Tuesday, 30 March 2010

I’m back

Sorry it’s taken me so long to post since returning from China. I had a brilliant trip, mainly because everyone I approached was so generous with their time and talked so openly about some really tricky subjects. What was particularly useful for me – something I hadn’t anticipated – was to have ten days wandering around thinking solely about pandas (and not about what son A needs in his school bag, who’s picking son B up from nursery and what to try to feed them for tea). It was a pretty weird existence, spending every minute in the day juggling a host of different ideas, honing sentences in my head and pondering new perspectives on pandas. What with the jet-lag, which I didn’t quite get over, I spent much of the night doing the same. So by the time my plane touched down at Heathrow, I had made huge progress towards meeting my end-of-April deadline. It is still possible, I think.

I will gradually drip through some of my reflections from China in future posts, but would like to thank the Society of Authors here for a small grant that made it possible. I applied in September last year to the K. Blundell Trust, which “gives grants to British authors under the age of 40 whose project is for a British publisher. The project must aim to increase social awareness, and can be fiction or non-fiction.” This trip was so important for me and I made it at just the right time, sufficiently up-to-speed on everything panda to get the most out of my flying visit.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Panda business

I am currently touring China on panda business. I have so much to cram into my 10-day-visit that I figured I might not have the time to post blogs or the ready means to do so. So I wrote this entry before I left the UK. If all has gone well, I have now taken in several panda-related sights in Beijing, including the Mission that Armand David stayed at when he first arrived in the capital in the early 1860s, the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Center for Nature and Society at Peking University. And pandas willing, I will now be in Chengdu, preparing to visit the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding tomorrow and then to get into the mountains.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Nature Live

On 23 March, I will be presenting a Nature Live event in the Attenborough Studio of the new Darwin wing at the Natural History Museum. It is, perhaps predictably, on Chi-Chi the giant panda (above). I have 20 minutes to cover her life and legacy. There’s more information on the Museum website. It’s a free event. Everyone is most welcome.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Profile Autumn Catalogue

My publisher Profile Books has just brought out its catalogue for Autumn 2010. You can get the PDF here.

I appear on page 9, along with the super jacket of poster of Su Lin produced in the 1930s after he became the first panda to be brought out of China alive. The title and subtitle, which I canvased opinion on in an earlier blog post, have also been set. The book will be called The Way of the Panda: A Curious History of China's Political Animal. I had offered a gratis copy of my book to anyone that suggested the subtitle that eventually got used. Unless I'm very much mistaken - and in spite of more than 200 comments to the post and many more title suggestions - the exact configuration of words that I've gone with was settled between myself and my editor at Profile. Sorry to disappoint.

My editor also dropped me an email to say that the publishing date has been brought forward to 30 September for "logistical reasons". I take that as polite code for "get a move on".

Monday, 1 March 2010

China preparations

I am frantically preparing for my trip to China. I leave on Friday. I am having to put to bed the Spring/Summer issue of Galapagos News, pen the finishing touches to a chapter I am contributing to an academic volume on The Afterlives of Animals (I've written about Chi-Chi the giant panda), finalise my travel arrangements, get insurance, buy in Chinese currency and somehow fit in all the reading I still need to do before the trip.

I have also written a talk for a Cafe Scientifique event co-organised by the British Council and the Tianjin Natural History Museum on Sunday (see poster). It is an honour to be invited to talk at this event about Galapagos and giant tortoises and I am to be joined by senior panda researcher Wang Dajun from the Center for Nature and Society at Peking University in Beijing. It is a little daunting to be giving a presentation in such prestigious company but I am really looking forward to meeting Dr Wang and to finding out all about his work first-hand.

Needless to say I am very excited. It's been an immense amount of work to plan this trip. If I achieve half of what I have set out, I will be happy.