Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Day at the Zoo

Well after the unremitting diet of food related posts, here is something a little different. There may still be a few food references but I will try and keep them to a minimum.

When I was growing up in Torbay (and what a place too grow up, and what a time as well) a highlight from when I was about 4 was a trip to Paignton Zoo. We lived within walking distance and it became a sort of annual event.

However one year I nearly managed to ruin the whole thing by telling everyone at school that I was going and having a load of kids appear outside my house at 8am, convinced that I had invited them all. My parents were (understandably) not pleased, especially as all the children seemed to think that we were paying.

Another year I found that if I ran up and down just in front of the Cheetah’s cage, it would follow me, worryingly it never seemed to go faster, just kept pace, watching.

The keepers found my antics amusing, and reminded me that there were only two layers of chain link fence keeping me from being lunch.

Apart from that, the other memories that I have are all good, because it was so close we were always going there on school trips as well, and it came as a surprise when we moved to Kent, that people hardly ever went to the zoo, largely because the nearest one was not just round the corner, but 40 miles away.

There was a good Zoo near Canterbury, called Howletts, which we used to visit, but the highlight was still a trip, on our annual Devon Holiday, to Paignton Zoo. In a way it appeared stuck in a kind of time warp, and was exactly the way I remembered it, even down to the train ride around the lake (although I’m sure it was shortened from when I was little). The girls always enjoyed it, although Yvonne rarely came along, and I expect some of the longer lived animals from my youthful visits were still there as well, especially George the Milk snake and the Giant Tortoises.

Then one year, it changed, and became an “Environmental Park”, gone were a lot of the small cages and there was a new open type of enclosure, it must have been like heaven to the animals, no more concrete floors and boring walls, now they could run and be a lot freer than they had been. I guess it was a response to all the bad publicity that zoos in general were getting, and that’s a debate that could go on for a long time.

I can see that keeping sentient beings in cramped boring conditions is cruel, and I can see that we must care for all living things, but where the problem comes is in balancing the needs of people against those of animals. In an ideal world, we would exist side by side, but where we are removing habitat and causing extinction, surely it is better to preserve the species in places like zoos? In my view it's a dream to say we can halt human expansion, but we can better manage the wildlife that we affect, and ensure its survival. There has to be the will to look after our planet, and all its life, because ultimately we are all in it together. And by Zoos I mean proper ones with large enclosures that provide the animals with a good quality of life. And who knows, one day if we colonise other planets and find them lacking in life, there may be room for our endangered species to thrive, if we preserve them now.

That felt like a bit of a sermon, anyway to get back to the story, after the disappointment of the cancelled bread course, we decided to spend the refund on a day out at the Zoo. Yvonne hadn’t seen it since its makeover, so it was all new to her, and there had been piece on the local news about a baby giraffe born at the zoo and rejected by its mother. Of course she wanted to see it.

There are parts of the place that are the same, although with the changes around them at first you don’t realise, there used to be a huge cage of budgies at the entrance, that’s gone and you now go in past the flamingos, which used to be quite a way inside.

It’s a bit dearer as well, and the price includes a “voluntary 10% donation” unless you announce (so that all the people behind you can hear) that you don’t want to pay it. I object to emotional blackmail so I didn’t pay, then I felt guilty for the rest of the day. Of course as soon as I said it, the cashier repeated it in a loud voice, just to rub it in.

Having said that, we had a really good day, there were plenty of animals to see and lots to laugh about. We tend to spend most of our time finding humour in our situation, in a gentle way; it’s surprising how many serious people there are who can’t see the fun in a day out.

Unfortunately, a lot of the animals were a long way away, or behind glass (Is it for our protection or theirs?) Even with the zoom on my trusty camera, they never got close, and they always have thier backs to the paying public but these pictures will give you some idea.

 Yvonne also made some new friends,

Now back to the food. I have been keeping Hortense out for the last week, trying to speed her up a bit, and yesterday I made another mix. This morning when I came downstairs, it had overflowed the bowl and was climbing down the side of the cupboard. The loaf was a lot lighter again, so I think that we are about at the optimum point.

We had a takeaway curry last night, after the Zoo we couldn’t be bothered to cook, so today we wanted something lighter for our meal. There was some sliced roast beef left, so I thought of fajitas, but we had no wraps. “That’s easy to make” I thought, well two hours later, I actually achieved what I wanted.

 The filling will be a mixture of Onions, Peppers, Garlic and strips of the beef, fried and topped with grated cheese.

As promised last time here is the Cushion that Yvonne made, and another of her Greetings cards

 Well I managed to keep away from food for a large part of that post, tomorrow we have slow (6 hour) roasted Leg of Lamb with all the bits and pieces, stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment