Friday, 9 August 2013

In Sympathy with Tian Tian.

                                              Portrait of Bundles of  Panda Joy by National Geographic

I have to stop reading the news. It's all getting too much, emotionally, when one had barely recovered from the tension and excitement of that Other Birth.
Now I learn that Tian Tian, the Giant Panda up there in Edinburgh (rented out from the Chinese Government), may be pregnant.
She is moody, off her food, and won't cooperate about having a scan.

Well, fair enough.
Many of us will be able to recall the nausea, the tiredness, the mood swings, but few of us will have had to face the indignities suffered by Tian Tian.
Public artificial insemination by different donors, endless speculation about our partner's abilities, doubts about our own capabilities. People are already questioning her mothering skills, and foster parents are lined up before pregnancy is confirmed.And if she does give birth her offspring will belong to the People's Republic of China and will be returned there at the age of two.
I wouldn't co-operate either.
But there is huge money in panda production.

If Giant Pandas find it so uncongenial to reproduce that they can't or won't, perhaps we should try to see things from their viewpoint?
Are they telling us that they don't want to be in zoos? Could it be as simple as that?
Do they reproduce when left well alone, free-range in their bamboo forests?
Or are they telling us that they have had enough of the whole business, and if people want pandas they are going to have to engineer them for themselves?
A friend who has recently visited captive baby pandas in China tells me that in order to obtain the necessary ingredients for artificial insemination the panda keepers have to fire up the prospective fathers by showing them Panda Porn, because male pandas basically can't be bothered.

Tian Tian and her partner, Yang Guang have been together for two years and had two attempts at mating, but their hearts were not in it. They obviously just don't care, either for each other or for the whole idea of sex and parenthood. And looking at the outcome of a panda pregnancy in the first few weeks - would you?
Admittedly the birth may be comparatively easy - Tian Tian might not even notice, but an new-born panda does not tug at the heart strings in the way that some other tiny animals may.
Infant pandas, as opposed to new-borns, are the toy-makers' dream, cuteness personified, but they clearly do not create the same sort of enthusiasms in their parents.

Why is it all so unattractive for them?
Surely  pandas are trying to tell us something?

Meanwhile, back at the zoo, one of the pandas' keepers feels that, 'it's all just going to explode'.
Poor Tian Tian.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Nameless fears.

Here I live a simple life, with hardly an app in sight - and then I come across this, and my humble upstairs loo seems such a blessing, such a source of relief and relaxation.

Imagine, if I'd been about to upgrade, at the cost of just under four thousand pounds, to a lavatory that I could control from my smartphone (if and when I buy it).
It's such a temptation, isn't it? A lavatory that you can control while sitting on make it play music, or puff warm air and warm water, or flush itself and spray deodorant (sorry, I mean activate fragrance release). I could have been so motivated, because as one ages it's a nuisance to have to reach for the flush handle, and a bit of music and fragrance is always nice.

I have a rack of books on the back of this door, but you have to lean slightly forwards to get them. I have short stories, poetry, a book of Beryl Cook's painting and several Viz annuals (which I have to remove before younger visitors arrive) among other treasures for short-term reading, so this small room is not without resources. Admittedly, I would have been hesitating over the music bit of the app, because I actually prefer Radio 4, or Chopin or Bach, and I would need to ensure that these are available while enthroned.

So, anyway, thank goodness I hadn't indulged in the smartphone, the app, or the luxury loo because I know what would have happened. The several smartphoned visitors to this house would have increased my water bills and caused me considerable discomfort and concern as the music, bidet and fragrance release functions were activated with  potentially amusing consequences. Family weekends would have become hilarious for some, expensive for others.
How we might all have laughed and cursed.

There might have been others, not even visitors, but casual by-passers, activating apps as they stroll past, on the off-chance that they will catch some luxury loo owner in situ. This is an affluent neighbourhood, with a very high-tech establishment just down the road. The news report describes this as a 'security hole' which is a fearful prospect.
In olden days there used to be fears of rats coming round the U-bend, but now it is cyber-criminals attacking our most basic functions. The thought that my lavatory could be a security hole is worse than a rat-attack.

Thank goodness, as it is I can relax with my simple wooden seat and enjoy the Beryl Cook artwork.