We’re All Going To The Zoo Tomorrow… Well, In A While, Crocodile!

My job involves a fair amount of travel and I often find myself spending up to a few nights away at a time. Since the boys arrived though I have been avoiding this and wherever possible conducting visits with customers local to where we live. Unfortunately, this isn’t sustainable, so I had to spend my first night away from home this week and off I went to Sunny Whitby. Well, at least it was somewhere near it, out in the countryside, where mobile telephone signals are nothing more than a rumour or a Chinese whisper. No matter how much I tried, waving the phone around, standing on the bed, leaning out of the window or walking the entire grounds of the hotel in an attempt to discover the elusive signal, but none was forthcoming. Luckily the hotel had Wi-Fi so a FaceTime app could be employed to communicate with Mrs Aitchworld and I could see the boys via this.

I missed the boys while I was away. I miss them when I go to work, but it was especially hard leaving them for a night. I have to confess I have become totally besotted with them. Actually, become is the wrong word to use – it was instant, from the moment they were born. And to think I wasn’t all that keen on having children to begin with. First thing in the morning when I go into their room when they wake up, the instant they see me they beam a big, gummy grin that is enough to melt the heart of the most stone-hearted of people. It is the same when I get home at night too. It wasn’t the same on FaceTime – they were confused by it all as they are used to seeing completely different things on an iPad… “Why is Daddy on an iPad, Mummy? Is he presenting Homes Under The Hammer? Or is he the new Judge Rinder? He isn’t as funny as Mr Tumble”.

I missed Mrs Aitchworld as well of course, so you can imagine my delight when she told me during our second FaceTime conversation of the evening that the boys had gone to bed and that she was about to expose her breasts. This must be that sexting thing I have heard so much about, I thought. What it actually was, was time to express breast milk so that I can bottle feed the boys when I’m back home. I was mis-sold.

Mrs Aitchworld was insanely jealous of me going away and spending a night in a hotel, thinking I was going to get a full night’s sleep and I must admit that I had warned her that I wouldn’t be impressed if she rang (or FaceTime) me in the wee small hours when giving a feed. I must also confess that I was secretly looking forward to the thought of a couple of pints of Guinness, although I was worried that after so long without alcohol that I might end up a dribbling mess after just a small amount of beer. I needn’t have worried – I coped fine. And Mrs Aitchworld was as good as her word and didn’t wake me up in the middle of the night. Not that it would have made any difference – I woke up at 3am anyway. And 4am. And 5am. Although when my alarm went off at 8am, it actually did wake me up for a change. For the last 16 weeks I have been religiously (but somewhat ambitiously) setting an alarm every morning, but the boys, with their in-built atomic clocks, have been waking us up long before the alarm goes off. Rather than a device to rouse me from my slumber, my alarm has instead served as a reminder to stop entertaining the twins and jump into the shower and get ready for work.

If nothing else a good shower wakes me up. Unfortunately, the hotel I was staying in had about the worst shower that I have ever encountered. It was like Chinese water torture, one drip at a time. Fortunately the water wasn’t too soft. I have made this mistake before, putting far too much shower gel on and ending up so lathered up that I looked like a cross-channel swimmer and then the water takes so long to wash it off that I am in there for days. If that had been the case here I would have still been there now.

I thought I would put my time away alone in a hotel room to good use and decided to research some things to do with children that are only a few months old. It’s hard work, finding stuff to entertain them all the time and both we and they get bored with doing the same old thing over and over. The whole house is a wasteland of discarded things that they can no longer be arsed with – it is a playmat graveyard; a toy cemetery as the things they loved last week no longer amuse them. The hookah pipe shop wind chimes stand silently, waiting to be played with.

Part of the reason for this research was that we got it wrong a couple of weekends ago by taking the boys to a zoo. Now the South Lakes Animal Park located, coincidentally, in the South Lakes, is to my mind the best zoo in the country. (The Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay comes a close second). You can wander amongst the Lemurs, Penguins, Ostriches and even Kangaroos, amongst many other animals that wander around your feet. It is like a safari park but without the driving and monkeys ripping your wipers off, defecating on your windscreen and prising open your roof box leaving your smalls strewn across their enclosure. (Oh yes, you need a roof box when you have children, apparently). You can even feed some of the animals at close quarters too. It is excellent for photo opportunities and gives you a close up and personal look at animals you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. As an aside, I once went here with a bunch of friends who all met when they were in a photography club together. When we all posted our pictures on social media, all the photo albums looked identical as we were all stood next to each other when we took the same pictures. I advise not going with a photography club.

Anyway, we didn’t take the boys to this zoo. I mention it because there was a small wildlife park near to where we live that went into administration and the people who bought it out have attempted to emulate the South Lakes Animal Park and you can wander amongst the animals in much the same way. It is fair to say that the Peak Wildlife Park is in its infancy. There are a number of animals already there, and much work going on to create new enclosures. For comedic effect I so want to say there was one wallaby, one lemur, only two meerkats, but hundreds of sparrows because on the face of it, that’s all there was.

However, two three month old babies couldn’t give less of a shit about animals – it’s all we can do to get them to acknowledge the cats. By the time we hit the wallaby and lemur enclosures they were bored, hot, hungry grumpy and getting incredibly heavy because there are no pushchairs allowed in these particular areas. So we weren’t in there for long enough to really see the other wallabies hiding in the undergrowth and behind their shelters. It was only as we left the area that we noticed an entire family of lemurs jumping around, in and out of a tree. There were wild boars that obviously we weren’t allowed to mingle with, but had an enclosure that we walked past. There were ostriches, peacocks and in reality there were far more than just two meerkats, but they were being camera shy. There were also penguins that we sort of saw being fed, but we were having our own feeding time at the zoo and in the same enclosure were a couple of capybaras. And I’m sure there are a few other animals I’ve missed completely, because we were trying to prevent a twin meltdown.  So if I were to be disparaging about the park, it would be doing it a disservice. It was also very reasonably priced to get into, probably reflecting the fact that work still needs doing, but I am very much looking forward to seeing it develop. I love places like this and I can’t recommend it highly enough. However, I advise not going with three month old twins who only like animals if they are of the stuffed, cuddly variety.

We are however, considering going to the South Lakes Animal Park with them in a couple of months’ time when we are on holiday up in that vicinity. Whether this is madness or not remains to be seen. First we have to get there, which given the amount of stuff it is looking like we need to take, I’m not entirely sure we will ever make it. I’ve already regaled people with the tale of how Mrs Aitchworld had to sell her Mini and replace it with a BMW 5 Series estate, which she hates. This isn’t even remotely big enough and we have had to invest in a roof box to plonk atop of it. Even then I’m not convinced; this thing may be bigger than the car itself but looking at the lists, I just don’t think it is enough.

We love a list in our house. We’ve got loads of lists we have started, such as things we need to do to finish the house, things we need to do to the garden and so on and so forth, none of which ever have more than a few things ticked off. We’ve started one for things we need to take with us on holiday. It is currently running to two pages and we haven’t even got onto the food yet. Other than furniture (although we do have to take various seats, bouncers and a travel cot) we have to transport the entire contents of our house up to the Lake District.

I used to have a camper van. It was the coolest vehicle I will ever own, with an interior that I designed and built myself. It was lowered with big wheels and fancy paintwork. Although I knew we were planning children when I did it, I didn’t ever think we would have more than one child and designed it with this in mind. Once we found out we were expecting twins I had to sell it because it only had three seatbelts. To build more into it would involve ripping out the interior that I had carefully and lovingly crafted and start all over again. It wasn’t practical, or affordable to do this. Even if I had done all this, I still don’t think a large van would have been big enough. In fact I had grand plans to buy the next size van up and convert that, but even that would have struggled. I have a feeling we are going to need to take HGV tests.

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