It is the 1970s and the TV is black and white, there are colour TVs of course, but they still have a black and white one and sometimes that’s a problem.
Sometimes when other children come round, they notice, notice the TV, notice the holes in the carpet in the hallway, notice the saucepan instead of a kettle.
But pandas work well in black and white . For once, the children don’t feel as if they’re missing out on something, don’t feel as if they’re getting second best.
It is the first time that Claire can remember actually watching the grown up news, properly watching, not just waiting for it to finish and she sees the panda being carried down the steps of an aeroplane.
Weeks pass and the panda story grows, and Claire watches them all. These are the things that she learns about pandas;
They eat bamboo shoots, only bamboo, nothing else will do.
Chi Chi the panda has come all the way from China, she is a present from China.
Whenever she is on TV, there are always men in suits and the kind of hats her dad wears when he goes to work.
A famous architect has designed her new home at London Zoo.
London Zoo is in London which is a long way away from where they live.
For Christmas, Claire asks for a panda, really she wants Chi Chi or at least the chance to go all the way to London to see the real Chi Chi, but she does get a small fluffy black and white bear, who she calls Chi Chi and plans makes a zoo home for her out of a cardboard box on the day after Boxing day when they have nothing special to do.
She also receives;
A famous five book
A selection box
A wade whimsy china rabbit
A new swimming costume
A charm for her charm bracelet, she has nine now and wears the bracelet all day on Christmas Day.
On Christmas Day evening, when the adults are opening a bottle of wine and all the nice quality street have been eaten, she lies quietly on her bed and strokes the bear’s soft fur and whispers her name out loud