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Simple pleasures

June 18, 2013

The simplest pleasures really are the best … particularly those involving friendship, children, animals, swings, a climbing frame that looks like a fire truck and a bit of sunshine.

Yes … the playgroup trip to the truly wonderful Shepreth Wildlife Park was an outrageous success and I haven’t stopped feeling happy on the inside about it since.

We arrived (early – for a change) and sat anxiously in the car park me pondering how much lipstick was appropriate for an outing with Mummy’s and babies (yes I dressed up: make up, best top, made effort to dry hair properly to curl and not frizz) and then another mother arrived and she checked her lipstick and got out of her car all dressed up too, which was a relief! Everyone else arrived slowly and the train pulled in and a phalanx of pushchairs was pushed up the gravel drive towards us …

We all stood excitedly (not just me!), small persons noshing on breadsticks, and had a security briefing about not allowing afore mentioned small persons to put their sticks with ‘orses ‘eds ‘andles into the tigers ear and not to try and pull the porcupine’s quills and so on and then in we went …

Playgroup outing ready for adventure

Playgroup outing ready for adventure

Great excitement from Hope and boyfriend Alfie at the sight of a ‘Common Buzzard’ who actually looked quite a classy bird to me but that was nothing compared to the wonder on their little faces when they stood and gazed through the glass at the two armadillos. I don’t recall ever seeing one awake before, and here were two little armour plated people hurtling up and down their pen (clearly flouting the don’t run in the Wildlife Park rule). They moved so fast and all the while their little noses quivered; it was fabulous. Hope was so excited she spontaneously applauded them and Alfie was so overwhelmed he had to have a sit down and leant forward on the glass marvelling at the speed they went. We weren’t as excited by the crocodile, although Hope did say it and then started singing, “row row row” (to my delight … from the song about going down the stream and if you see a crocodile don’t forget to scream) but we were all quite taken with the huge lizards and the tiny bouncy marmosets (the latter elicited another round of applause and several “wows” from my excitable daughter (or was that from me? No, it was from her but then I said “wow” because I was so excited by her excitement and I clapped her clapping … see, it’s a cycle!!!).

We meandered through BunnyLand which reminded me of a Monty Python film with huge huge flop eared rabbits, and then went through the bat cave and again Hope applauded and got the giggles when the huge fruit bats flew around us (unlike Alfie’s mother who was not so excited at the proximity to our flapping friends).

We then saw the tigers, enormous and wonderful with vast  paws. Hope and her other friend Lydia said, “cat” and Hope growled at the tiger which didn’t appear to phase it. She had a small paddy as she couldn’t get in and play with the otters and waved joyfully at the wolves and then we found the children’s play area and sat and had our picnics.

Waiting for the armadillo

Waiting for the armadillo to run back

When I say picnic I make a box of ham and cheese sound exciting … it was a bit like a Mr Bean picnic really as I had lots of individual items which had to be turned into sandwiches but we got there in the end and had a fine if eclectic spread.

The afternoon was spent with the mothers of Lydia and Tim … I didn’t know either of them very well before we got there but I so enjoyed spending time with them … Hope had a snooze after enjoying her first MiniMilk ice cream (big treat) and we happy indulgent mothers sat in the sunshine by the tiger cage wondering at their presence and eating two (count them)… two ice creams each!! The children had a lovely time clambering on a large toy wooden climbing frame kind of fire engine thing (Hope standing back a little as the other two knew each other but somehow she still managed to get the grimiest and look like the ringleader!) and playing on swings and riding on wooden tigers and the day ended with a lovely interlude with some very cheery prairie dogs. We came home so happy and Hope has never had grubbier tights .. all her adventuring on the fire truck … a wash well earned!

I never ever dreamt I’d be a playgroup kind of a person … you don’t get to nearly 50 without thinking you know yourself … how wrong I was … playgroup has been one of the highlights of the last year and I think the Wildlife park visit, perfect in its casual simplicity, really was the highlight of all the playgroup experiences. I so fell on my feet when I found that particular group, they  have offered support on so many levels and prayers and love when needed and even a second hand snow suit for Hope when it was a bit parky out a few months back … I feel as if it’s given me women somehow. I know that sounds odd and I can’t really articulate it but I so value the friendships I’ve made there and have such vast respect for the wide array of women I’ve met, from the poet comedian with 3 children to the teacher with one to the young beautiful lawyer pondering whether or not to go back to work to the hairdresser who infuses everyone with warmth and the artist who always looks flawless in a gloriously arty way and to Hazel’s mother who has become a valued friend and support in looking after Hope. My age doesn’t come into the equation, the mothers I spent the afternoon with were literally 20 and 10 years younger than me respectively, they get tired, they stress over bills, over work and over lack of spare time, we’re all mothers together and that’s all we see of each other, somehow it’s very liberating.

“Such fun” as Miranda would say… and if you’ve never seen an armadillo nor a marmoset, then stop what you are doing and head to the nearest wildlife park and look out … when you see them you’ll spontaneously applaud just as Hope did.

Leader of the pack

The exuberant, tired and very grubby would be leader of the pack at the end of a very happy day

post script

oh oh oh AND she can now say “yellow” … which she does often while she is sitting colouring things in or just looking out of the window, her hands clasped infront of her and a far away look on her face… and she is delighted with herself that she can also ask for her milky … she grins gleefully and pats me on the chest and says, “mulk” in a very decisive way and then when the first course is finished she says, “more mulk” and pats me on the other side of the chest …AND since the playgroup outing she can now also say “tiger” and growl … we’re working on armadillo.

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