Chin a Panda

by Peter Coomber


This one came to me after I had mis-read a sign on a shop, on the way home from the pub.

The idea came to me on the way back from the pub. Yes, alcohol is bad. But it seemed like a good idea at the time; it had many things to recommend it.

On the bus, on the way home, a shop sign caught my eye. It said: Chin A Panda. I thought: well that's a bit cruel - although it started me giggling - but when I thought about it a bit more, I could see the logic. You see, I've had a troubled past. I've got into fights. I've ended up in prison a few times. I was trying to mend my ways; keep out of trouble; be good. But I still get these frustrations: I find life frustrating. Especially around people - annoying people; especially when I've had a few beers. And pandas – to me – are so stuck up. They're the snobs of the animal kingdom. Everybody goes on about how cute they are, but they don't do much – just eat bamboo and crap; they don't mix with other animals; they don't even mix with their own kind - this is why zoo keepers have to put rubber gloves on. Disgusting.

So I'm thinking: instead of taking my frustrations out on people – and ending up back in prison – I could take it out on a panda. Chin a panda – indeed.

The idea fixed itself firmly in my head. You know what? I thought, I'm going to do it!

It wasn't until I got home that night, that I realized that the shop sign had actually said: China Panda. It was a Chinese takeaway. I laughed. What a twat I was!

It didn't matter, I was going to stick to my plan.

My plan was to go to a zoo – at night when it was dark and safer, creep into the panda enclosure and have a punch up with one of these black and white bastards. Take my frustrations out on a giant furry ball of crap – take that, you stuck up... snob! That way, I could avoid getting sent down for GBH. Of course, I needed to make sure that I didn't get caught, 'cause I'm sure there must be some law against punching a panda or kicking a koala. But I'm not too well read up on laws, which is why I end up in prison a lot.

I was a bit shocked to discover that there were no pandas in London Zoo. I didn't really fancy lamming a lemur. It looked like my best bet was Edinburgh. There's a lot you can do on the internet: find out where the zoo is; check likely places to climb over the wall; find the best route to the panda enclosure in the dark; watch the pandas on the 'panda cam' – see them sleeping, chewing bamboo, crapping, sleeping...

I didn't like the look of either of them. Stuck up.

I checked my diary and sorted out a mid-week when I was free for a couple of days. Ha-ha, that was a joke - all of my mid-weeks are free. I traveled up to Edinburgh by train and dropped my gear off at a B&B. Caught the number 12 bus up to the zoo. Bought a ticket and had a wander round the zoo: looking at the lions and chimpanzees, snakes and lizards, Bali starlings and short-clawed otters. I had a look at the red pandas (nothing poncy about them).

I had a look at the giant pandas – fast asleep. Right, my lad, I'll be seeing you later, I thought to myself.

I'd had a change of plan, about scaling a wall at night. I'd decided to hide in the zoo when closing time came up, and then wait undercover until dark, until all the keepers had locked up and gone home. With that in mind, I'd hired a gorilla suit from a fancy dress shop. I quickly changed behind some bushes and dropped over the short wall into the gorilla compound. I'd brought some bananas to eat, as I had a few hours to wait. But these attracted the other gorillas, who stole them off me and ate them. Then a big silver back started giving me the eye, so I had to calm him down by grooming him.

Grooming can be quite soothing. It certainly helped pass the time. By the time it had got dark enough, I was well relaxed; enjoying it; at one with nature. The trouble was, the silver back had started to groom me and was beginning to get quite attentive.

Time to go, I thought.

I climbed back over the wall, and waved goodbye to the silver back – who waved back, and changed back into my clothes. After about fifteen minutes, I was outside the panda enclosure.

I can't say the night was a total success; in fact it was a huge failure. The male panda was asleep. I tried rousing him but he just lay on his back, snoring gently. Come on, sunshine! I shouted. But he just snored. I heard a noise behind me, then something hit me on my back and I felt a sharp grip of teeth on the back of my neck.

It was the female panda.

Now, I might get violent when I've had a few beers, and sometimes I get violent when I'm sober, and this is what gets me into trouble – into prison – but I've never hit a woman – I don't believe in it. It's not gentlemanly. So all I could do was give her a little shove. Nothing hard; just a shove - to get her off me.

Well, she went flying, actually. Perhaps I'd misjudged my strength? But then, maybe it was the shock – of being bit. Anyway, the female panda cartwheeled across the enclosure and landed heavily on the male panda. That woke him up. He started growling, and headed towards me.

Come on, you bugger! I shouted.

In the ensuing fracas, I managed to give him a couple of black eyes. All I suffered was a few scratches on my arms. I was right about pandas: useless – they can't even fight. Just good for eating bamboo, sleeping and crapping. Well, the males, anyway. The female panda charged at me – she'd got more fight in her, but I wasn't having any of that – I'm a gentleman – so I jumped back over the fence and slipped into the shadows.

In the pub afterwards, and back in my B&B and also on the way home on the train the following day, I thought about what I'd done. I now knew that chinning a panda was a waste of time, because they aren't worth fighting. The only good fight is when you have an opponent who is worthy of you. So I'm never going to do that again.

Perhaps I could have a punch up with a hippo - hmm?

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