This, in case you don’t know the story, is how Paddington Bear was born. On Christmas Eve, 1956, Michael Bond, a 30-year-old BBC cameraman and struggling writer, spotted the last remaining teddy bear for sale at a London store.
He thought: “I can’t let that bear spend Christmas alone”, and, says The Sunday Times, took it home as a last-minute present for his wife, Brenda.
“We were living in a small room – practically a caravan – on the Portobello Road… [A few days later] I saw the bear sitting on the shelf at home and wondered what it would be like if a real bear had landed in Paddington station. I wrote down the first words without meaning to tell a story, but it caught my fancy and I carried on.”
He finished the book in ten days, then went on to write 25 more Paddington books, selling, in all, more than 35 million copies.
If the story of Paddington’s birth is famous, the role of Jeremy Clarkson’s parents, Shirley and Eddie, is not.
They made the first Paddington bear toys in Doncaster in the 1960s as presents for Jeremy and his sister, Joanna. (Bond says he remembers the future Top Gear presenter showing an early taste for speed: “I once saw him riding his tricycle straight into a car”.)
The Clarksons began selling the bears, but Bond found out and went to a lawyer. “I got in the lift with Shirley and Eddie. They were nice and pretended it had all been a mistake – and we were friends by the time we got out of the lift. I gave them a licence.”
Band Aid’s clanging chimes of doom
“How outdated the Band Aid single feels”, says Janice Turner in The Times. “A bunch of old, white, rock titans come together with young, white, X Factor hotties to persuade Britain to heal Africa.”
Thirty years ago, at Band Aid’s birth, Africa was seen as “a vast homogenous client continent of death. Now some African economies grow faster than China. Nigeria, Senegal and the Congo, despite vast populations, poverty and religious violence, contained and eliminated their own Ebola outbreaks.”
It is patronising to suggest that the emerging African middle class lives under Bob’s “clanging chimes of doom”. Why not have Geldof, Bono et al playing alongside musicians from Sierra Leone and Liberia and end the “ugly, archaic divide between ‘noble us’ and ‘poor them’”?
• There is no end to “the Americans’ perceived romance of, and fascination with, English grandees”, says David Tang in the FT, writing about Downton Abbey’s US success. “Alas, living in England today bears very little resemblance to those bygone eras.” One exception, perhaps, was the 11th Duke of Marlborough, who died recently.
“He was a dying breed who still cared about having a ‘fish alternative’ at a shooting breakfast.” But even the Duke was “cognisant” of our fast-changing world, says Tang. He liked mobile phones and when teased by a fellow duke that his email address must be duke@Blenheim.com he corrected him, pointing out that it was actually duke@BlenheimPalace.com.
Tabloid money: ‘As usual, the filthy rich are not paying their share’
• Myleene Klass “has got on in life”, says Fiona Phillips in the Daily Mirror. “Her dad was in the Navy and her Filipino mum, as she puts it, was from a ‘Third World country’. Her modest upbringing bred in her a work ethic and a mission to succeed. Her criticism of the mansion tax was not based on class war… It is based on the fact that it is patronising and insulting to assume that because one comes from a working-class background one cannot dare aspire”.
The best way to raise more money fairly is to change the “out-of-date council-tax banding system, which currently goes as high as Band H. This means a Russian olilgarch sitting in a £10m mansion pays the same as, say, a solicitor in the same London borough living in a £1.5m semi. As usual, the filthy rich are not paying their share”.
• “John ‘Two Jags’ Prescott has taken Tory communities minister Eric Pickles to task for his department spending £500,000 on limos in the past few years,” says Jane Moore in
The Sun. “He castigates him for ‘blowing taxpayers’ money to ferry him less than a mile from his office in Victoria to Westminster’.
Admirable sentiment, but it might have been a little more powerful had it not been voiced by a man who used a limo to travel just a few yards because ‘my wife doesn’t like to have her hair blown about’.”
• “It is not snobbery when a Labour MP who is married to a judge and lives in a £2m house sneers at a man in a former council house, parks a white van in his drive and displays
St George’s flags outside his home – it is hatred,” says Tony Parsons in The Sun. Emily Thornberry’s “derisive tweet” was a measure of just how much the Labour party of today “despises the working class”.