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I am back at work after being on holiday (Scotland, family). I left with a cold, I have come back with a new cold. In the meantime I have had a very nice, if busy time. The downside of my immediate family all being in one place is that I not only can see all of them in one visit, I have to, something intensified by Middle Sister’s being on maternity leave, which makes of a lot of scheduling and I didn’t manage to see (or even contact) friends that I would have liked to. Clearly I just need to spend more time on holiday.

But I did see the Edinburgh Zoo pandas. Pandas plural! As female!panda is possibly pregnant (panda pregnancy involves delayed implantation and general unknowingness ), visitors must book viewing slots (no additional cost) in advance, can no longer see inside the dens, and female!panda is spending most of her time in the off-limits indoor bit. The website, cashiers, keepers, and everyone involved with the pandas spends a lot of time telling you that there is no panda guarantee. So Mum and I walked in for our viewing slot, the first one of the day, to find female!panda walking outside, though admittedly going back inside, and male!panda eating in full view, after which he slept in full view. To be honest, pandas are more exciting for what they represent than what they are, but it was still nice to see them as I’ve never seen one before, and I felt pretty lucky. More active were the usual gibbons, chimps, penguins etc. with rhinos providing good value through immense farts and sexual excitement*. I didn’t bother attempting to see the Scottish wildcat as I suspected it would take hours of careful staring and I had limited time to see the animals I particularly wanted to before the nephew-with-toddler-attention-span arrived.

A rather more obvious pregnancy was that of Sylvia Schwartz who had been parachuted in to play Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro , and who was presumably free at short notice because of the fact that she was very clearly about 6-7 months pregnant. Which it turns out can be incorporated surprisingly easily into the plot by strategically raised eyebrows at mentions of her modesty/virginity, leaving the audience to marvel at the singer’s apparently unaffected voice and breath control and ability to dash about and hide behind random bits of furniture/musical instruments. Being Figaro it was of course marvellous, being outside London and semi-staged I got to sit in the stalls, and now I need to book to see the ROH version in the autumn from somewhere behind a pillar in the Gods. Plus Carmen, because I want to see a traditional Carmen and I don’t care whether it is boring as hell in terms of innovative production, because every time someone does an innovative one, it seems to be crap. I now want to write Figaro: the murder mystery.

Otherwise I have walked on a beach, seen more glasshouses than you could throw a bag of stones at, enjoyed England winning the Ashes, and had other people cook for me (but participated in some washing up). My diary is 10 days behind. Maybe next time I get a break I’ll manage to do some reading and writing.

*Ten year-old boy: What’s THAT?
Older brother: What do you THINK?
TYOB: *thinks* YUCK, that’s disgusting!

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