Michael Bond’s 26 Paddington books have sold in excess of 35 million copies worldwide and have been translated into 40 languages.

“Paddington’s very real to me," says the 88-year old author.

“I think it’s something bears have,” Bond told the Guardian yesterday. “So he comes around with me in spirit and I think an awful lot of stories start because you see a sign or you hear some conversation and you think ‘what if?’.”

The new film starring Hugh Bonneville, Nicole Kidman, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters is clearly the icing on the cake.

There were, however, also the 1970s BBC animated films which ran to 56 episodes. Count in too a stage play, a strip cartoon, picture books, annuals, a cookery book, a guide to London and millions of pounds worth of merchandising, much of it sold in Paddington and Friends shops. Paddington toys are expected to feature on many Santa lists this year.

Bond recalls writing the first book, A Bear Called Paddington in 1958, when he was prompted by war-time memories of evacuee children he saw pass through Reading station from London.

“They all had a label round their neck with their name and address on and a little case or package containing all their treasured possessions. So Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees.”