OK, I’m shattered (I slept for 11 hours last night), but I’ve just spent two fabulous days looking after my darling granddaughter Catrin who is now almost 20 months old. Her parents Rich & Emily managed to obtain tickets for the Paralympic Games here in London on days when Catrin’s nursery was closed for staff training, so I agreed to help out.
As requested, I reported for duty at 8 am. I decided that Day One would be a visit to ZSL London Zoo. This is not a particularly easy journey by public transport. We walked from Catrin’s flat near the Oxo Tower on London’s South Bank to the Underground at Waterloo and took the tube to Regents Park. London may be currently hosting the Paralympics but, only when you have a small child or a disability, do you fully realise how many steps there are on the oldest underground system in the world.
From Regents Park tube station, it’s a really long walk to the London Zoo, but it’s through Regents Park and the weather was glorious and, once at the zoo, we really made the most of our time, spending a full six hours there and still only seeing less than half of what is on offer. We started in the northern corner of the zoo where there is a petting area with a collection of friendly sheep and a splashing section with fountains which switch on and off. Little Catrin loved both so much that we were constantly alternating between one and the other which necessitated much washing of hands after stroking the sheep.
Of course, we saw loads of animals: aardvarks, meerkats, llamas, pigs, all sorts of birds, all sorts of monkeys … The monkeys were especially popular and we even bought a monkey mask in one of the many shops. Also we went to the amphitheatre for a show of various animals including a type of racoon who leap from shelf to shelf retrieving previously hidden food and a beautifully-coloured macaw parrot that swept over us just a couple of inches away.
Naturally Catrin was as excited by the fairground section as by the animals. We went on a merryground together and she rode a mechanical tiger with grins as wide as her little face.
In six hours, Catrin needed feeding and watering often, but I had been provided with suitable provisions by her parents, and she needed changing a couple of times, but the zoo is very parent-friendly in this respect. I knew that, at some point, she would need a sleep and, at what I thought was the appropriate time, I sought to encourage her to go off by walking round and round the pathways. It didn’t work, so we visited some more enclosures and eventually those little eyes snapped shut for 40 minutes.
My legs were aching by the time we had to leave the zoo, so we caught a bus to Camden Town tube station and came home a different way. By the time I left Catrin with Rich, it was 5.20 pm and we’d had almost nine and half hours together. I always wear a pedometer to encourage me to take some exercise. The aim is to reach around 10,000 steps a day but I usually achieve only 6,000-7,000 – today we clocked up almost 21,000.
“Good job you put the brake on the buggy,
granddad. Otherwise i’d be joining the Circus.”
“This Guy looks like you, granddad.”"
“Look, froggie! Shooting water.”
“Wonder what will happen if I tread on this?”
“Stay still. I want to stroke you.”
“Why are we going round in circles?”
“Which of us is the cheekiest monkey?”
“Come on, granddad –
put another coin in the slot.”
“Wonder if mom and dad will recognise me
when we go home?”