John Gibson: Allan has to hang on a tick

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What makes Allan Little tick? He’d been close on 30 years, reporting mainly from war zones in Africa and the Middle East, and he can’t recall ill health ever keeping him off work.

But at last he has succumbed – to a bite from a blood-sucking tick. Bitten while holidaying on the beach at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, he contracted Lyme disease from the killer parasite.

At his Edinburgh New Town home, Allan told me: “It so drains you that I’ve had to pull out of several Book Festival appearances, although I did manage to fit in a few daytime slots.

“I walked the length of George Street the other day and that laid me out. Lyme disease is endemic just now in New England. I’m from Galloway and ticks are rife in the Galloway Forest. There’s no hiding place and Sheena [McDonald, his Fife-born wife] has been finding it odd ‘nursing’ me because I keep making a thing of being ill.’’

Allan, 52, was due to report to the Western General tomorrow. Presumably he will mention this in dispatches to the BBC.

Panda pounds

How commercial can you get? Edinburgh Zoo appears to be expert, indeed inexhaustible, in its ploys. One of its latest wheezes allows you to get real close to the profitable pandas.

The zoo’s head of animals is broadcasting: “We’re delighted to offer people the chance to get closer than ever before to these fascinating animals.”

I’ll bet they are, at £250 an hour. How long before its selling panda poo. Gift-wrapped, of course. No end to Edinburgh Zoo’s money-making schemes. Panda pee at a fiver a glass? Watch this space.