Selfishly, as soon as we began to choose what to visit next, I insisted on the lions. My excuse – as if I really needed one, but I was being polite – was that we couldn’t possibly resist seeing the “new cubs” advertised prominently on the brochure.
The path up to the lions was sufficiently special to impress me.
Normally in the zoo, you turn a corner and see the next-animal-along through the bars of your current specimen’s cage. But none of that treatment for the lions…! Of course not.
Just by chance, we turned up a little winding path on our way to the lions. (It was no thanks to my non-existent map reading skills anyway!) Just a small-scale route, but decent all the same when you consider how things like space are precious in a zoo. All dedicated to the lions, it wound back and forth a few times, giving “bite-sized revision” billboards along the way.
There was one drawback tho’- such a scenic route gave me time to think, and time to regret. It was only while walking up that I remembered the lions were probably asleep at this time of day. I was kicking myself, wasting a good lion visit on a time when they’d be asleep.
So we reached the enclosure and nothing to be seen. We saw an observers post above the middle of the enclosure, and headed roughly that way. No thoughts of volunteering as the next meal were going to deter us.
I resorted to peeking surreptitiously through every fence I could. Then we walked further round the back of a building, and suddenly there was only the glass separating us.
Me and four massive beasts. Oh… and two more even more massive beasts! Hey, wait a minute, those four slumbering so peacefully down there must be the cubs. Oh, ok then…
It goes without saying that a lot of time passed while I was busy glueing my face to the lions den. Slightly more noteworthy is the unravelling incidents that we got to witness.
One of the cubs – let’s call him Trouble – wasn’t actually asleep. He was peacefully flattening his paw-feathers over and over looking for all the world as if he could happily sit there forever licking, and licking, and licking.
But it was all a deception. He was beginning to be fed up. “Wake up, Sleepy Head” he licked her nose. (Because I’m being biased 😛 and not-very-educatedly-guessing which were boys and which were girls.) Sleepy Head was still miles away.
Lick paw, lick paw.
“Hey, Sleepy Head! I’m warning you. I may begin to get impatient with you now.”
*Sleepy Head clicks the snooze button*
Lick paw. *delayed reaction* “Hey, Sleepy Head. That’s it now, I’ve had enough!” *Deposits whole glass-ful of saliva over Sleepy Heads nose*
Sleepy Head stirs. “Look, Trouble, I’ve batted you in the eye once already. Haven’t you got the message? I’m still asleep.”
“No you’re not, I just woke you up. And I can friendly-tap you back, too.”
Sleepy Head still had Chancer nuzzled against her side. The jostling went unnoticed in Chancers’s world.
Trouble was getting bored of this too. Sleepy Head was still too dozy to take his humour seriously. And he must have been still a little dozy himself, as his concentration-span wasn’t up to par. Suddenly he forgot he’d been prodding Sleepy Head and turned to Goody instead. Then he remembered Sleepy Head, and gave a warning couple-of-pats. And another for good measure.
Goody obligingly got up after only a nudge or two. He seemed familiar with and resigned to this old game, and happily turned to face his opponent.
Teeth became visible. Well, bits of teeth, with bits of fur interspersed, depending on exactly what kind of grip was occuring at any given moment. It was all strangely serene. No sudden jerks as someone decided the last nip was crossing a boundary. Just round and round as first one then the other seemed to “take their turn” being top cat.
Now that the heat was off, Sleepy Head decided all by herself that it was time to get up. None of this getting-dictated-to business! But Chancer wasn’t going to get a choice now – one authoritative prod from Sleepy Head, and he was up, extending one back leg at a suitably cat-like angle, thereby achieving perfect stretchedness.
Ah, but there’s a game going on here. Sleepy Head and Chancer duly sat back down like two good Sphinx.
The ‘game’ began to suffer from observers phenomenon. Now that the boys were being watched by the girls, the purpose of the game changed. Now the main aim was obviously who could score the most showing-off points.
Little Chancer was clever. She spotted this change in game-tactics immediately, and took full advantage of the situation. Knowing the boys wouldn’t notice her absence – they were too self-absorbed in showing off – she slipped round the back to look for the bone.
“Oh, there it is! Right underneath Goody. If I just tug here… oh, no, he’s still sitting on it. Move out the way will you?”
“No of course not! Can you not see I’m busy.”
“Aha, perfect! That did it. I’ll just get out the way now, and sit down to have a nibble.”
Chancer may as well have been invisible.
But the game was still meant to be the centre of everyone’s attention.
Then that was boring too.
Well, either it was boring, or Trouble had got too much fur in his mouth, ‘cos he then wandered off for a drink.
And it became time for me to wander off too. I would have stayed longer, but I didn’t think it was fair to deprive Sarah of her other animals any longer. She’d been great in not complaining, so I was duty-bound to be properly polite this time 😉