It is the 12th of December. The passing of steady time is played out with a handball game in Doha, the King of Bahrain at Downing Street and Iraqi soldiers graduating into action after a mere month’s training in Kirkut. Was it Kirkut? The name remains, lingers like a strange flavour in the mouth. And from behind a grate there is heard a scratching, shuffling sound. Something is coming; some rough beast in a vast image, a revelation in these parts. But now clear, black and white, moving its slow thighs, Tian Tian the panda appears – and we forget all.