Sunday 12th August '01 - 21.06pm:
Anna turned up about twenty minutes late, but what Iím learning is that having kids can make you late for almost anything. For example, apparently this morning they had been all ready to leave, with the house locked up and both Felicity and Philip strapped into the back of the people carrier when Felicity decided that she wanted to take her Pokemons to the zoo, as they would (to quote Anna quoting Felicity) "Really enjoy it, I think." Anna told me that she knew she'd have to get the Pokemons or her daughter would be complaining about it all the way there, and all the way round the park - and her voice is quite grating really (Felicityís, not Annaís).
Anyway, they all bundled back into the house and the next thing Anna knows, she's ready to leave again, when she finds that Philip has turned their computer back on and is fully absorbed in a multi-player role-playing game with his friends in Switzerland (via the Internet). Anna was furious as she keeps telling him about all the time he's spending on the computer, and also about using the Internet before 6pm at night. She pulled the modem out, at which point Philip started whining that his screen had frozen. It seems chaotic their house, although when I did meet the children for the first time they appeared to be as good as gold.
I got in the people carrier and leaned over to the back seat to shake hands with Philip. His grip was rather weak, although he is only a ten year old, so he obviously was doing his best. I said that I hoped we were all going to be firm friends. I said hello to Felicity and for the next ten minutes she introduced me, in mind-blowing detail, to her Pokemon collection. I tried to be interested for Anna's sake, and at one point I caught her looking at me in the mirror and smiling, although she may just have been smiling because I had my new shorts/swimming trunks on (which really didn't go down as well as I'd hoped - though it was much cooler than my usual slacks).
The Butterfield Safari Park & Endangered Reptile Centre (to give it its full title) is about 40 minutes drive up the A6, past Bakewell. When we got there I offered to pay for us all, and to my surprise Anna gratefully accepted. After handing over my switch card to the tune of £35.99 for a "Family Adventure" pass we were given our tickets and we dutifully took our place in the queue, behind a couple of old people. I asked Philip what he was most looking forward to seeing, and he said, "The parakeets". He seems quite a well-brought up little lad. Felicity was just excited to be out with her mum (who she appears to dote on).
I had asked Anna how she was going to explain me coming with them to the kids and she said, "I've told them we're friends, but Philip obviously knows what is going on." I didn't feel she had to say "obviously" as at Philip's age I would've been more concerned with the many adventures of my eagle-eyed Action Man than knowing anything about my parents having a love life. But since they were married I suppose you just take it for granted that they're there. By the way, I've told Hetty about coming to see you tomorrow morning, sir. But why all the secrecy about what it's all about?
Disappointingly the monkey house was closed due to the monkeys being transferred to another park for a few weeks. It seems that there had been discontent among the monkey ranks, and once the zookeepers had weeded out the two ringleaders and sent them to another park, all the other monkeys showed solidarity and started beating on the perspex cage enclosure thing - which frightened elderly and nervous visitors alike (and disturbed a giant panda who lived next door). The net result is that the monkeys have all been reuinted - but in a different zoo, bizarrely. It just shows what you can do if you stick together, I guess. Felicity was disappointed and it didn't help when Philip started teasing her, and saying that she would have to stay in the monkey enclosure, and we were going to leave her there, seeing as how she was "a monkey, and a big baby too".
I asked Anna if I should take Philip off for a bit on our own. She said that I could and we wandered around the park for a bit talking about this and that. After a while he said, "Do you love my mum", and I was stuck for words really. I explained that we were only friends, but he said he knows we are "probably up to something". I said, "Well, what makes you think that?", and he said, "She's always talking about you in the kitchen, when she's cooking." I said, "Well this is only our second real date, Philip", at which point he said, "Yeah, well all I'm saying is don't hurt her, alright? That's a warning." I had to stifle a laugh, but he seemed upset and stormed off, and I stood there a bit confused. I had to jog over to him to catch up with him (I didn't think losing him in the zoo was an option really, not on a supposedly fun family day out anyway). When I got up to him I thought his eyes looked red and shiny as if he'd been crying. He denied it though. He looked away from me, although we walked on a bit more together. I didn't get a chance to tell Anna about this but I will do.
Anyway, after that we saw two magnificent African elephants. It was an awesome sight. One was prodding an old tyre with its trunk. When we met up with Anna I told her we'd had a good time (deliberately lying), and Philip seemed more or less his usual self. Felicity was eating candy floss and wanted to go and see the elephants too, so we went and saw them again. By this time my feet were killing me. I didn't know children could be so exhausting. I was so glad when Anna dropped me off. She said, "Call me, won't you?" and she has just texted me now - although I don't know what she's said because I haven't opened it yet.
Back to Home