Friday, September 28, 2007

The Paddington Bear Plagiarism Affair

It was with some nostalgia that I stumbled across the new Marmite advert in which our hero Paddington forgoes his marmalade sarnies in favour of the "dark stuff", and though I hate Marmite as I hate Bovril, it made me giggle, and reminisce.

The year was 1986. I was a six year-old boy, just learning to read and write - in fact my writing had got to a fairly good standard - that of reducing my font size by at least a half, which meant O could write on the same A4 of my workbook for twice as long.


The task of the day - and my first foray into fiction and creative writing - was to take the character of Paddington Bear, whom I believe we'd either watched an episode of in class or had our teacher read one of the stories to us, and write a short story about him.

It should have been fun, and these days as I struggle to perfect my writing ability I wonder why I was no good, why I showed absolutely no spark of genius. In fact, I can remember having absolutely no idea of what to write at all. No one had ever opened my mind to formulating a story!

What a crazy notion.

And I don't know which came first: whether it was this simple stumpage of writers block, or whether I'd accidentally spied my best friend, Paul, scribbling his story away, but suddenly I found spurred into action. The idea was there, the plot, the moment around which the whole story would revolve...

So, Paddington has gone to the theatre, and whilst he watches the opera over the balcony of the family's private box, he grows hungry. Our intrepid little bear breaks open his favoured suitcase and produces the Marmite sandwiches, pops them on the top of the balcony whilst he just- whoops!

The sandwiches slip from the balcony and freefall onto the bald head of a man below.

I can't remember any more of this inspired tale because my best bud, Paul, spotted what I was writing - not only was he a faster reader, but also a faster writer. He was probably already finished as I was entering the home stretch. Anyhoo, he looked over and thanks to my still awfully large font size, was able to spot some similarities in my story to his.


So, he called the teacher over and dobbed me in for plagiarism - obviously aged 6 and 7 we weren't too clued up on this thing beyond "Miss, he's copying me," but I very quickly learned that plagiarism doesn't pay.

Funny! I hadn't give it one thought, least of all that when our teacher came to mark them, she'd have found two stories far too alike. But then, all I can remember feeling was the horror of the deadline and my mind a blank.

In true Dickensian manner, the hero of the piece was congratulated on his work and the villain whisked off to the gallows.

After that I wouldn't write again for another two years...

1 comment:

esruel said...

Ah! The trials of the greats!
In 'junior' school, the teacher (Miss Shoulder) wouldn't believe I was finished my book when everyone else was only half-way through. Then I won the spelling test and got 100% in the English Test. She changed her tune after that! That's when they started getting me to read in church - put me off it all for years...