* Prices may differ from that shown
Paddington, the bear from darkest Peru found by the Brown family at the eponymous railway station, is featured here in four dramatized adventures recorded for BBC audio. In this short collection's lead story Paddington manages to unwittingly foil a hustler and also drifts out to sea. In "Pantomime Time" our hero struggles with the formula of a pantomime and then ends up getting sawn in half by the show's magician. "A Picnic by the River" sees the ever-confused bear taking a dip and losing his hat. The final story describes Paddington's first Christmas. All stories are written by Michael Bond, the creator of Paddington, narrated by Michael Hordern, the narrator of the original 1970s TV series and all characters are played by individual actors. As ever, Paddington is a bear who over-protectively clings to his hat, duffel coat and suitcase, and has a huge love for marmalade sandwiches.
After 30 years, Michael Bond brought fresh new Paddington material to audiences in 2008. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the man himself read an excerpt from "Paddington Here and Now" on the iTunes "Meet the Author" podcast to a grateful audience of adults. It only re-confirmed to me something I had felt at the time about the Paddington stories as my re-listening to Winnie the Pooh has done: there was always just that something in the text that did not isolate the adult readers. I believe it comes from Michael Bond's refusal to patronize his audience.
None of Paddington's stories are overtly didactic. Furthermore, Bond does not compromise with his characters and their mannerisms. You get no political correctness with Paddington. For example, Mr Brown only gives up his trademark pipe during the festive period so that he can smoke his cigar. However, despite protestations that this is all rather old fashioned, Bond also empathizes with children. He understands them and, in many ways, Paddington is used to convey their bewilderment and confusion with life as new experiences are introduced. In some ways it also pokes fun at the adults and the idiosyncrasies of human society. It is clearly stated in the first story that Paddington is a "very literal bear".
The CD is superbly produced, as to be expected by the BBC. It has a musical theme, but it is not the one we all recall from the TV series. In fact, for the sake of the nostalgic audiences it is best to keep in mind that this isn't an audio track from the TV series or intended to be. It's a new collection of Paddington stories. Having said this Hordern does far more than simply introduce the stories as detailed in the CD's blurb. He is best described as the narrator with the rest of the cast filling in for whenever a character speaks. For those of us who enjoyed the whole story, characters and all, being told by Hordern this will take something away from the experience. However, if this is a quibble I think it is a very small one and beside it is worth remembering who this is really produced for: your children!
The child audience will be a large but acquired one. I doubt it will be as big as it was during the franchises various peaks. The stories go move a fast enough pace not to bore the listener. There is mild peril although nothing is truly epic in a Paddington story. This is part of the cosy and gentle appeal of the stories. Mind you, the stories are not without slight reality checks - well as much reality as you can add to a children's short story about an anthropomorphized bear that is accepted into society without a blink. The first story features a dodgy photographer and the last story shows us just how hard up Paddington really is.
Only the most cynical or very sad of the nostalgic adult crowd and the most demanding of children will be disappointed with the whole CD.
Highly recommended on the whole.