Paddington Bear, one of Britain's favourite children's fictional characters, is celebrating his 50th birthday this year. From his humble origins as a homeless immigrant at a London railway station, Paddington has gone on to sell over 30 million books in 30 different languages.
According to the first story, the bear was discovered at Paddington Station sitting on a battered suitcase bearing the label "Wanted on Voyage". There was a note attached to his coat which said "Please look after this bear". It transpires that Paddington Bear had been sent from the South American country of Peru by his aunt.
A family called the Browns were at the station to meet their daughter when they noticed Paddington. They decided to take him in. Because he didn't know how old he was, he decided to give himself two birthdays a year!
Paddington wears a distinctive outfit: a blue duffle coat and a shapeless hat; sometimes he's shown wearing Wellington boots, though this was a later addition to his attire. He also has a very special diet which consists mainly of marmalade sandwiches and cocoa.
Paddington Bear was the brainchild of Michael Bond, who came up with the character after seeing a teddy bear alone in a shop near Paddington Station. He felt sorry for it and bought the toy for his wife for Christmas and set about writing the first book. Many more stories followed as well as a TV series and a film, which is now in the pipeline.
Although he is just a children's character, Paddington Bear has recently attracted controversy. He appeared in advertisements eating sandwiches containing not marmalade but Marmite, a British sandwich spread made from yeast extract. Purists argue that Paddington would never eat anything other than marmalade sandwiches.
However, all arguments will be forgotten as fans get together to wish Paddington Bear a happy 50th birthday.