Save Our Pandas
A: The giant pandas in the Wolong Reserve in Sichuan Province are facing a crisis. Have you read the news about it?
B: Of course I have. The newspapers and magazines have carried quite a few articles on the food crisis of pandas and I've been keeping track of the developments.
A: You like pandas as much as I do, I can see that. I've been reading all the materials available about the life of pandas. I never imagined that the flowering of arrow bamboo could be a threat to the pandas.
B: Neither did I. I never knew that bamboo withered and died after flowering. Do you know it takes almost ten years for the seeds dropped by the dying plants to grow into a forest again?
A: Unbelievable, isn't it? Well, giant pandas seem to feed on little else besides arrow bamboo. Since no other plants can be a substitute, it's very serious and before long, the pandas will die out.
B: Yes, it's an urgent matter. Your know in the Wolong Mountains, at 3,000 metres above sea level, 95% of the bamboo has flowered. But down below the situation is not that bad.
A: One paper said that five pandas had already been found dead from starvation in that locality.
B: Something must be done to protect our pandas. The other day I ran across an article which said that in some other reserves in the 70s, the bamboo also flowered. And because nothing was done to rescue the pandas, as many as 138 of them died.
A: What a shame! That's a large number when you consider that the entire panda population in China is no more than a thousand.
B: I've heard the local government is taking emergency measures and that rescue teams are relocating these endangered pandas.
A: Yes. I feel a bit relieved, too, to know that the pandas have been moved to where there is plenty of bamboo.
B: Do you know how they relocated the pandas? The rescue people scattered sugar cane and cooked meat in the mountains to lure them down to the 2,500-metre level.
A: That was clever, wasn't it?
B: Yes, except that some pandas enjoyed the food so much that they refused to go where they were expected to go.
A: I hope the government will institute strict rules and regulations to safeguard the rescue operations. Those who harm the pandas, no matter how minor it might be, should be severely punished.
B: And those who assist the rescue operations should be highly rewarded.
A: Right! Wildlife protection is a long and enduring campaign that calls for everyone's cooperation and contribution.
John is always talking about health and fitness, and regularly thinks up a new scheme or idea to improve his physical condition. Nevertheless, in spite of all these ambitions and good intentions, he always fails. He is telling his sister his latest ideas for keeping fit.
J: I've decided to become a vegetarian, Angela. From tomorrow on, I've decided to stop eating meat.
J: Because people in Britain eat too much meat and it's healthier to eat less.
A: Is this another one of your crazy ideas, John? It won't last a week! I remember your other ambitious schemes; last month, in order to lose weight, you decided to jog to work every morning. That only lasted a week, because every day you were late for work!
J: That's not the reason why I stopped! I stopped jogging because I pulled a muscle in my leg.
A: Well, what about your bicycle?
J: What bicycle?
A: Exactly! You can hardly remember you own a bike as it's been locked away in the garage ever since you bought it.
J: That's not completely true! As soon as the weather improves, I'm going to start using it again.
A: But do you think it will improve your health? That's the question.
J: Well, yes, of course.
A: I think you should start cycling straight away then, seeing that you're begun smoking again!
J: Oh, Angela, I can't stop smoking now that I've begun this new diet without meat. I can't do both things at once. My will-power just isn't strong enough.
A: Even though you have all these good ideas and intentions, John, these ideas never last!
J: Yes, I know. In spite of all my perseverance and strength, I don't seem to be able to succeed at anything.
A: Look, I want to stop smoking too, in order to save some money, so why don't we both try and give up together? That way, we can help each other!
Stuck in the Tube
One day I got stuck in the Tube.
The Tube — that's what most people call it — is London's underground railway system.
It was about nine o'clock in the morning, the middle of the rush-hour, in fact. The train had just left Green Park Station when, instead of speeding up, it started to slow down and then came to a standstill. After five minutes of waiting, some of the passengers began to look fed up. After twenty minutes, which seemed like twenty hours, most of them were looking worried or annoyed, because it had become clear that unless the train moved again immediately they were going to be late for work. Besides, the train was getting hot and stuffy.
While we were waiting, a pale woman in beige started to tell the woman next to her story of her life; a pretty girl gave her boyfriend sweets one after another, and a young woman with a suitcase and a baby took a scarf out of her suitcase and made her baby a nest, so that it could lie more comfortably. At last a railwayman came down the length of the train to tell us that the power supply had failed, and that we were not to worry as they were working to put it right. I borrowed my neighbour's newspaper, and lent him my magazine. There was nothing else to do; we could not leave the train, as it had stopped in the tunnel, not at a station.
Half an hour passed, though it seemed more like half a day. All hope of getting to work on time had long since gone. Had the railwayman forgotten all about our existence? Had there been a crash on the line in front? We had no means of knowing. The passengers had already opened all the windows, and the doors between the coaches as well, in an attempt to freshen the stuffy air. A man with a Birmingham accent told his neighbour that he had not been with his present employer for long, and was very afraid they were going to give him the sack, An old woman with a lisp told us that she was taking her daughter a present but her daughter always left home at ten. Had the train broken down? Several people thought so; but they were wrong. It wasn't the train that had broken down, but the power supply. However, to anxious people who are stuck in the Tube, I suppose it doesn't really matter what it is that has broken down.
When I had finished reading my neighbour's newspaper and listening to what the other people were saying, I began to wonder if we were going to stay there for the rest of the day; if, in fact, we were going to spend the rest of our lives down there. But just then the train began to move. A cheer went up, and people continued to talk excitedly as it moved in slowly along the platform at Piccadilly Circus. When the door opened, most of the passengers got out, and it seemed to me that a lot of foul air went out with them. The train went quickly after that, as if to make up for lost time. But unfortunately not even a fast train can bring back lost time.
That evening, at the foot of an inside page of the evening newspaper, I found the following report:
There was a failure in the power supply over most of the London Underground this morning, causing a short break in the service.