Saturday, 2 March 2013

Gorillas On The Piss

Beware! This post may contain some disgusting events! You have been warned....*shudders*

It was with great joy that we saw a trip planned on the home education email group to London Zoo.


Right. Breathe. So that was several months ago so it was paid for at the time leaving just the days expenses to cover. The discount was mighty due to the number of us going and the organisers keen book keeping skills and so we really couldn't say no. It was destined for us to go to the Zoo that day, all that really needed to happen was for us to avoid any major fuck ups along the way. Famous last words.

We were due to leave on the Thursday to hit the 'big smoke' so obviously by days end on Monday my lower back was feeling wrecked. No heavy lifting, nothing I could place my finger on but at some point in the day it had gone and there I was, left praying for a minor miracle. Realistically it was probably tension, the first draft of the book was sitting upstairs and my awesome wife was working her way through it with a pen. Not something that is condusive to calm and relaxed Edd's the world over. Sleep, pain killers and a night of very little sleep followed. I woke and yep, you guessed it, still screwed.

Tuesday night brought some of the lads round for gaming, I was more relaxed, though a bit scatterbrained, so I wasn't feeling it too badly, then I got a text from upstairs, an 'I've finished it' text only with many more expletives! It seemed she'd had a strong reaction to the ending.

I was now sweating.

Long story short we were up till two in the morning discussing what she'd read and her thoughts on it. Turns out that I wasn't in trouble but in fact had done good.

I can't describe how happy that made me feel.

Wednesday saw us pack bags, check accounts, squint at maps, check weather reports, make lunches and make lunches with better stuff in it than the first three year old led attempt. All the usual jazz basically. That done we prepared for the morning; for the ZOO!!! At six o clock my alarm went and at six twenty Dot (3) came in for a cuddle, we both got up at six thirty and as she rampaged into her bedroom to get her sister up I took great joy in waking up EVERYBODY ELSE!! Woo hoo! I so enjoyed breaking up their beauty sleep as opposed to them breaking mine, which is the norm.

From Left; Roo, Fluff, Petal, Gorilla, Wig, me and Sauraus.
Out of the house with a slightly stropy teen and five very excited kids was looking to be a stretch but we did it, hit the station, paid for the trip (teen is 16 now so is full price, not something I'd figured into the budget, which was stupid of me) picked up a treaty bag of crisps for everyone and then got our seats. Sadly the train didn't have a full section for us to take over so we had three on one side, sharing their section with a serious looking business woman and three the other side, invading the space of a serious looking elderly gentleman with a impecably kept white beard and a studious look about him. Teen sat elsewhere, looking disinterested, though I would point out he was very positive about the trip when we first booked it so I was counting on him waking up a bit and then snapping out of his self induced funk.

The trip saw Fluff (7) bond with his business woman, revealed to be called 'Llynn' (he introduced himself and they watched the roads we sailed past for car transporters and points of geographical interest) while Dot (3) questioned every move the man opposite her made. This fabulous stranger was studied for long periods of time before he did something unexpected and poured himself a coffee and got out a biscuit.

'What's he doing?' She asked. 'He's having drink Dotty as he is thirsty.' She studies some more.

'Why does he get biscuits?' The man shifted in his seat slightly and smiled apologetically  'Sorry' he said to me quietly and I assured him he was absolutely fine and he seemed cool about having his every move scrutinised by the mini Attenborugh.  'They are his biscuits and he can eat them whenever he wants Dot,' I answered. 'Oh,' came the answer and all was quiet once more.

Eye spy was a complicated affair when Lyynn couldn't guess Wig's spy of C for Civilization. She seemed fine to converse with them but asked for easier 'spy's' Wig hit her with M. It went on for a long time and ended when we all gave up and he informed us that we were all made of Molecules.

Thanks mate.

This is how the train trip continued. We had c for clothes, A for Air and Dot's victim was stared at and at one point told that 'she liked his beard'. Oh yeah, and train seats are fucking murder on lower back injuries by the way. Finally we arrived at Victoria and I was surprised when both Llynn and the bearded stranger told me the kids were charming, incredibly well behaved and hilarious. Thank fuck for that.

We motored into the underground with a buddy system in operation and a clear talk on how not to wander off. Through tunnels and onto trains, off trains and out again into the grey day we went without incident at all. Through Regent's park we went with Dot in her fold up pram, the teen picking up in mood with each foot fall and the day brightening slightly. We stopped to take a pick of us by an old fountain. Whoop!

Outside the Zoo we stood waiting to meet up with the home ed group and it was then I remembered that we didn't know anyone coming and so did that odd looking at people to see if perhaps they were waiting for the same organiser that we were thing. No-one was playing and so I took out my phone and announced I would phone 'Say's name' and see what's going on. Immediately people jumped on the name and we were absorbed into a group of total strangers, all waiting for a stranger to get them into the zoo.

Sometimes life is weird right?

Lovely organiser arrived, checked us all off her list and sent us in! From here on in we were free to run to our own schedule. What could go wrong? As it turns out nothing. The Aquarium captured Dot's interest as did the Reptile house, though she would look in at the snakes as I held her on my hip and say 'Lets go before it wakes up.' She really is fabulously mad.

We were all hungry and I had gone on about having lunch by the Gorillas for the whole week, so off we went. How wrong this thought was.

I advise you now, stop eating as you read.

The Gorilla's were looking bored and sad in their glass sided indoor play area. The kids watched the two Gorillas in attendance for a minute and then moved on. I asked teen to keep an eye on the guys while I stayed and communed with a cousin. As I stared in I could see the only awake Gorilla was in a negative position, its right arm crossed in front of its chest, its tense hand clutching onto the opposite shoulder. Internally I ached for a creature obviously not in a happy place, asking such deep and heady questions as why such a majestic creature could come to be in so soulless a place or what it would take to bring light into this beautiful beasts life.

A very depressed looking Gorilla about to eat Poo
At this point the Gorilla took a nice shit, not only that but it was a terrific dangler. Beside me a group of teenage girls were pulling faces of disgust. I tried to keep my own view even but failed when the gorilla reached under, pulled the crap out of it's arse and rolled it into a ball.

Like Han Solo... I had a bad feeling about this.

Crap in hand I watched as Crap went in the mouth, and gorilla chewed. I took a walk and explained to teen that we may not be able to eat here and then walked back, more poo was making an appearance and yes, once more poo went into the chew box. Oh dear god. The teenage girls were staying and watching this horrifying display as I decided I couldn't watch any more and so we headed for the Flamingos and eat lunch with them instead.

The benches were comfie, lunch sailed down and we were well situated for the toilets though I didn't see clear baby changing facilities and the gents I took Dot in to change her nappy wasn't equipped for such an operation, but still, we made do.

Check out the Halo! This Giraffe could be the next pope.
After lunch we had a time limit of two and a half hours to hit all the animals we wanted to see (not actually punch them of course, that's not cool...unless they are stealing your hat or making fun of you of course). The Lions were, well, they were big, big and apex like in their predatory status. The Tigers were not on display as they were getting used to a new enclosure (bummer), but the penguins, Camels, Bearded Pigs (calm down ladies, beard's are sexy but they are still pigs), African hunting dogs, Giraffes, spiders, and all the other animals were amazing but it was certainly the Giraffes that made a big impact. We walked into their house and bam, we got hit by the sight of a whole lot of Giraffe ass! Dot was stunned and to be honest I was kind of in awe too, they are so big, so weird looking.


It struck me as we wandered around this zoo that it wasn't the place I remembered it being as a child. The size wasn't so over-whelming, the amount of people there nowhere near as choking and the staff far more visible  I interacted with them, chatted with them, smiled and shared a joke with them and they were wonderful people. So what was it? What was missing? Was it the big animals?

These iconic mountains are amazing!
I'll tell you what it was. Nothing. Nothing was missing at all. Sure the big animals were all at the safari parks now; the rhino, elephant and hippo, but the animal that is the zoo has changed. Its certainly more conservation, more about information, about understanding and sharing in the joy of the beasts. It's not about  the big draw animals, its about the experience, as interactive and informative as possible.

There are things that I have issue with. How we can keep something captive is always going to discombobulate me. I see the need for conservation and I see the need for zoo's to act as portals into the minds and hearts of the people. We need people to care for these exotic wonderful creatures so we place them on display and try to make life as comfie as possible for them. It's genuine love but let's not forget that it isn't natural.

Sleeping Ardvarks
The gorilla would normally be nomadic and free, instead it sits, chewing on its own shit, I couldn't tell you why. I came away disgusted and saddened by this creatures plight and though I know we need to have some front and centre so that the people will look and wonder and give their money to help save the rest I couldn't help but wonder why we couldn't just grow the fuck up as a race.

Still...where was I? Oh yes, the gift shop was an easy place to navigate (I may be editing the truth slightly here, but only slightly, on the whole they all behaved well), and off we went for our train home. Heh.

People say that the public are rude and arrogant now but as we travelled the tubes we had two people get up and offer their seats to the kids, both times we thanked them but said we were OK to stand, they conversed with us about where we'd been. One of those noble souls was an older man with his partner and they were travelling to our home town and told us they would save us seats on the train.

People are lovely, look for the lovely people and you'll see them all around you, look for arseholes and all you'll see are arseholes.

Roo at the Zoo
We hit the train, sat down, sadly half an hour later than the lovely older people on the tube so we didn't get to sit with them and chilled all the way home. No fussing, no gripes, more weird 'I spy' and 'if you could wrestle an animal which would you pick?' Games. As I slipped into a brief period of semi conciousness a woman tapped me on the arm and told me she was sorry to disturb me but she really wanted to say how lovely the kids are.

Thank you nice green coated lady, it's well worth being disturbed for a unlooked for compliment. :-)

We returned home, slipped into the chip shop and then headed home. On the sofa my back was throbbing as a t.v show about London Zoo was put on the I-player thing. I watched as it told us that the male Gorilla died  last year at London Zoo leaving the three females lonely and depressed.

Total bummer.

So we had an amazing day, the kids loved their time, loved the animals, loved the trip and loved the really helpful staff at London Zoo. It wasn't packed because we went in winter in term time and it wasn't cheap there but it was really well laid out, really relaxed in attitude and felt for the most part to be a really positive place for all.

Thanks London Zoo! When I win the lottery I will be right back there for the day.

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