THE final Paddington Bear story will be set at St Paul’s Cathedral, where a memorial service for the author, Michael Bond, was held on Tuesday.
Mr Bond, who wrote more than 200 books, was inspired to write Paddington at St Paul’s after attending the Queen’s 90th-birthday service there last year. His daughter, Karen Jankel, told The Guardian last week that he had been working on it “very shortly before he died. . . It’s lovely . . . he kept that magic touch right until the end.” The story includes Paddington’s being mistaken for a choirboy. “Needless to say, being Paddington, he gets into a bit of trouble,” she said. The story will be illustrated by R. W. Alley, who has illustrated the Paddington books since 1997.
Preaching on Tuesday, the Precentor, Canon Michael Hampel, suggested that Paddington’s story was “a kind of parable . . . the wisdom of the world is turned on its head and a refugee bear who is accident-prone and clearly very different from everyone else around him comes to exemplify a very different kind of wisdom. It’s one that says that being different is OK; that being cast adrift in the world requires the human response of rescue; and that accidents happen — because we’re all human.” The statues of Paddington Bear and of children of the Kindertransport at London train stations were “almost interchangeable”.
Mr Bond’s grandchildren read out extracts from his book. One of the public’s tributes read aloud was: “I can’t help but think that A A Milne and Michael Bond can now compare notes about bears!”
Mr Bond was born in the same year as the Queen and his reflections on his childhood were read aloud at her birthday service by another nonagenarian, Sir David Attenborough. They included a reference to Louise Haskins’s poem “God Knows”: “Truly, if you put your hand into the hand of God, ‘that shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’” This passage was spoken by George VI in his Christmas broadcast in 1939.
Mr Bond died in June, aged 91. Paddington at St Paul’s will be published in June 2018, 60 years after the first book, A Bear Called Paddington.
ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL“Magic touch”: Michael Bond with Paddington Bear