'I was brought up in a household where reading was as natural as eating,' he says in a voice that still retains traces of a Berkshire burr. 'We didn't have a lot of books because we didn't have that much money - my father worked for the Post Office in Reading. But every Friday my mother and I would go to the library with our dog, Binkie, and come back with half-a-dozen books. My mother used to read a book a day and I suppose I got the habit from her.
'I was happy reading, so in that sense I wasn't lonely. I think I've always had that feeling as a writer - I'm never alone. You've got your characters and when you're walking down the street, they're with you in a funny kind of way. For instance, if I bumped into Paddington one day I wouldn't be at all surprised. He feels very real to me, you see.'