues as varied as No 10 Downing Street and the Globe Theatre, Heathrow Airport and of course Paddington railway station where it all began for 'the bear from Peru' in 1958 in author Michael Bond’s book A Bear Called Paddington.
The bears for the trail have been coordinated over many months, resulting in a huge cast of artists, celebrities and designers coming up with their own dramatic changes to the appearance of Britain’s politest bear. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch (aka Sherlock Holmes) has given Paddington a dapper herringbone-patterned outfit topped by the detective’s distinctive deerstalker, and there’s no mistaking Ian Botham’s cricket-playing Paddington, complete with bulky white sweater and suitcase bearing the legend “Knock Cruelty For Six”. London mayor Boris Johnson has gone for a bear tattooed with London scenes: Big Ben, a cable car, the Gherkin, the Palace of Westminster, the Post Office Tower and (homage to the bear’s creator), a Tube sign saying Bond Street. Plus a familiarly tousle-haired blond figure, pedalling away on a Boris bike.
Michael Bond, now 88, penned the stories of Paddington after finding a bear left by itself on the shelf of a London store on Christmas Eve in 1956. He took it home as a present for his wife Brenda, and named it Paddington, after nearby Paddington station. He says: “I wrote some stories about the bear more for fun than with the idea of having them published. After 10 days, I found that I had a book on my hands.”