So here’s the zoo stuff I promised.
It’s great! It’s a long walk from Warren Street tube, mind – anyone know any easier way to get there from, say Liverpool Street? By the time we’d walked up and through Regent’s Park we were quite ready for breakfast, which we got from the GOUGERS at the Zoo’s coffee shop. This is a recurrent theme. Paid £20 to get in? Yes, but what about a photo of you on this MAGICAL day, that’ll be £x? Raffle ticket? Donation to the gorilla fund? £4 for a guide? £16 for a couple of panini and some coffees? £5.50 for a frankly YUCK burger? Okay, you’re a charity, I get it, but it just feels so relentless.
So, yeah. But fuck it, it’s the ZOO, you’re there for the animals. And it has them.. I mean, I was expecting a serious scaling-down of zooly ambition, what with people not wanting animals stuffed in tiny cages any more, but no. Lions, tigers, camels, little hippos (so cute), giraffes, gorillas… yeah, no bears or heffalumps, but they’re all at Whipsnade and when you get zoo membership it’s for both sites.. and we have membership.
The real stars were always going to be the lions, for our daughter. Her first animal noise was “Rarr!” at pictures of lions, so I was itching for her to get her first glimpse of a real live… oh, they’re asleep. Apparently they sleep pretty much all the time. So a no-show, but we noticed in the gougy guide that there was some sort of presentation at about 2.30pm. Just after E woke up. So we trundled over, tried to get a good view (impossible, totally packed, so anise took the pushchair and hung back while I pushed through the crown with baby in arms). Of course, to start with they were still asleep so I just had a slightly restless baby in my arms. Until the keeper started talking through a PA and a lion raised its head. A lioness first, at which interest was piqued.
Then the male raised his maned head. Well, I’ve not seen her react like that before. A look of pure wonder on her face, her jaw fell open. Then she started pointing and growling “Rarr! RARR! RARR!“. I hoisted her up onto my shoulders, to her immeasurable glee. She giggled madly as the lion (name: LUCIFER) prowled lazily around his enclosure. Enraptured the whole time, I think she might be more in love with Lucifer than her parents (which seems a tad ungrateful). And then he went back to sleep, and we drifted away.
LATER THAT DAY, in the gift shop, what should she spot but a plush lion. “RARR!” she cries, plucking him off the shelves. Well, we were planning to buy her a gift to commemorate her first zoo visit. She just made the decision for us. She instantly bonded to her lion, like glue. It was even traumatic to hand him over to the cashier for barcode scanning. This was, what? Three weeks ago? More? She still loves that lion, and it was the first toy she gave a name to (Well, that we took a name from her babbling and gave to the lion, but she was pointing at him and saying the word over and over).
His name? This mini-Lucifer?