PADDINGTON Bear is everywhere you turn at the moment. If he’s not joining Hugh Grant in some truly hilarious escapades in his new movie, he’s busy promoting M&S’ Christmas fayre on the telly.

And I couldn’t help but think of the little ursine immigrant from darkest Peru when a pal and I headed off for a day trip in London a couple of weeks ago.

It was a fine, bright morning as we met (with moments to spare, thanks to my somewhat companion) at Swindon train station.

The day started most auspiciously as the slightly delayed 10.12am to London Paddington (see? That’s him again) rolled on to Platform 3.

“Oooooh!” squealed my chum. “It’s one of the new ones!”

Great Western Railway will be delighted to know that all the cash spent on the new Intercity Express Trains hasn’t gone to waste.

Finding our seats we settled into the comfortable, clean new carriage and cracked open the ‘train wine’ — in this case a bottle of Prosecco.

Now I must make it clear that I do not normally drink wine — of any sort — on the train of a morning, but this was a Special Occasion.

My friend and colleague, Stephen Davy-Osborne, had been nominated for an award for travel writing by the German National Tourist Office and we were on our way to what, to us, felt like the Oscars.

Not having any glasses for the train wine, I gallantly volunteered to sluice out my now empty coffee cup in the loos and set forth.

“While I’m here I may as well powder my nose,” I said to myself, and thus began a series of flashing lights and a smooth female voice giving me orders: now shut the door; now lock the door, now wash your hands...

All this was extremely helpful (going to the loo without the help of a disembodied voice can be tricky, I think you’ll agree) until the voice started to disagree with me.

I pulled the ‘unlock’ lever and pressed the ‘open doors’ button and was immediately shouted at to lock the doors.

“But I want to leave,” I thought, and again hit ‘unlock’ and ‘open’ — and was once more shouted at to lock the doors.

The voice and I carried on this charade a few more times while I wondered how long it would be until Stephen realised I’d been gone an awfully long time and may well be being held hostage.

Thank God for over-crowding is all I can say, as a nice gentleman standing in the vestibule rescued me after I banged on the door and shouted help. Just the kind of thing to happen to Paddington, I mused, as I returned to an unperturbed Stephen. Thanks, chum.

Our journey onward from Paddington continued without too much ado, despite getting on the wrong tube and having to change, and a curious incident at Liverpool Street Station which is not for publication in a family newspaper.

Lunch was splendid — big thanks to the huge generosity of the German National Tourist Office — and was topped off by Stephen picking up third prize behind the journalistic behemoths of the Guardian and Lonely Planet.

It was then that I decided to upstage him by suddenly becoming extremely unwell. I will spare you the gory details and fast forward to the bit when Stephen rang an ambulance, which despite my fragile state, I was deeply impressed by... it turned up within about 15 minutes. It’s hard to believe that a young(ish), relatively fit woman in central London is attended to by paramedics in quarter of an hour while back in Swindon, a number of elderly people have been left stranded on the pavement for a couple of hours before an ambulance can get to them.

Unfortunately, nice as they were, there wasn’t a lot they could do for me as I didn’t want to be condemned to a four-hour wait in a London hospital’s A&E department.

“We could give you a paracetamol,” they said.

Mmmm. Paracetamol was not going to make me well enough to get the train back to Swindon.

Gas and air was eventually decided on and I must say, it was brilliant. After about 15 minutes I was strong enough to struggle through the Underground and back to Paddington.

Where, after a day of many adventures, the little bear himself agreed to pose for a selfie with us.

And I’m sure I heard him say quietly to himself: “Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of bear.”

After the day I’d had, I knew how he felt.

  • THE dog wasn’t very impressed on Sunday morning when he stepped outside the front door and found his paws sinking into weird, bright, cold stuff.

However, being a (mostly) whippet he was born to run, so there was no giving in: Operation Get To The Park must begin.

Foolishly, thinking it would be fine as the main routes had been gritted, we set off in the car.

That was a mistake. Living on one of the many side streets in Old Town which had not been gritted, it was impossible to drive up my road without skidding into all the parked cars on the way.

So we backed on to Victoria Road, headed down the hill into the town centre, drove around the one-way system and back up the hill straight back into our parking space outside my house. The whole exercise had taken about 40 minutes.

There is no point in gritting main routes only as most people don’t live on the main routes. Of course the town — and workplaces and schools — will come to a standstill if we don’t make it possible for people to get out of their houses.

As for the pavements, they fast became treacherous and in my opinion need gritting too — especially on a hill.

Bring back the grit bins and we’ll do it ourselves. But don’t let a couple of inches of snow cripple an entire town.