On this page ..... Here's a look at author Michael Bond's early career pre-Parsley,in both his own words (black text) and mine (blue) And particularly relevant in his case because it was to consist largely of writing and television work. 2 seperate careers that would only belatedly overlap with the creation of The Herbs.
The Herbs and The Adventures of Parsley Classic BBC kid's animation by Michael Bond
The War and working for the BBC
Michael Bond was born in Newbury,Berkshire in January 1926.
His earliest adult years were spent in the armed forces,although he was still doing basic training when
WW2 drew to a close so never got to fire a shot in anger.
He spent the immediate post war years serving in the Middle East in general and Egypt in particular,
before eventually being de-mobbed in October 1947.
After a brief period of re-adjustment,he joined the BBC and worked as a nuts 'n' bolts service technician
for the Monitoring Service at Caversham Park,Reading -a Government-funded news gathering organisation that had kept tabs on German communictions during the War and was to find renewed relevance during the Cold War.
He combined this slightly mundane day-to-day existence with a passion for writing,inspired by a childhood spent in a house" where books were part of the furniture ".
He'd had his first ever article published in August 1947 whilst still in Egypt -a short story for a magazine.
And a steady,if unremarkable stream of articles,short stories and even radio plays followed.Although he still needed the income from his 9 to 5 job.
" I wasn't unduely distressed :writing is one of the few occupations where lack of commercial success carries with it no great social stigma -rather the reverse- and being a Capricorn I was determined to get there in the end.
In the meantime,I grew proficient at recognizing the dull thud of manuscripts from a distance of fifty paces or more. "
He started to look at other avenues within the Corporation.
" Bored with the routine of maintaining the same pieces of equipment week in week out and feeling the need to do something more creative "
But it was a struggle.
" Transferring from one department to another in the BBC wasn't easy.
Understandably,having trained you for one job,they have always been reluctant to waste their investment. "
Ironically,Government cutbacks in 1956 meant Monitoring Service staff were asked to re-deploy within other areas of the Beeb,and.........
" I jumped at the chance and before the week was out,found myself walking through the entrance to the BBC's Lime Grove studios and into the make-believe world of television. "
A long time coming,and more by chance than design.But once in,he soon got lucky again with the creation of the Beeb's first ever media competition -Independant Commercial Television.A new,cash-rich organisation that could offer BBC staff far better salaries for the same work.And because so many jumped ship he found himself in demand.
Inspired by a genuine love of the cinematic imagery he'd grown up watching,he chose to pursue a career as a camera operator.And promotion was rapid.Driven partly by the need to replace those that had left,but also by an increase in the number of hours the Beeb were allowed to broadcast,as the government responded to the spiralling number of tv sets being sold and the disquiet at how little there actually was to watch.
" progress which had in the past been largely a matter of waiting for others to grow old and retire was considerably accelerated. When I joined,7 crews were responsible for almost the entire studio output in the UK.10 years later,as a senior cameraman,I helped form the 17th crew in London alone. "
Paddington Bear It was also during this period that he had his first book published -a collection of 8 short stories entitled "A Bear called Paddington".
It was 1958,and by the Christmas of that year the entire first print-run had been sold and a perennial kids' favourite had been born.
" my career as a writer had been mapped out for me and it was to keep me increasingly occupied for the best part of the next 20 or so years "
"for the time being it was still very much a part-time occupation and I still had to earn my living "
Which is somewhat of a surprise to those of us who automatically assume a best seller brings financial security.
But he enjoyed working at the Beeb,moving from studio to studio and from one production to another.
" Carrying out a long,smooth track from wide shot to a big,pin-sharp close-up is very satisfying,just as making a smooth landing in a plane must be.In both cases,no matter how many times you repeat the manoeuvre,there are alway those occasions when you know you could have done it that little bit better. "
Leaving the BBC By 1966,his enthusiasm had waned.Prompted largely by the reduction in live transmissions in favour of pre-recorded footage,and the responsibilities of being in charge of a crew.
" knowing that it was no longer a total disaster if you didn't do things right first time meant the adrenaline didn't flow in quite the same way.And you could be tracking in on someone giving their all and a voice would whisper in your ear ,' can I have next thursday off ?' ."
The days of fast-track promotions had also gone and things had settled back down to a far more ordered,and leisurely progression.A fact neatly illustrated by his mothers' tireless scrutiny of the BBC staff magazine's obituary page -
" I see 4 more have died this month she would inform me,with a certain amount of satisfaction in her voice. "
But he knew it would take a higher strike rate than that to make any more significant headway.And he'd also been successfully writing Paddington for 8 years.So,in April 1966,he finally took the plunge to try his hand as a full time writer.......at the age of 40.
Reflections on his BBC career " I was sad to leave the BBC.It had been an enormously enriching experience.
In the beginning they'd been adventurous days: adventurous on both sides of the camera,with everyone -presenters and technicians alike- still finding their feet.The impossible was often asked for,because everything seemed possible.
Frequently it was a case of every man for himself,but there was also a great pleasure in working as part of a team knowing that when things went wrong help was close at hand "
Admittedly,his decision to leave was hardly a huge leap into the unknown.But it probably focused his mind sufficiently to come up with........you know who.
20 months after leaving the Beeb,his first tv series hit the screens. (and,no,it wasn't Paddington !)
To learn what happened during those 20 months and beyond,go to "The Making of Pt.1" page. But you may find find the following links interesting too...........
LIME GROVE STUDIOS :- The process of making a lot of tv and film is often far more interesting than the end result.
And Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd's Bush was where Michael Bond spent a lot of his time filming.And where he also attended a reunion party in 1990 to mark their closure and subsequent demolition for a new housing development.
So this site is well worth a look if you'd like to delve a bit deeper.
1950's BRITISH TV A site all about the early years of British TV.
Hard to believe that a character like "Mr.Turnip" could hold the kids' spellbound.But any generation has to take what it's given,and it's no big jump from a turnip to herbs I suppose,even if the production values were light years apart.