Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Of interesting people, and pandas

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

I met a really interesting woman today. She was wearing a panda suit. She said things like: ‘when I went into Chatham House they thought I was there to bring the tea.’

I said: ‘If I could even say I went into Chatham House I would be happy.’

She told me that she had been a lobbyist for landmines and cluster bombs. She had already said about twenty interesting things by that stage.

I said: ‘Oh, it’s too much, you are a saint too.’

I laughed. Then I paused.

‘Unless of course you were lobbing for landmines. You weren’t working for an arms dealer, were you? You weren’t saying, yes, yes, more cluster bombs?’ Luckily she was not. Imagine the faux pas.

She had been to Eritrea with Bill Deedes. I grew very excited at this stage. I met Bill Deedes a couple of times when I was about eighteen. He was one of the wryest, driest, funniest, coolest old men I ever met in my life. He had the great talent, common to all the best people, of treating you as if you were the Queen of Rumania even when you were a raw teen of no discernable importance.

We were with The Older Niece. ‘Do you know about Bill Deedes?’ I said. She did not. I explained about how he was the inspiration for Scoop, how he was Dear Bill in Private Eye, how he was one of the last of the old school Fleet Street legends. The Interesting Woman said that his copy was so good that none of the subs would change a word. I had not known that. I am so glad I know it now.

Then we had a most excellent conversation about whatever happened to the liberals in Texas. For over a hundred years,  Texas was one of the most dependably Democratic states in the union. Now, it is a solid red state, with Governor Rick Perry at its helm, and a wild libertarian streak. I am always fascinated about how things like that happen. We moved on to the fabulous mystery which is Newt Gingrich. (I really want to write about the bizarre rise of Newt at length, and may do so tomorrow. It’s about time we had a good, meaty, outraged political post.)

It was a real treat. One of my enduring freaks is an intense, almost obsessive interest in politics, and American politics in particular. It’s very, very rare that I meet anyone who is much fascinated by that subject, let alone can talk fluently of it, and knows all the names. I wish we had had time to get on to the crash of Herman Cain and the strange pronouncements of Michele Bachman about Iran. (I discover, to my shame and chagrin, that all these months I have been spelling her name incorrectly. Disconcertingly, she uses the single L. I can’t be fagged to go back and change them all, so if you read a misspelled version in an old post, I can only beg forgiveness.)

Now, you may be wondering about the panda costume. In my book, everyone should have one and wear it at least once a week. (I admit I have gone a little panda-crazy since the arrival of Sweetness and Light, or whatever they are called, at the Edinburgh Zoo, on their special panda-jet from China.) In this case, it was put on a for a special photo call. The Older Niece and The Interesting Woman have produced a wonderful collection of songs for children, and they wanted some shots of them together.

I am shamelessly plugging their work. There are CDs of just the songs, and a special DVD with adorable shots of the human panda, lots of small singing children, old tractors, and dogs. What more could you want?

You can find them all, including downloads for your MP3 player, on Amazon here.

And they have a website here.

And these are a couple of the pictures I took of them today.

In elegant sepia, with added Pigeon:

Panda 14 07-12-2011 14-13-10

In full colour, with both dogs, and the hill in the background:

Panda 3 07-12-2011 14-11-15

Now, in other news, this is what the day looked like:

7 Dec 1 07-12-2011 14-56-02

7 Dec 2 07-12-2011 14-56-26

7 Dec 3 07-12-2011 14-56-57

7 Dec 4 07-12-2011 14-57-04

7 Dec 5 07-12-2011 14-57-08

7 Dec 7 07-12-2011 14-58-06

7 Dec 10 06-12-2011 14-55-18.ORF

7 Dec 11 06-12-2011 15-07-20.ORF

The amazing thing is that even despite the arctic temperatures and gales and snow, my little rosemary is still alive:

7 Dec 14 07-12-2011 15-03-49

And the pot table, whilst a little moth-eaten, does have some green things on it:

7 Dec 15 07-12-2011 15-04-02

The very opposite of moth-eaten is her ladyship. See how she is getting all furry for winter?:

7 Dec 20 07-12-2011 14-57-31

And is the very mistress of the unwavering gaze:

7 Dec 21 07-12-2011 14-57-56

Two hills today. One as usual, one in panorama:

7 Dec 24 07-12-2011 15-04-17

7 Dec 25 07-12-2011 14-10-49.ORF


  1. What a fascinating-sounding woman! As for the liberals in Texas, you may have covered the fact that there really weren't any-- Democrat didn't equate to liberal in the south at all (for evidence of this look at any so-called "Blue Dog" still in the Senate). It was essentially the party of the same name from the 1860s, when "Democrat" meant "Southern Conservative Planter," and it took them until the Civil Rights Act to realize that they were utterly out of step with the modern party, and switch their allegiance to the Republicans. (Whatever you want to say about LBJ, I always thought it a point very much in his favor that he knew he'd be destroying the Democratic party in the South for the foreseeable future-- and therefore his voting base-- and still pushed ahead with Civil and Voting Rights).

    The question that interests me is, What happened to the populists? There used to be so many, and a lot of them now vote Republican, and I just don't understand it.

  2. Ellie - that is so fascinating. I did not know that. I had a fantasy picture of lots of happy, liberal, teach the world to sing types hanging out in Austin and Houston, until something inexplicable happened in the late sixties. Of course they were Blue Dogs, that makes much more sense. I sometimes see a Blue Dog on MSNBC, and wonder why they call themselves Dems at all. Yet another layer in the extraordinary story of your politics.

  3. Snow AND dappled sunlight on Beech Avenue?!? I'm running out of appropriate adjectives here :)


  4. Politics is fascinating - there's all the "see how high I can piss" (please forgive the crudity) that is as frustrating as all get out, but there are also those who genuinely care and are there to make a positive difference. I have SO enjoyed those recent posts. I hasten to add that I enjoy all the posts, but there are different flavours - along the lines of some days I want to read poetry, other days fantasy, history, ethics.....

    And to politics of a different kind:

    Michael D is taking on a rehomed Bernese Mountain Dog! Woo hoo!

  5. Blue Dogs -- why any Democratic "majority" isn't really a majority. Ellie's right. LBJ was never my favorite president, but he did what was right, and that has to be admired.

    My guess is that American politics are more fun when observed from a distance. ;-) The utter insanity and just plain willful stupidity we see these days is so dreary, when you contemplate what terrible consequences may come of them.

    The Pigeon and the birch alley are, as usual, day-making.


  6. Robyn - so glad you love the beech avenue as much as I do.

    Erika - hurrah for Michael D!

    Bird - the odd thing is I don't really find politics fun, because, as you say, of the consequences. But I find them endlessly, maddeningly, furiously interesting. I do admit American politics startle me a bit more than ours, because of the extremes, which don't happen so much here. And sometimes I do find them funny, in the if you don't laugh you would cry kind of way.

  7. Having heard Mitt Romney refer to Obama repeatedly as an appeaser today during a speech to a Jewish group, it's going to be hard to follow this too closely.

  8. The prospect of an amphibian being given the Republican party nomination by default because most of the other candidates have imploded sounds like a sketch in the making for the Monty Python crew.
    Would that it were so!
    I'm afraid that the Obama "backlash" is going to put an even more inept and totally out of touch greedy corporate type in the White House.
    As (beloved) comedian Lily Tomlin says: "It's going to get worse before it gets worse."
    (Overseas and voting)

  9. I am amazed at the avenue - it looks so beautiful that you almost cannot imagine it is real. I cant believe how it is changing and changing every day to be more beautiful than the previous one.

  10. Jane - that is really shocking.

    Pat - I still really believe Obama is going to win. I know the approval ratings say no, but I think the American people know they need a real grown-up, and the other side, at the moment, does not seem to have one. Although I agree they will make it a very nasty fight.

    Mystica - I so agree. I can't remember if I've ever done daily pictures of it before, but the miracle changes are striking. I am so lucky to be able to walk down it. :)


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