I wish I could start this list with number 1 being ‘To manage my own expectations of family days out’ but I’m afraid it’s a trick I’m yet to learn. I’m an obsessive planner, and I like my fun to be organised. If there isn’t an itinerary I’m basically not going to enjoy myself, okay? Unless you feed me alcohol. Not really zoo compatible.
Small children, are, of course, allergic to planning. And mine essentially seem to enjoy being miserable precisely when I’ve gone to most effort to ensure we’re going to have an awesome brilliant day of memories. Knobheads.
Add this to Dadonthenetheredge’s own natural barriers to wearing remotely suitable clothing or footwear for any given activity, and his inexplicable hostility to having his down time mercilessly driven to within an inch of everyone’s lives, the day was fraught with risk from the outset.
Fortunately, every time I do persuade Dadonthenetheredge and the small people to embark on a glorious family outing, I do learn something from the experience. Sometimes the things I learn are even vaguely useful for the future. So I thought I’d share five things I learned at Yorkshire Wildlife Park.
Weather forecasts are wank
Look, all I ask is that people at the Met office please predict the very future with some degree of puffin-twonking accuracy. Is the act of efficient and effective prophecy really, really that difficult? Zip it, meteorologists, I don’t want to hear it. You told me it wasn’t going to rain until 3. I therefore do not expect the heavens to open at 11.
In hindsight leaving the waterproofs in the car was a rookie parenting mistake. Which only made me crosser. Lesson re-learnt. It doesn’t matter how heavy the bloody picnic is – add them to the sodding (sodden) bag.
1.5 Related to 1, it turns out my cag in a bag isn’t as waterproof as I had hoped.
The zoo paradox IS REAL
Obviously you don’t want to go to a zoo where the animals are trapped in tiny cages, rocking and miserable. This will trigger not only your own personal discomfort and impotent guilt, but possibly awkward conversations with small people.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park is not like this. It is a conservationist type of zoo, with large enclosures stuffed with environmental enrichment.
By which, of course, I mean many of the animals are far, far away and obscured by logs/trees/mounds/ditches so you can’t bloody see them. Certainly if you are under 5, you don’t have the mental or optical focus to look at and appreciate tiny slivers of distant wildlife through copious foliage. Sorry, enrichment.
While most of me knows that this is OBVIOUSLY what’s best for the animal, the rest of me wants you to dress them in tutus and make them dance for my children’s amusement.
Ta na! The zoo paradox.
It is not furry in a wallaby pouch
This is sort of the opposite of the zoo paradox. This is what happens when you get too close to the animals, which you can also do at Yorkshire Wildlife Park. You can actually go into the enclosures with the lemurs, and with the wallabies.
I have always loved marsupials – I mean what’s not to like? Those cute fluffy little babies peeping out from their pouches, safe and snuggly in their little furry homes, always hugging their Mummies. Sooooooo cute!
I have now stared at point blank range into the pouch of a wallaby (when her baby had hopped off elsewhere) and I saw things I’ve not seen since I first battled to insert a tampon, with the aid of nothing but pubescent flexibility and a Holly Hobbie hand mirror.
Yep. Basically it’s a pink fleshy vagina in there.
Now look, I’m not in the least little bit offended by vaginas. I’ve got one. I rather like it. It’s so far proved to be both useful, and indeed rewarding. But I have always questioned the aesthetic of the design (not to mention the inadvisable proximity to the waste outlet), and it was the SHOCK more than anything else. I mean, who knew??
What’s more, this one looked somewhat raw. I’m not sure what the baby had been doing in there, but it made me very glad that once the Small Small Person was out, I didn’t have to stuff her back up there for safekeeping. (There are occasions, however, when she’s so incredibly clingy and pawy I have to question whether this isn’t actually her end goal).
It was a reminder that there are in fact some advantages to the zoo paradox, because in reality animals (like children) tend to be pooier, fleshier and generally ickier than one supposed when one was able to maintain a decorous distance.
This may not be one of the day’s lessons that will come into much use in the future, but basically if I have to have my rose-tinted, marsupial-loving illusions shattered, so do you.
Slides best beasts (if you’re under 5)
It turns out my delightful children couldn’t give two flying fuck-a-roonies about any of the wildlife, so it’s a bloody good job that Yorkshire Wildlife Park anticipated this and is well equipped with other small person entertainments. Most of these are slides, and most of them are pretty awesome. (Apart from the one that gave me a friction burn on my arm. YEOUWCH).
In the end I was forced to try and go with the flow (not my forte) and to forget that my local park, also endowed with slides, doesn’t charge the same entry fee. Instead I shifted my focus to attempt to get as many pictures as possible of my disinterested offspring in the vicinity of wild beasts as proof for later life that we enjoyed family days out together, dammit.
Beware of baboons
Some of the fabulous slides at Yorkshire Wildlife Park are hosted in a frankly brilliant play centre. (We spent some time here because of the arse-bombling rain. See no 1). Forget your primary-coloured plastic-padded climbing frames; this is a wooden wonderland with tunnels, ropes, swings, bridges and fake grass. It’s basically like a giant zoo enclosure itself.
This feeling is intensified by the fact it shares one glass wall with the baboon enclosure next door. The problem is, their enrichment is SHIT in comparison with the play centre. (This is the first and only sign of animal cruelty/baiting/torture in the whole Park).
Judging from the icy death stare levelled at me by one baboon inhabitant, they know they’ve been shortchanged. And believe me, friends, they are NOT HAPPY. There was not just death in the depths of those eyes: there was the promise of vengeance. Annihilation. DOOM.
I don’t know if you’ve seen Plant of the Apes. (To be honest I don’t know if I have). But I’m pretty sure this is how it starts. If those baboons ever make a break for freedom, Doncaster is fucking screwed.
The beady-eyed evils I received so unnerved me that I finally surrendered to the moaning of my ungrateful family and consented to let the ‘fun’ end ahead of schedule. We left. Hastily.
Look, all I’m saying is that now summer is mostly over I’m going to let my personal body hair grow out for a bit, and save up the blue and red face paint for my arse cheeks, just in case the worst should happen.
I can only suggest you do the same.