Yesterday we escaped the bunting and Union Jack plastic hats of the imminent Royal nuptials and headed for sunny Bristol.
The zoo had a real family feel, bustling with small children whining for ice cream and generally being poorly educated by their parents (Why must the largest animal in a cage automatically be "the daddy"?)
Bristol Zoo has a pleasant scale to it - there's enough to warrant its £14 entry fee, while still being small enough to see in a day. After sweating it out in the aquarium house, we lolled on the grass, and were treated to an educational display featuring an enchanting armadillo, who scuttled around on the stage, knocking over logs to find tasty titbits. Much less cooperative was Sydney, the croaking kookaburra who seemed to be giving his slightly frazzled Scottish keeper the run around (wing around?)
I could see his point though - I mean, she was the one who encouraged him to 'kill' the deadly rubber snake she waggled at him. How was he to know when to let go? Certainly not when she lifted him up by it...nor when she tried to distract him with actual food. No, he wanted to make sure it was really dead. Sensible if you ask me. While she ran her fingers through her hair in exasperation she explained that he was behaving relatively well, compared to recently when she'd spend three days trying to trail him around Clifton after a flying display went wrong. They do say never work with animals or children. Obviously she didn't get the memo.
Other highlights were a string of mesmeric leaf cutter ants, the surprisingly lively aye ayes and an Asiatic lion cub tucking into a cow's head with gusto.
The 'ahh bless' moment of the day came in the nocturnal house, with a teeny tiny grey mouse lemur (think capable of charming dinner guests by producing one from a tea cup). We originally thought (naively) that it was trying to get a better look at us, as it reared up on the end of a branch. As its expression became more and more strained, we realised it was in fact slavering at some sort of grasshopper/locust type creepy crawly which was attached to the glass in front of us. The lemur climbed to the top of the window, and proceeded to dangle by one back paw, stretching its forepaws in vain at its prospective lunch. After some minutes of intense desperation, the insect teasingly shifted an ill-judged inch up the glass, where it met a mercifully speedy end. We cheered. The lemur contemplated how it would manage the locust, while upside down and hanging on with one foot. Naturally, it stuffed the entire creature into its mouth, closing its tiny eyes with unadulterated bliss.
I reached my own state of bliss when I realised there was scope for animal interaction at Bristol, in the lorikeets' forest. My boyfriend (not a bird fan) was sweet enough to come in with me (covering his nest-like head of curls with a protective arm) and take some photos of me rapturously offering the colourful birds a cup of feed. Apart from a brief squabble on my wrist, they were well behaved, and posed rather well I feel. I hope you agree.