Zoo Days

On Tuesday we went to Whipsnade zoo. The first visit in around 5 years.

We arrived shortly after 10 and were there in time for the first display of the day, the lemur feed. There’s a little bridge connecting where the lemurs spend their days with the area that the keepers use for the feeding display. While all us visitors stand on the bridge, the lemurs bound over for their feed. It was a fun little display and I learned things about lemurs I didn’t know.

(The keeper caught midway through explaining why all the lemurs at the zoo are males)

There was a chimp chat afterwards but we decided against that as there was a group of teenage boys on a school trip there and they headed off for the chimp chat, and we were trying to evade them. Instead we headed for the “Birds of the World” display that would be happening in some 45 minutes time. We meandered about, got psyched out by a VERY protective mara mother of her young bub, caught up with the school boys (shit!) and just generally hung about.

"You looking at me?"

The keepers were late with the bird display as they’d been in Dunstable looking for their missing stork which had flown out of the zoo grounds the previous day. As a result we had a shortened display – they needed to continue their search for the stork as their morning search had not resulted in a find, and this day was VERY windy as well, and the birds they DID display weren’t coping well with the winds. We were shown a tucan, a harrier hawk, two scarlet macaws and one military macaw (who was too scared of going MIA to fly). The scarlet macaws are just SOOOO colourful! And the harrier hawk was just gorgeous. Despite the winds Taltos gave us a wonderful display.

After that we went to the sea lion splash and saw the display by Lara and Bailey. Bailey wasn’t really wanting to perform as she should do and then Lara joined in later on, but they are such lovely creatures and sooo mischievous, you can’t not love them!

After that it was a general wander. We went and saw the tigers, which was quite sad really. Ana, the female tiger, had free range of the whole enclosure but appeared to be waiting for food whilst Mickhail, the HUGE male, was in a small compound having just been given a nice juicy slab of meat to eat (I must say, he didn’t seem that enamoured with it – whilst Ana was salivating away like Pavlov’s dog). After eating the meat, Mickhail just paced, whilst Ana, resigned to the fact that she wasn’t going to get a look-in on the food front went and laid down on the lawn in the middle of the den.

Teddy on the menu?

Nom nom nom. Something looks good says Ana.

From there we went and saw the Asian rhinos, the onagers (which I kept referring to as Oligarchs and giving them Russian accents. Lol), gaur and sloth bears (which was another sad sight as one bear seemed quite institutionalised because although it had access to the whole of its range, it was pacing against the caged wall of the space adjacent to an enclosure).

Asian rhinos drying off after a mud bath.

We then caught the bus to do a loop of the whole zoo before coming back round to stop off in time for the penguin feed before leaving the zoo.

It was doomed from the start. Firstly, we had to change buses after one stop as the bus we joined had banged into something and the upper deck was out of use. Soon after we changed to the other bus I was aware of a wasp being on board – and if you know me you’ll be aware of how my reaction to this would be. I tried to stay calm, and the wasp stayed by the second exit doors, but then it started to fly about and I just WASN’T having it! Thankfully we were approaching a stop – and although it meant I HAD to walk past it, we alighted the bus.

But this took us right back to where we’d joined the bus in the first place. Right back to the opposite end of the zoo. It was 1.45pm and the penguin feed was at 2.30pm. I thought we could make it but we didn’t dilly-dally. Despite this, we didn’t make it. The last time we were at the zoo we missed the penguin feed and I was DETERMINED to see it this time. We walked all the way back round and got as far as the zoo entrance before being resigned to not going to make it. It was nearly 2.30pm by the time we got back to the zoo entrance and it would have been another 10-15 mins walk to get to the penguins. I was EXHAUSTED by this time (we both were), so decided to call it a day 😦

THANK YO WASP! More reasons to why I hate these creatures.

So the visit ended on a bit of an anti-climax sadly. We got some good pics from the bus on the way round and we saw Spike, the male lion, with his harem of ladies far on the hill. He was, literally, king of the hill!

Spike and his harem of lovelies.

You can see more photos by going to my Picasa page HERE

All the videos are available to view on a YouTube playlist HERE

The Weymouth Way.

Hmm. What an interesting (if only) adventure that was!

The night before, we were doing some last minute packing, etc, when I could feel my left heel starting to play up really badly. It’s been like it for weeks. The ball of my left heel gets PAINFULLY sore, like I’ve got an Achilles tendon or gout or something. After a while I can hardly walk and look like a hobbling old invalid. Obviously, the longer I’m on my feet, the worse it gets. It can even be painful when I’m sitting if I have no way of keeping my leg elevated or manoeuvrable. I think it was brought on by compensating so much for my right leg when my knee was at it’s most painful.

Anyway, I could feel the pain coming on and went to bed with a dull thud in my left heel. Unsurprisingly I woke early next morning to put my foot on the floor and feel instant pain. “Oh fabulous! Thanks! We’re off to Weymouth today!” I was thinking.

We were up before the crack of dawn at 5am. We were like zombies. We had barely four hours sleep. Well I did anyway. Em might have got an extra hour. We had a cup of tea, got changed, fed the fish, made sure Chris’ food was plentiful and her water clean, then we called a cab.

I was really nervous and apprehensive, partly because I was worried things (the coach, the tube, the train to Weymouth) wouldn’t match, but mostly because my foot was already aching. We were on the coach and leaving Luton airport at 7am. It all looked smooth on the motorway (small mercies) and we ended up at Victoria station in plenty of time. Luckily, as Victoria was HEAVING with rush-hour commuters. We had to wait for the 3rd train to come by before we could even board! We had to change lines to get to Waterloo at Westminster, which was a *little* quieter, thankfully.

We were at Waterloo by 9.10am and the train to Weymouth was leaving at 10.05, so we refueled. We had a strawberry yoghurt each, and Em had an apple (she was extra peckish) and I had a lovely M&S vanilla and maple syrup smoothie.

We were on the train by 9.53 waiting to go!

It was a surprisingly pleasant journey down. The train was really lovely. Comfy, roomy seats, nice staff, a good, clean toilet. A nice quiet carriage, apart from a bloke directly behind us wheeling and dealing on TWO mobile phones. All you could hear when he called someone was him saying “can you hear, can you hear me?” and then him hang up and try his OTHER mobile! God knows what network he was on. A crap one by all accounts! He finally left the train at Bournemouth. Peace, at last!

We arrived in Weymouth at 1pm and the sun was shining. We headed straight for beach front. It was nice. Not as shingled as Brighton, but not entirely sandy like I thought it would be. There was quite a number of people around on the beach for a Thursday and for October 1st. It was a bit mild, around 20 degrees. There were even a few men with their shirts off (all over 50, so there wasn’t really anything worth gawking at!)!

We slowly (we had to, my foot was stuffed by now) made our way to the Premier Inn we were staying at. Em kept thinking we had to be on the road and kept worrying we’d overshoot or go too far, despite my reassurances. And despite me forgetting to take a map to show the way from the station to the motel, we found it easy enough. It was amazingly close to the beach front. No sea views, which I wasn’t expecting anyway, but the beach was only a few minutes walk away. Luckily for me, as I wouldn’t have got to enjoy any of the beach front at all otherwise.

We settled into our room, had a cup of tea and then went to the restaurant next door to eat. It’s a pub food chain called Brewer’s Fayre. We used to go there a lot when we had a car. Our nearest one is not really accessible via public transport, so we haven’t been to one in years.

We filled up our bellies and went back to the room. I was knackered by now. I was tired, bloated from eating, and my foot was at its worst. I stayed in the motel while Em went back off to the town centre for a gander, take some shots and find a few provisions for later.

Having been so knackered sleep eluded me until late in the evening, around midnight. I read from about 10.30pm onwards in the hope it would help me drift off. I didn’t fully wake the next morning until around 9.45am. Once I’d gone to sleep, I’d slept like a log.

With my foot the way it was, I had no plans to do anything that day other than eat! We eventually moved our butts out about midday. Well, I moved mine. Em had already been off and into the town centre again in the mean time. We spent an hour or so on the beach (well, more accurately, on a bench BY the beach), then we went to the Brewer’s Fayre again. Last time Em had a cheese and onion pasty with mash and baked beans, and I had gammon, eggs, chips and peas. This time, Em was going to have the only meal she normally has when we go to Brewer’s Fayre (they’re not normally fab with the vegie meals Em likes, they’ve had the odd thing she likes – like the cheese and onion pasty for example), fish and chips, and I had the most GORGEOUS liver and onions, with bacon, mash and peas, in a giant square Yorkshire pudding! And afters, Em had an caramel apple crumble cake with ice cream, and I had a banoffee waffle with pouring cream. Divine! We were so stuffed (again), we spent the afternoon (and the rest of day, admittedly) in the motel room.

Em was starting to feel the effects of a head cold. I was hoping we could go to the Sea Life centre next door as a last day treat, but of course Miss Tight-wad almost went into cardiac arrest when she heard adult tickets were £17 each. A Sea Life visit was looking VERY unlikely. I felt rested, but my foot was not any better. Miss Cardiac-Arrest had a horrible nights sleep trying to breathe with her head cold.

Last day we had to be out of the motel by midday. We were out by 10.30am and my foot was feeling better initially. We walked along the beach front into the town centre. Looked through some of the shops, realised we had HOURS to kill before our 5pm train, so decided to see a film. The weather wasn’t conducive to being on the beach. It had gotten chilly in 48 hours, and was now 15 degrees and blowing a gale! It was also overcast and drizzling with rain on and off.

We had a fish and chip lunch, then went and saw Creation, the film about Darwin completing The Origin of Species. It was a good film. The plot wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It was quite sad, but wonderfully done. There was a kleenex moment for both of us. Nice bit of irony when we paid for the tickets, little vouchers offering 2 for 1 tickets to Sea Life with a cinema ticket! Oh how I laughed – not!

After we came out of the cinema, there was STILL time to kill, so we wandered a bit. Sat in the local library before it shut, then went to the station just after 4pm. The train was already on the platform, so by 4.25 we were already seated, waiting to get back to Waterloo. Not as nice a journey home. The carriage was quite full, and there were a few Saturday night revellers getting on and off, and the toilet was small and there was urine on the floor – always nice!

We got to Waterloo at 7.50pm and the fun hadn’t quite finished yet. Of course we had to get back Victoria. We were going to go back the way we came, which meant a trip on the Jubilee line to Westminster, and then from there on the District and Circle line to Victoria. Only problem was, the Jubilee line was closed!!! Flipping hell! So we had to change our route. We had to go on the Bakerloo line to Embankment (which is MILES further underground than Jubilee – it’s like a mile just to get to the Bakerloo platforms FFS!) and then from there on the District and Circle back to Victoria!

I was about ready to collapse when we got to Victoria. We had some food there, then got on the coach back to Luton. From there, a quick cab ride back home. We were back at home around 10.45pm and as we were scrabbling for the keys I was saying to Em “I can hear something that sounds scarily like one of our fire alarms.” Lo and behold when we opened the front door, the wailing became louder. Sure enough, it was one of ours! Fig! It took Em a minute or so to turn the damn thing off. Chris was nowhere to be seen. God knows how long the flipping thing had been activated. Hopefully not 15 minutes after we left.

We eventually found Chris cowered under the sofa. Poor sweetheart, she was as jumpy as anything for the next few hours, poor baby girl 😦

A fitting crescendo. Still, it was time away. I was hoping to see a few different birds down there, but all I saw were gulls. Gulls, gulls and even more flippin’ gulls!

Pictures will be put online soon.

Weymouth Here We Come!

It’ll be just over 18 months since we’ve gone ANYWHERE, when we get to take a two night break to Weymouth. Weymouth is in Dorset, on England’s south coast. And as you can see by the image, not all English beaches are shingled, small and dull.

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You could actually be forgiven in thinking that I just nicked another one of my nephews photos taken on the south coast of New South Wales – LOOK AT THAT BEACH FRONT! THAT, my friends, is in England!

And we are going there in around four weeks time! Squeeee! I’ve been wanting to go to Weymouth for YEARS. Every since I saw the beach on a holiday programme about 6-7 years ago. It’s absolutely beautiful looking.

There’s a bit of travel involved. We’ve got to get ourselves to London first, and from there take a train to Weymouth. But the train goes directly to the town centre, and the beach front is like 0.5 mile (approx. 1km) from the station. And where we are staying is in walking distance of both the station and the beach front.

Oh, I just CANNOT wait to go! I’m hoping the next four weeks just fly by and the weather we experience when there is good and we have a lovely time. It’s been SSSOOO long!!!

I shall take the camera and get plenty of snaps.

Photos From The Archives – A Day at Wild Britain – nr Bedford

Click the image of the butterfly to see the whole album.

A beautiful butterfly in the butterfly house at Wild Britain. It was formerly known as Bedford Butterfly Park, but it wasn’t just butterflies!

Em and I took a visit there on August 31st, 2004. I remember it being a nice sunny day, but it wasn’t overly warm for a late summer’s day. But the butterfly house was stifling! What is it about flutties and humid conditions?

It was lovely seeing all exotic kinds of flutties. And there was a petting zoo there with pigs, goats, bunnies and other small animals.

One of my favourite sights of that day was seeing all the owl butterflies having a feast on the rotting fruit left out for them to gorge on. There were about 6 of them on the feeder.

I do love butterflies. It really *IS* an amazing aspect of nature that just a few months, even a few WEEKS earlier, a lovely butterfly would have been in a chrysalis, and before that would have been a caterpillar munching away on your cabbage leaves. They really are something to behold. I can’t believe there are people that are scared of them!

There are other photos from the day to view. You can see them by clicking the butterfly photo.

Photos From The Archives – Cockington Green

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Cockington Green, originally uploaded by Larelle_M_R.

I thought that when there’s not much doing and I’m looking for a topic to post on my blog, I’d pick a photo from Flickr (where this particular post is being written from) and talk about. Give a background behind the photo. What happened on the day, etc.

This photo was taken in April 2002 (can’t remember the specific date). Em and I had returned to Australia for a holiday. I’d been very ill leading up to our departure but I wasn’t going to be put off from going home. I had been diagnosed with a chest infection by my doctor here in the UK.

Once in Australia, I got progressively worse. I’d have coughing fits and wouldn’t be able to breathe. We’d been in Oz about 3 or 4 days when I had a coughing fit in my mum’s kitchen. I couldn’t breathe and then lost consciousness and passed out on her floor. When I came round it was apparent I needed to go to the doctors again.

I saw my mums doctor and he diagnosed Whooping Cough. It was confirmed with a blood test. I was given strong anti-biotics and was given asthma medication to help my breathing.

Towards the end of our stay, even though I was by no means 100% better, we decided to have a few days in Canberra and to take mum with us.

On our last day in Canberra we decided to go to Cockington Green, a model village based on a village in the UK called Cockington, near Torquay in Devon.

The picture is of myself and my mum leaving the entrance to the model village. I’m carrying a souvenir mug in the plastic bag. Mum is to the left of me.

It was a lovely little place and it was akin to being able to take my mum on a tour of England. It was really nice.

If anyone reading the post has any plans of visiting Canberra, I highly recommend going to Cockington Green.

Odd Juxtaposing Day.

I feel very drained today. We ventured out yesterday. Got this free bus travel around the region and have hardly used it so far. We just went to Stevenage again. There’s a pet store there that I wanted to go to. It’s quite large and they have lots of small animals for sale. Bunnies, guinea pigs, chinchilla’s, gerbils, as well as degu’s. One of the gerbils looked just like our little Banjie, and he came up to the glass to say hello to me! Too cute. And me and Em were both going gaga over all the lovely CAVEY’S!

Anyway, we didn’t go there for the fluffy creatures, we went there to try and get some replacement equipment for the fish tank. There’s a split in the under-gravel filter and we need to get a new one. Of course they didn’t have one! But we were able to get a replacement glass scraper/cleaner and we bought two tubs of this stuff they are selling, which is kind of like a chewy version of Bonito tuna flakes/Kitty Kaviar. I was really hoping Chris would like it, ‘cos she goes MENTAL over the Kitty Kaviar, but she’s not keen. The texture is too heavy and chewy. It’s not light, dry and flaky like the Kitty Kaviar. She kept investigating it, went to eat it a couple of times, but then stopped. I just don’t think she likes the texture. BUM!

Anyway, while in Stevenage, we checked out Aldi and we got a little tray of mini Ritter Sport’s chocolates. Em got all dark chocs and marzipan, and I got all milk chocs with different centres.

And the local Tesco has an in-store Krispy Kreme counter, so I got my big Easter treat of a dozen original glazed doughnuts!!! YUM!

We went back to Hitchin for a while. We got some flower and vegetable seeds from the 9TP (where everything is 90p – hence the name. Cute pun!) shop. 15 packs of seeds for 90p! Then we got a couple of fruit tree/shrub/plants from another discount store. We got one blackberry and one blackcurrant for £2 each.

Anyway, on to today. As a result of yesterday’s adventures, I feel TRULY knackered. My legs started to hurt before we got home. By the time we were home, they’d died. My feet were aching like mad, and at that point, once I’ve rested, for next 36 hours, I find it incredibly uncomfortable to put any weight on my legs. They just ached and throbbed in bed all last night.

I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I didn’t want to put weight on my legs and feet. I stayed in bed until 11.30am, then I knew I had to get up. Luckily I did, as my “friends” had just arrived and left a spot on my underwear – GODDAMNIT!! Just to add insult to injury, they arrive!

So, it’s a lovely sunny day, Em’s just gone off to some allotment society thing at another allotment nearby to join and get some supplies. And two weird juxtaposing events are happening in England today. The Grand National and Jade’s funeral. At least it’s a lovely sunny day for both.

Today is a weird day…

Yesterday’s Adventures.

Started out in a rush to the bus stop. Was worried we weren’t going to make it on time. We got there with a few minutes to spare though. Phew.

We were going to finally use the vouchers we won last year for the free bus travel. We get on the bus, the driver is perplexed by the sight of these vouchers. He entered in the code for the ticket we were to be issued, but the value price on the voucher had changed. He called his boss to confirm is was all legit and above board. Boss confirmed it and we were both issued our tickets. I had explained during events that we’d won the vouchers in a competition. As he handed over the tickets the driver said “You won a good competition there!” I replied “I know”! Issue price of the tickets – £70, EACH!

So, we were on our way to Welwyn Garden City. Been wanting to go there for WEEKS. We were originally going to take the bus to Hitchin, get off and walk to Hitchin railway station to get a train to Welwyn. Then I realised it would be better to stay on the bus. We had quite a walk from where the bus would let us off at Hitchin to the station. The bus was going on to Stevenage and there it would takes us right to the train station, and Stevenage is on the same train line, so we just stayed on and rode the bus right on into Stevenage.

We waited about 20 mins for a train and were in Welwyn about 12 minutes later. We mooched around the shops in the little shopping centre there, had some lunch. I had an adult sized “babycino” – which is basically just steamed milk. I had it with some caramel syrup. It was yummy. Got a tiny little biscuit with it which was nice.

We went outside for a bit. We’d taken the camera with us, so Em got some shots of the main drag of Welwyn.

We went round the corner and I looked in Evans (clothes shop for big ladies) and scored myself a pair of summer cropped pants for £3. We were walking along and just just split up, Em was going to the health food shop and I was going to have a look in another large ladies clothing store when I was accosted by a “chugger”. There are people on the streets over here, who work for charities and they accost you and try and get you to commit to regular, monthly donations by taking your bank details to set-up direct debits. They have been labeled “chuggers” a blend of the words “charity” and “mugger”. He was just there in my eye line and before I knew it, he had stopped me. I ended up letting him say his spiel in the hope that he might accept a one-off donation. But of course, these chuggers don’t work like this. Thank God, after some moments had elapsed, Em came to my rescue. The guy still put his heart and soul into it, bless him, but he was fighting a losing battle with Em at my side. We finally pulled away another 5 minutes later.

They can really lay on the guilt man! But it’s not even a charity I would be most inclined to give to. I’m far more into animal charities, the RSPCA, PDSA and all that. I’d be more willing to give to the PDSA because we actually might need to use them some time in the future. Anyway, enough of that.

We decided to leave Welwyn and go back to Hitchin for a bit. We got the train back to Stevenage and as we were boarding the bus Em said “maybe we should just go back into Luton and you can see the new Marks and Spencers part of the mall”. “Okay” I said, so we rode the bus past Hitchin and onto home. As we got into Stopsley, it was becoming obvious that the bus was going to go right by our stop for home before ending up in the town centre.

We were both feeling a bit knackered by this time – we’re a right pair of old fogeys! So we decided to get off at our stop, get something for tea from ASDA and go home. What a pair, eh?! A couple of hours out and we’re clagged out like two old cows with udders that hang on the ground! Goodness me! lol

But it was nice to get out and about. And it is SO lovely being on the trains again. Haven’t taken a train since probably taking the tube over a year ago. The underground is NOT a romantic train journey experience though…

I find there is a real romanticism with taken the train though. Seeing the countryside go by out a train window. We went over this lovely old viaduct yesterday, and the view from it, over the Hertfordshire countryside was lovely. I so wish trains were more affordable to use.