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The Name’s Bond. Michael Bond. Happy 90th Birthday.

January 13, 2016

paddington

Michael Bond, like Kate Winslett and Ricky Gervais, grew up in Reading.  Reading, with its trains heading in all directions, has a strange liminal vibe.  Bond, who is ninety today, never forgot the spectacle of Wartime evacuee children, sent out into the unknown, duffle-coated and labelled, hoping to find acceptance in a strange new home and family.

Paddington Bear, who emigrated from Peru to London in the late 1950s is a strangely admirable and dignified immigrant.  He is unfailingly polite and generous and yet will assert his rights when challenged.  His “hard stare” is the most reliable weapon in his arsenal.

Michael Bond introduced us to the self-consciously idealistic citizenry of the immigrant imagination.  Paddington, the immigrant from Peru, takes the civic claims of his host society with seriousness and deliberation – adhering scrupulously to his new found responsibilities (as and when he finds them) and claiming all of his reciprocal entitlements with hard-stared determination.

Paddington exists to test metropolitan hospitality.  He finds a close friend in Mr Gruber, a cultured Hungarian immigrant and an antagonist in the suspicious and xenophobic Mr Curry, with whom he never loses his cool.  Indeed, Paddington never loses his cool under any circumstances.  He greets his setbacks with a kind of calm acknowledgement and he never lets embarrassment stand in the way of learning more about his new world.

We keep being told that we’re living at a time of great migrations, movements of populations on a scale unmatched since the Second World War.  We can thank Michael Bond (and again wish him a Happy Birthday) for creating such a warm and endearing representative migrant and for keeping him warm and endearing over the course of nearly sixty years.

I feel like some marmalade.

 

 

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