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Dat man got ah big heart

“Danny has hobbies: being stroked, car watching and smelling feet”. And so goes a verse in the poem “A Day in the Life of Danny the Cat” by celebrity poet Benjamin Zephaniah who came to see us on site in Chengdu this week.

Officially described as a British Jamaican Rastafarian writer and poet, Benjamin is a well-known figure in contemporary English literature, and was included in “The Times” list of Britain’s top 50 post-war writers in 2008. He has 15 honorary doctorates to his name and – much, much more importantly – is simply a lovely, self-effacing guy who has lived and loved to the full.

One of his earliest friends and teachers seems to have been Danny the cat – and of course we were tickled pink to finally have him on site here in China showing off our slightly larger, but no less friendly, four-legged friends.

UK supporters Lee and Heidi have been trying for a while to persuade Benjamin to come and see us during his regular trips to China, and on Tuesday, finally, he did. There he was breezing his way around the bear enclosures, stopping to feed Rupert some treats (below), saying hi to staff and all the resident bears and talking affably to the local media, who followed him around with cameras pressed close to his face. Well how can you blame them? He’s tall and majestic with dreadlocks down to his hips – and has a kindness that comes from living life in the raw and being a vegan to boot.

Benjamin also spoke and recited some poems at The Bookworm pub in Chengdu – an event packed to the rafters – and there was a rousing cheer from our team when he said very early on: “Yesterday, I fell in love with a moon bear”.

Well Benjamin, we all fell in love with you. Come back and see us again soon, and thank you for your early Christmas wishes, which for those of you who are interested began with:

Be nice to yu turkeys dis Christmas
Cos’ turkeys jus wanna hav fun.

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