This Friday sees the eagerly anticipated release of the Paddington movie. I'm a colossal fan of the marmalade sandwich-loving young gentleman bear – and not only of the original five-minute animated episodes narrated by Michael Hordern during the Seventies and Eighties. I also own some books dating back to the Sixties, and, for those nights when I couldn't get off to sleep as an excitable child, a cassette album (remember those?) of various Paddington stories being read by the creator himself.
When Michael Bond bought a bear from Selfridges on Christmas Eve 1956 as a present for his wife, he couldn't have imagined that it would be the start of a truly global phenomenon.
Naming him Paddington after the station closest to their home, he started penning some of the bestselling children's stories of all time. Translated into more than 40 languages and selling more than 35 million books worldwide, Paddington seems to hold a personal place in our collective hearts – appealing to the smallest of story-loving children to their wistful parents.
As part of my own personal “age of innocence” heritage, I found the whole argument last week about its classification as a PG movie (because it contains “dangerous behaviour, mild threat, mild sex references, [and] mild bad language”) mildly annoying. Along with actor Hugh Bonneville, I'm not sure that Mr Brown dressing up as a cleaning lady really constitutes a sexual reference, but that's what we've come to expect from a controlling and overprotective nanny state.
Anyway, before this blog turns into a rant, let's move on. Heralding the opening of the Paddington movie, there are 50 statues of the bear himself dotted around London. On show until 30 December, you can follow a trail around the capital to view Paddington Bear in various guises and disguises. They have been designed by celebrities ranging from Ant & Dec (Bear Humbug) to Peter Capaldi (Paddington Who?); from Sandra Bullock (Gravity Bear) to David Beckham (Golden Paws). Mainly concentrated around central London to take enthusiasts on a tour of some of London's favourite landmarks, there are also few out at the extremities too.
Chief Scout Bear, designed by Bear Grylls, welcomes visitors at Heathrow Airport.
Getting round all 50 of the bears would be quite a challenge, so you can choose a trail depending on where you want to be: The Royal Parks Trail; The Paddington in Paddington Trail; River and Historical London Trail; and The Christmas Trail. It's a fantastic day out for children during the Christmas holidays. The Paddington Trail Map (which you can download by clicking here) also incorporates a fun checklist so that your enthusiastic bairns (see what I did there?) can tick off the various statues as they drag you around the trail after you've dragged them around the shops.
Gravity Bear : Sandra Bullock , RGB Bear: Zaha Hadid
For die-hard Paddington fans, though, this is your chance to own a piece of history, because you'll be able to “look after this bear, thank you” in your own home – if your wallet's big enough. From 10 December until 7 January, the statues will be auctioned off via Christie's, in aid of the trail's charity partner – the NSPCC – with opening bids from £500. You can register by clicking here.
So if you fancy a break from Christmas shopping – or even the post-Christmas sales shopping – and you have some excitable children to entertain, then take a fresh look around London via the eyes of the world's favourite Darkest Peruvian. Find out more about The Paddington Trail here:
Ashley is a copywriter, editor and blogger