Paddington Bear is a much-loved children's character from the 50s, but not one I precisely grew up with. I always knew about Paddington, but mostly because of my older sisters. I don't remember seeing the show (I'm pretty sure there was a cartoon) or reading the books. What I do remember is this story:
When I was about thirteen, we mated our kelpie sheepdog, Tess, with another farmer's kelpie. We got two male pups. One of my older sisters named them: one was called Paddington, the other, Bear. The names were perfect. Bear was the brave, spirited, adventurous one. Paddington was the cautious, sensitive, intelligent one. As the puppies got older, Bear decided he wanted to go out on the farm and learn to be a sheepdog like Tess. He was fearless. The problem was, Tess was a bit of a twit. She was our last sheepdog, and the worst. Actually, all the previous sheepdogs - most of which were border collies - were excellent. Tess though had this awful habit of, instead of obeying instructions and rounding up the sheep, she would race in front of the ute or the tractor, barking and snapping at the front tyres.
Bear learned from her. It wasn't long before he was dead, caught under the ute's tyres. It was awful. He was the most promising little puppy, a real goer, and if it hadn't been for his mum he would've had a long happy life of rounding up sheep. Now we just had Paddington. Once Bear was gone, he was like, Right, my turn.
And there went puppy number two, just like his brother.
There are a lot of shitty things that happen on a farm or station. I've helped deliver stillborn lambs; watched my dad slit the throat of an old, weak, nearly-dead ewe; hauled lambs around to be marked (which is actually lots of fun if you don't mind being kicked, smeared with shit, head-butted and having to watch their ears get clipped and tight little rubber rings put around the base of their tails and, if they have them, testicles); had all my pet lambs die on my except one (out of 30); smelled them burn on the open incinerator. And that's just the sheep. It's hard work, farming, and you learn about life and death from a young age - and learn to accept it too. But what happened with Paddington and Bear, that was hard. We never had pet dogs, only working dogs, but these puppies were adorable. We didn't coddle them - they slept with their mother in the kennel, which was just a dog box with a long chain to tie her up to, out behind the farmhouse. But like with all my pet lambs, it was just too sad.
So that's what I think about when I think of Paddington Bear.
For all that, or perhaps because of it, I feel very close to Paddington, and the book - which I finally got around to reading after all these years - is an absolute delight. It has a distinctly old-fashioned British flavour to it, featuring the kind of Pommy family that the Poms themselves make fun of but fondly. Paddington himself was just lovely. A honey-coloured bear from "deepest Peru", sent overseas on a raft with just his jars of marmalade and a sign from his Aunt Lucy that says "Please take care of this bear". Which is exactly what Mr and Mrs Brown and their two young children do. I kept getting an urge to cuddle him.
Paddington tries hard, but this world is new and exciting and just a bit confusing. He has many adventures, and it's often hilarious to see things from his perspective. They end well, these adventures, and yet there's always this slightly sad undertone. It's a funny story, quirky too, but very endearing. I'll have to look out for the other books in the series and start collecting them. Since Paddington is over 50 years old now (52!), and still going strong, I shouldn't have any trouble finding them.
LONE STAR RANGRCST.Towards a Poor Theatre (Theatre Arts (Routledge Paperback)).The Quest for Cush: Imaro II.Lazos Que Unen.