There’s almost nothing I wouldn’t share a private plane with. A tank full of poisonous snakes? Is there free champagne? Then sure! A miniature horse that poops out balls of hay? If Lisa Vanderpump is willing to do it, then who am I to turn my nose up at it? A panda being brought to a zoo for a breeding experiment? Can I sit next to him, and moreover, does he want to share my snacks?
The same could not be said for Margaret Thatcher, who in 1981, refused to share her Concorde flight to the United States with an adorable giant panda named Chia-Chia. No wonder they called Thatcher the Iron Lady! Because she kept an iron fist on her snacks!
In a document released last Friday by the National Archives, Thatcher not only refused to take the panda with her on the plane, she did so with underlines.
"I am not taking a panda with me,” she wrote in blue pen in the margins of a memo on the matter sent to her by an aide. “Pandas and politicians are not happy omens!"
The whole reason why Chia Chia, who lived at the London Zoo, was flying to the United States was so that he could breed with a female panda at the Smithsonian Zoo. It was the 1980s, and pandas were all the rage. It was also believed that they were endangered. And Thatcher knew it.
Later in the year, when another female giant panda from China was offered to the United Kingdom to breed with Chia-Chia, Thatcher was informed.
“Prime minister,” wrote an aide in a private note to her on the matter. “A bit passé, but no doubt you would not look a gift horse, or even a panda in the mouth?”
Thatcher’s response was definitive. “Yes, I would. The history of pandas … is unlucky.”
So there we have it, folks. Margaret Thatcher wasn’t afraid of anything, but she was afraid of … pandas? There are some superstitions that, as an animal lover, I’ll never understand.
So back to the private plane — if you want to put me on a private plane with a giant panda, I will definitely go. To wherever. And I will pet the panda to keep him calm. Just saying…
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