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Friday, March 30, 2018

A Morning At Whipsnade Zoo

The day started out fine and sunny, so it was more or less perfect for a morning out at Whipsnade Zoo. We haven't been out for a proper day out since Carol had her cancer diagnosis. We have had trips to the Milton Keynes shopping centre as well as to Waitrose and Sainsbury's, but they were hardly what I'd call outings. She is beginning to feel a bit better, particularly as she hasn't had chemotherapy this week, so she decided she wanted to drive. I have been driving every time we've been anywhere, and she wanted to get back behind the wheel of the car, which she's hardly driven since we bought it last year. As she is a Fellow of Z.S.L. (Zoological Society of London) we can visit as many times as we like without paying. Also, being able to drive in with the car and then park up and then walk around means it's far less tiring for both of us.

My Canon digital camera has been charged up and ready for goodness knows how many months. Always best to have a digital camera well charged before going out, when it's bound to be needed. I bought a spare battery which is still in it's little orange box in the car's storage space. The camera itself has been in one of the storage boxes we got from IKEA when we assembled the shelving unit in the lounge. Infact. looking at the photographs on the card in the camera I see there are quite a few shots taken when we last visited Whipsnade.

We arrived at Whipsnade well past the opening time of 10 a.m. It wasn't very busy, which had an advantage, as it was easy enough to find spaces to park. We drove around the zoo, enabling us to see which animals were out and about. If you go when it's hot, a lot of animals have a tendency to hide away in the shade. The same when it's cold, some animals love it, others prefer to stay where it's warm and cozy.

We stopped off at the pygmy hippopotamus enclosure. We couldn't see them in the outdoor space. It was very cold and almost raining so we went into the house they have. Somewhat hot and smelly. There were two hippos in there, although they were in the pools, but part of them was visible above water, the rest hidden below. I overheard a conversation a woman was having with her male partner. As they looked at the hippos in the water, she said 'Can they breathe under water?' to which he replied 'Of course not.' Then she said 'Do they have gills?' I can't believe an adult would ever think hippos, of all animals would have gills. They're not fish, or reptiles and certainly don't show any sort of gills or could possibly be creatures which have them. Quite amazing what you overhear, but rather sad really.

 We drove through  the 'Animals of Asia ' exhibit. There's herds of deer and other animals in this section of the zoo. We stopped at various points to take pictures with my camera. It's like a safari park where you drive through and remain in your car. There aren't any dangerous animals such as lions are there are at Woburn or Longleat, but still, you have to stay inside your vehicle. We drove on and came to the area where there are camels. Several were standing in the road and wouldn't move. A few more were hanging around near a tree. Ugly things, camels. They look as if they've been put together by a committee, from spare parts. Their legs don't seem to go with the rest of their bodies. These were shaggy and scrawny. When they eat, their mouths go into a really odd sort of movement. These two camels more or less refused to budge, so we could continue on our way. There were not other vehicles coming along behind, so it didn't matter so much if we didn't continue to drive, but by now Carol was getting worried that one of the camels was going to kick the car or do something unpredictable, but fortunately they did move out of the way and we were able to finish out drive and came out of the drive-through area and into the main zoo road.

We drove right round the inner ring road of the zoo. Carol wanted to see the bears. There are supposed to be some new ones. The old bear enclosure would appear to be very old and had rather nasty metal bars, which seem to have been replaced with more modern fencing. A large area of the fence has been covered with some quite attractive woven fencing. They are attempting to make many of the animal enclosures at Whipsnade far more easy for visitors to see the animals in more appropriate enclosures. Without having bars or the old fashioned and totally unacceptable cages that used to house the animals. You can see most of the animals without fencing or bars getting in the way, which also makes taking photographs easier. From the bears we walked on to view the penguins. Always good for a laugh. They just have a comic look, the way they stand and walk, looking for all the world like little old men. A convention of waiters, or similar in their black-and-white feathers.

By now it was nearing lunch-time, so we drove back round to the area called Base Camp and walked towards the café. It has been revamped since we last visited. It is now modernised and you order your food from your table using a touch-screen computer. We're not sure whether we like what they've done. We liked to be able to use the café at Whipsnade to buy sandwiches and cake, as well as helping ourselves to coffee or tea. The modern arrangement may be more sophisticated and what a lot of people want, but it seems a shame that everything has to be changed just for the sake of it. We noticed that what used to be the Lookout Café that overlooked Dunstable Downs the other side of the zoo is now a branch of  River Cottage. Again, it wasn't brilliant before, but this is all very well and good, but will no doubt be expensive. We can always bring our own picnic and eat in the car in future. I'm not saying that the hot chocolate, chips and chocolate cake weren't good, and it was at our table very quickly, but we're prefer it to have remained as it was, with perhaps a few minor tweaks to improve things.

As we sat and ate, it became overcast and it began to rain. There was no real point staying any longer. Carol was beginning to feel tired, so we drove around towards the exit and stopped to look in the shop. They had a few adult T shirts and sweatshirts, some in adult sizes, something which I'd mentioned was missing, merchandise  which was aimed at adults and not just children. Carol bought one for herself and we left the zoo. By now it was really raining quite hard and it was clear we'd had the best of the day.

We stopped off in Beanhill to go to Ashfield Medical Centre to collect the prescription we'd ordered for Carol. It turned out that two were ready, but the one she really wanted, for the sleeping tablets, was for only 7 tablets. Which means we'll have to put in yet another prescription in only a few day's time. I shall take the prescriptions to Lloyd's in Sainsbury's on Saturday morning.
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