Pandas and Pokemon

zooIt was panda breeding season when we visited the zoo a few weeks ago, so access to the panda enclosure was limited. We could only get a glimpse of the male panda through a big Perspex window as he kicked back in his pad munching down on a carrot.

Because these creatures are notoriously devoid of sexual energy zoo staff ordered us to be deathly quiet: one bit of over-exuberant human hoo hah could spoil three months of carefully planned panda foreplay and set back the course of their hanky panky indefinitely. Now that’s performance anxiety. “Sorry, sweetheart, the sound of a human coughing faintly in the distance appears to have killed my dick, so could we just do the Netflix without the chill for the next eighteen months or so?” Get them some earmuffs, for Christ’s sake! Seriously, though, what a squad of true losers comprise this doomed species of fuck-shy, Sooty-faced nuns. Most of us human males would still be able to get it up during an earthquake on a battlefield littered with the half-dead bodies of wailing, dismembered orphan soldiers. A few of us would even insist upon these conditions. You know who you are…

We couldn’t even get a good look at the panda, not only because of the scores of fellow panda-peekers huddled into the viewing area with us, but also because our collective lines of sight were obscured by a mass of trees and foliage that had been planted and positioned to shield the panda from the sight of our disgusting inter-species lechery. So there we both were, my partner and I, craning our necks to get a glimpse of a panda eating a snack through a gap in a thicket of trees the size of a postage stamp, as a crowd of people all shushed each other and swished their phones and cameras in the air above their heads. It was like being at a deaf rock concert in a Chinese monastery. I envied my toddler son, who didn’t even have to pretend to give a shit about the pandas, and was quite content to spin around in circles making helicopter noises.

monalisaThe whole sorry panda extravaganza reminded me of a visit to the Louvre ten years ago, during which I found myself distinctly underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa. There it was – this tiny picture of a long-dead woman wearing a thin smile suggestive of a recently secreted silent fart – encased in Perspex and half-hidden by the heads of a hundred people or more. I’d already seen her enigmatic fizzog hundreds of times throughout my life, as have we all, considering that the Mona Lisa is literally the most famous portrait on earth. Why should I fight through a crowd to get a fuzzy picture of something I could see in any one of a million books or reproductions? Clearly my main – and perhaps only – motivation would be to immortalise my sophistication on Facebook for all the world to see. I don’t need pictures for that. I can just wait ten years and then write an obscure blog post about it that will be read by six Albanians and my second-cousin. Did I mention I visited the Louvre? I may make a lot of jokes about poos and tits, ladies and gentlemen, but by God I’m  sophisticated and urbane.

Watching those people blankly snapping pics and flicks of the panda as it nonchalantly chewed on a carrot brought home to me how ridiculous humans are as a species. Perhaps it’s we who deserve an extinction-level reduction of our libidos. This is fucking madness. Say you recorded footage of the panda on your phone. Who’s going to watch the video? Your friends and family? They’ll be bored shitless. Seriously. They will. Trust me. You? What’s the point? You know you were there. Do you really want to watch that footage again? Of a panda doing ostensibly fuck all? Is your camera a gun-substitute? Are you hunting these creatures and collecting clickable trophies as a testament to your digit-based prowess? By all means take a few snaps at the zoo to act as memory joggers of days gone by for those moments in the years to come when you find yourself frail and insensible and drooling at a window pane, but for God’s sake leave the wildlife programming to David Attenborough.

The only circumstances in which you should be filming pandas are if: a) you come across one unexpectedly whilst doing the weekly shop in Tescos, b) you’re breaking into its zoo cage dressed as another panda and attempting to fuck it.

We left the zoo at closing time, and as we moved down towards the main gate we walked through a huge throng of people of all different stripes. They were all chatting excitedly and immersed in their phones. There was a queue of thousands outside the building, clamouring to join the advanced guard. They were ‘hunting’ Pokemon. The zoo was hosting a private after-hours event. Thousands of people, ignoring the real animals in favour of taking pictures of imaginary ones.

Come on, asteroid. We’re in dire need of our extinction-level event! Make haste!

More zoo-based nonsense: The Hero of Edinburgh Zoo

Blakey the Jakey: A Modern Scottish Fairytale – Pt 4

The story so far: Blakey is having a bad day. He’s been kicked out of his mum’s house, lost all of his money, and missed out on a chance to exploit a genie. Things are looking bleak for Blake for him. Still, at least he’s not part of the Seven Little Wasters’ crew. What a bunch of bawbags they are. Blakey’s last resort is to fall upon the mercy of his grandmother, and that’s where he’s heading now… with a mounting sense of trepidation. You’ll understand why in a minute or so. She’s a ‘character’, and we know what it means when we describe someone in those terms: that they’re fucking mental.

Catch up with Part 1:

Catch up with Part 2:

Catch up with Part 3:


Grandma’s council house was the only property in the street that was still decked out with Christmas fairy-lights – in March. They stayed flashing and pulsing three hundred and sixty five days a year. It was always Christmas time at grandma’s.

Wooden animals, painted bright and bold, were planted like trees in the over-grown grass. A pink flamingo, leg cocked, sat in the centre of the lawn, surrounded by cheeky monkeys, laughing lions and timid tigers. Little bonzai trees, at the foot of the hedge, lined the inside perimeter of the grass. Red balloons, at least fifteen of them, bounced and floated everywhere. On the front door, a varnished, oval plaque proclaimed, ‘Number 89. Gingerbread House. Catch Me If You Can – You Scum.’

Blake shook his head at the tacky display and gave a furtive glance around as he approached the door. Blake never liked admitting the blood connection between him and Grandma. She could be a tough old bitch but…

‘This yin’s aboot ready fur the nuthoose,’ he scowled, kicking a balloon out of his way.

Blake rapped loudly and quickly on the door, jamming the buzzer with his free hand at the same time. A jet of pressure cascaded down from his shoulders to his toes. He had to get in and out of public view, or he felt like he’d explode.

‘Come oan, come oan!’

Beep! Beep!

Blake heard the sounds of hip-hop hammering the air. He turned around to see a gleaming red hatchback sports car parked on the road outside of his grandma’s gate. The seven little wasters were piled in the front and back, bottles of Buckfast clasped in each of their hands. A large man with a blue turban sat in the driver’s seat – with a very unhappy look on his face.

‘Ho, Blakey boy! Is zat yer girlfriend’s hoose?’


‘Ho, ho! Wait till we tell orra boys in oor street! They’ll pish themsel’s!’

‘Ah didnae ken there wiz a Disney World in this toon!’

Shrill whoops of laughter.

‘Whose yer girlfriend: Minnie Moose?’

Whoop, whoop!

‘Well, cannae hang aroond. We’re aff tae London, go tae Stringfellas an that.’

‘Aye, an Soho! Get wee Harry’s end away!’

‘Ma end’s away, ye cheeky bastard.’

‘Settle, Harry, wankin’ disnae coont, pal!’


Ho, ho. Whoop! Whoop! It was becoming like an episode of Rikki Lake written by Irvine Welsh.

‘Aye, we’ve goat a million poonds, ya dancer!’

A bottle of Buckfast came spinning from the back seat of the car towards Blake.


Blake did, firmly between his two hands.

‘Least we can dae.’

‘Noo ye can get pished up and sook yer granny’s baws!’

The car screeched away. Blakey fired off a few salvos of expletives, but the seven little fuckers were too far away to be hit by them.

The door to Grandma’s house opened and Blake shoved his way in before daylight had a chance to cast its revelatory spotlight upon Grandma. The door slammed shut behind him. Before him, fat arms extended and proportionately fat lips pouted.

‘Come gee yer Grannie a big kiss, Blakey.’

‘Eh…nut. Ah dinnae think so.’

She snatched the Buckfast from his hands and kissed it instead.

‘Hey, whit are ye…,’ Blake began to protest.

‘Dinnae start shit, Blakey, or ye’ll be through that wa’.’

Blake let out a sigh of defeat, shrugged his shoulders, and then laid his rucksack by the door. Blake’s grandma placed the Buckfast on the kitchen counter and then returned to the hall.

‘Dinnae mention it, gran.’

Blake’s gran wore a criminally short skirt, orange nylon tights, stilt-like high heel shoes, a floral patterned boob tube, and her face contained enough make-up to allow a clown to feel natural. This might have been acceptable attire if, for one, they had both lived in an alternative universe (or San Francisco); for second, if grandma had been younger; for third, if she didn’t have tattoos encrusting half of her body, a large scar cascading down her cheek, and biceps to make a post-spinach Popeye sweat; and, most importantly, fourthly: if grandma had been a woman. A fat cigar was jammed into the left side of grandma’s mouth, dripping hot ash onto the carpet and sending plumes of acrid smoke up Blake’s nostrils.

‘Get ben that kitchen and get the tea on or I’ll gee ye a fisting ye’ll never forget.’

Grandma burst through into her living room leaving Blake, ashen white, to deal with the tea.

The kitchen door was slightly ajar and Blake could hear voices drifting through as he filled the kettle with water.

‘My, grandma, what big hands you have.’

‘Aye, a’ the better tae grab ye with!’

‘My, grandma, what a big mouth you have.’

‘Aye, a’ the better tae plluggg mummble gobbo shlurp en floosre…’

‘Ho, grandma, mind thay big teeth on ma jed, will ye?’

‘Mmmmm mmmm mmmm mmmmm.’

‘My, grandma, what’s this huge thing? What an absolutely massive big, fat, hard co…’

The screeching whistle of the boiling kettle never did announce itself at a more appropriate moment. Blake kicked the kitchen door firmly shut and tried to stymie his third panic attack of the week.

Grandma eventually entered the kitchen, adjusting her bra and wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Blake could hear the front door as it slammed shut. A set of lipstick-stained teeth grinned at Blake.

‘Just seeing yer grandpa off,’ stated Grandma in her deep, husky voice. Grandma whipped a tenner out of her bra and shoved it into Blake’s hand. ‘Take that, son, yer grandpa owed me that fir a job ah did fir him last week.’

Blake gagged back a faint dribble of vomit.

Blake’s grandpa was also a man. His grandpa visited his grandma six to seven times a day, six days a week and managed to be a completely different man each time.

‘So whit can ah dae fir ye, Blakey, son? Ye only ever visit yer poor grandma when yer hiding fae ma sister or efter something. So which yin is it?’

‘Baith, grandma. Baith.’

‘Ah’ll bet it’s money.’

‘Aye, grandma. Jist a loan, ken?’

‘It’s no for drugs is it, Blakey?’ she asked, issuing a cold stare.

‘Naw, gran, naw.’

‘Right,’ she nodded, satisfied, ’cause there’s nae need fir that. You shid huv the gid sense to deal so ye can get them for free, ken?’

‘Aye, gran.’

‘Gid boy. Noo, get they teas, ye wee cunt, an let’s go ben the living room.’