Planet of the Aprons

Pandas eh? They seem to be a moody bunch don’t they? When they’re not mooching about eating everything in sight they’re acting all aggressive and growling at passers-by. Are all bears like that?

And what about that one from Paisley, he was a right bad ‘un. Not content with taunting Morton supporters visiting Love Street by wheeling on a bath and pretending to wash in front of them – not to mention simulating sexual intercourse with an inflatable sheep to taunt St. Johnstone fans – he was finally sent packing back to wherever pandas come from for wiping his panda butt with a Falkirk jersey in front of a section of irate Bairns.
earwig pandas
While it might be mildly amusing to take a lead from Mike Barfield’s cartoon in Private Eye (above) to suggest funny names for the Scottish-born offspring of the two hogging the limlelight in Edinburgh Zoo, the picture on the right hints at a far more sinister motive for these creatures moving to Scotland. With the marching season almost upon us, keep your eyes peeled if the Edinburgh Zoo panda enclosure becomes unoccupied, especially round the middle of July.

earwig panda

And should this one become a proud father, then might I offer the name  Zom Bi if it’s a girl or Deed Co if it’s a boy.

Anyway, if the male panda in the partnership gets fed up waiting for his chance to consumate the relationship, he could always seek out a modern day equivalent of the Ranger’s List.

earwig hookers

Originally published anonymously in 1755, this was a Who’s Who of ladies in Edinburgh – referred to in the book as “worshippers of Venus” or “nymphs” – willing to offer sexual relief to gentlemen in exchange for money. In those days it cost a shilling (the book – not the relief) and was a best-seller.

Its impartial reviews noted, for instance, that red-haired Miss Inglis, age 22, had a fondness for “performing on the ­silent flute”. It also commented that a certain Miss Betty Clark, at Miss Walker’s, “is about 21, of the middle size, red hair, and very good teeth. She is far from being disagreeable, if it were not for her sulky temper, which sometimes cools the keenest desire even in the height of their mutual embraces. (We hope also, she will take the above hint.) Notwithstanding, when she meets with a lover, she gives him the utmost satisfaction, as she understands the power of friction admirably well.”

He also noted that Miss Blair at Miss Walker’s brothel will “go twa go’s up, for one go down”, which sounds a bit like an Ally McCoist team-talk.

The keen researcher is believed to be the aptly named James Tytler, an extraordinary character who led a rich and varied life. Before banging his way round brothels near Bathgate he was a Church of Scotland preacher and studied medicine before working as a ship’s doctor and returning to Leith to run a pharmacy. When that failed – plunging him into debt – he embarked on an entirely different career, writing the Encyclopaedia Britannica. According to the Scotsman, “He edited the second edition, often spending hours every day hunched over his landlady’s washtub which he used for a desk, eventually penning 9,000 pages and increasing the publication from three volumes to nine.

“It was while researching the encyclopaedia that Tytler became fascinated with flight. Hot air balloons were newfangled gadgets which, for the first time, gave man the chance to fly. By 1784 Tytler had made aviation history in his pioneering Grand Edinburgh Fire Balloon, a barrel shaped, 40ft-high contraption, which he launched from a spot at Abbeyhill. One attempt ended in misery when the balloon reached just 40ft before settling in a dung pile in Restalrig. Others were better – one flight soared Tytler to 350ft above the ground, offering him a view of Edinburgh only previously seen by birds.”

No doubt had he spotted an available hooker for hire he would have put free fall sky-diving without a parachute down on his CV as well.

Although he was Britain’s first aviator, he was widely regarded as a bit of a weirdo. His political theories led to the publication of an anti-government leaflet which resulted in him having to flee to Ireland in order to avoid arrest, whereupon he benefited from his hobby as a means of escape.

Enter Charles Green.

earwig green balloon

Green produced 100s of theatre-style posters and handbills reflecting a time when balloon flights became a public spectacle, as fireworks, night ascents, ‘Mount Vesuvius’ eruptions with orchestral background, ascents on horseback and double ascents with two balloons are amongst the promised attractions offered to attract the viewing paying spectators at such venues as the Jamaica Tavern in Bermondsey and Ben Jonson’s Fields in Stepney.

In other words he was a bit of PT Barnum figure who used some of the old flannel  to sell tickets to a public keen to watch balloons. (Note that no resemblance between the flannel merchant Charles Green and any other person by that name is suggested or implied – litigation conscious Ed).

Green was also involved in a very early form of sponsorship from companies who were keen to promote themselves at his venues, most notably – and somewhat appropriately – The Commercial Gas Company.

With the novelty value of simply watching someone ascend to the heavens by means of hot air wearing off, Green’s accompanying attractions became more bizarre. One flight, on July 22nd 1835, saw Green accompanied in the basket by a man who could impersonate animal noises, billed on the poster as, “Herr Davide Joel, the German Siffleur, will give his unrivalled IMITATIONS of the Animal Creation !!”.

Around the same time he made another trip in his balloon alongside “the Celebrated Monkey Jacopo who will Descend in a Parachute !!!”

Picture in your mind, if you will, the firm handshake between man and ape shortly before they take-off. Now ponder the curious coincidence between that 1835 balloon expedition and the rumour that (prior to his departure from the Marble Staircase Big House of Broguery) another Charles Green was being proposed as a putative freemason. Now put it alongside recent revelations from the scientific community that chimpanzees use a secret Masonic-style handshake to identify their friends and weed out strangers.

Is it all beginning to fall into place? (Er… No – Ed) Have you never watched Planet of the Aprons? (No – ed)

As if that coincidence wasn’t enough, the New Frontiers science exhibition where this was announced was held in Edinburgh a couple of years ago, home to the orange lodge attending, flute-playing pandas.

Professor William McGrew, an anthropologist from Miami University, made the discovery that all chimpanzees were freemasons to at least the third degree while working in the Mahale jungle in Tanzania, a notorious hotbed of freemasonry. He told his audience, comprised mainly of zookeepers, encyclopedia compilers, balloonists and working girls: “It is very much like the secret handshake the Masons use to identify other members.The handshake is a good way for the chimps to get to know each other because the style of hand clasp varies between the groups.”

earwig monkeys
And he said that chimpanzees who fumble the handshake are given the cold shoulder from exclusive jungle communities.

Professor Andrew Whiten, a behavioural psychologist at the university of St Andrew’s, added: “Forty years ago we knew very little about chimpanzee behaviour. But, following seven long-term studies, we have been able to pull together a lot of information about them and compare the different populations.We have found 39 different cultural patterns which differ between the chimpanzee populations. Methods like nut crushing are passed down through generations like a tradition.”

The non-ballooning ex-Chief Executive of Sevco Charles Green might find that there are more than a few chimp-like characters queueing up to crush his nuts in a wee while.

Toodloo the Noo

This column has been brought to you by the Discovery Wildlife Channel in conjunction with

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