I love Pandas. I would prefer them to be in the wild and not flown half way across the world to be put in a zoo and used as a diplomatic pawns, but I did love the coverage of their arrival into Edinburgh on BBC News 24 today. - I would count it as one of my favourite ever items of rolling news. It was unintentionally ‘try not to wee yourself’ funny.
In a time of economic downturn and people generally doing stupid things and being nasty or dying a lot in the news, a bit of light Panda news would surely lift the spirits. “It’s been bad times for the zoo.” said Colin, the BBC’s man on the scene, “They’ve laid off staff. But the coming of the pandas should help that” and how right he was, for ‘The Coming of the Pandas’ provided a much needed comic interlude to a drizzly Sunday afternoon.
Understandably, twitter soon became aglow with talk of pandas. Pandas are innately funny. Look at them! Look at their funny clothes and their smiley faces! See how they scratch their bellies and with their big furry feet!
The same VT of pandas at play was on a loop, allowing me to excitedly anticipate my favourite shot; a panda lying on his back, practicing yoga and using his belly as host to his own personal bamboo banquet. The news cut between this VT and a live shot of a FedEx plane WITH A PANDA’S FACE ON THE SIDE coming in to land.
The news anchor was batting every now and then to the aforementioned Man At The Scene, Colin. Colin had clearly decided to read up a bit about Pandas. He had read up enough to talk for about 10 minutes. This was going well for a while, as Panda facts rolled out: The pandas are on loan to Edinburgh zoo for ten years; Edinburgh is spending £600,000 a year; the Pandas are called Tian Tian and Yang Guang , or Sweetie and Sunshine in English.
The picture changes and we see crowds of children waiting outside Edinburgh zoo, some dressed as pandas, most waving flags.
The facts still roll in; The pandas have traveled 9 hrs from China. The ‘gifting’ of pandas is a diplomatic act of friendship and that China doesn’t just give pandas to anyone, they study where they’ll be housed, we’re told…..but then in the same breath, Colin tells us ‘a panda was given to President Nixon as a present’. I then imagine Nixon tutting at said panda over breakfast as she eats her 15th pot of jam straight from the jar, whilst reading the paper over Nixon’s shoulder. “Get your own paper! ” Nixon would shriek ” Enough is enough! ” and the panda would roll her eyes, dolefully.
In connection to the talk of diplomatic relations came the wonderful line, “ (Pandas) are a Trojan horse”. This was turning into the funniest news day ever.
Be-kilted men played ‘Scotland the Brave’ on bagpipes as the plane came in to land. Which I was thrilled to see, given how much pandas are famed for their love of bagpipes. Footage showed the plane landing, then taxiing for what seemed like hours. Ten minutes had been and gone. Colin was beginning to flounder. The anchor began to struggle,too- asking of the hapless Colin, “Do we know if they understand any English?” Twitter guffawed audibly but Colin was only wrong footed for a moment, and then launched into another flurry of panda facts. ‘The female is only in season for 24-36hrs a year.’ He said that the two pandas would be in enclosures next to one another, able to ‘glimpse’ each other without feeling ‘inhibited’. We had been told earlier that Tian Tian, or Sweetie, as I prefer to call her, was ‘quite a coy panda’, but ‘easy going’. She’s probably going to install curtains pretty sharpish so that Sunshine wouldn’t ogle her changing at night. “Cut it out, Sunshine”, she’d giggle while adjusting her tiara, and then she’d whip the curtains shut and tuck into some more bamboo
And then came my two favourite facts ever said on the news. Gird yourself, reader-for this is magnificent.
1) “The enclosures will be linked by a LOVE TUNNEL.”
2) Sweetie’s enclosure will have its own water feature, “When the female gets interested in the water feature, she is ready to mate”
Yes. They said that. On the news. The grown ups! It’s worth repeating. “The enclosures will be linked by a LOVE TUNNEL.” and ”When the female gets interested in the water feature, she is ready to mate” I’m now pretty sure that the absence of Charlie Dimmock in China is probably the only reason that pandas are endangered. What is she doing that she thinks is more important than installing weeing boys and dribbling metal globes in the wilds of China? What?? THINK OF THE PANDAS FOR ONCE, CHARLIE!!
They ask what will become of any cubs born, which seems an odd question- the flag waving, the crowds, the speculation about the couple’s unconceived offspring, the zoo….they will clearly be next in line to the throne. Yes. Britain shall one day be a Pandadom
By now, the plane’s door had opened. It had been open for some time- crew lifting things and lowering flaps and fiddling with cordons (not James) with special jackets reading “FedEx Panda Team” emblazoned across the back, never ones to miss an advertising opportunity. By now you could hear the beads of sweat forcing their way out of the news anchor’s skin as he grappled for something to say..
Twitter began to speculate as to what had happened to the Pandas. Had they been eaten? Were they pissed? Were they struggling to take off their flight socks?
And, in a desperate bid to fill out the unexpectedly long wait with yet more panda facts, Colin is asked another great question, “Colin, is she called Sweetie because…. she likes…..sweet…bamboo..?” And Colin explains that he doesn’t know and that she does like bamboo- that much is clear, and that they also get fed a treat of panda cake. “What is a panda cake made of?” asks the anchor, clearly relieved to have something to talk about… and Colin bravely answers, “Bamboo..”
Finally we all breathe a sigh of relief as the crate (with bullet proof glass) slides into view…the shot shows the top half of the crate…we can just see the glass and some panda stickers on it…and the line that will stick with me for ages, that I love the most…after all the build up and facts and the pipers and the crowds of children waving flags outside Edinburgh zoo and the people in Panda Outfits…
“Where’s the panda, Colin?”