Thursday, June 26, 2008

Snakes alive, he started it and tapir

As a birthday treat, Nick took me to London Zoo.

1. In the reptile house -- sometimes it's hard to see if anyone is at home in the cases. We look for a while, and sometimes spot an eye looking back at us, or a scaly green body curled round a branch. I like seeing a coiled snake move -- I love the way the circles slip over each other in different directions.

2. The zookeeper told everyone off for waving at the gorilla and touching the glass, but the gorilla definitely started it. Gorillas look like men who are puffing out their chests because they're trying to hold their stomachs in.

3. The tapir enclosure seems empty, but I spot a dark corridor down the side, and we discover a window that looks right into a room where the tapir is munching on the last of his lunchtime leafy branches. He chews thoughtfully and then stretches out his snout to sniff the air. The sign says that he is related to horses, and there a horsy smell around. Then, having checked out the smells, he lies down on his side in the sun that pours in through his door and window. The light falls on him so his white saddle appears the same colour as the black parts of his body.

4. The extra-tall stable doors in the giraffe house, and the salt-lick eight feet off the ground.

5. I could never grow tired of looking at the treacle-coloured rumps of okapi. They seem to change colour in the sunlight, from black to deep orange-brown to dark plum.

6. At the end of the day, after the crowds of school children have gone home, we sit on a cool concrete bench listening to the bactrian camels eating hay.