Return to the Zoo

Just shy of two weeks off a year ago we visited Chester Zoo. This week we were back again. Dani almost a year older and ever so slightly wiser. This time we went with his nana and younger cousin Stan. How would the two youngsters get on?


Stan and the boys’ nana have annual zoo passes – which were Christmas presents. So they have already been to the zoo several times this year. If we lived near enough it would be a great thing to buy. Visit as many times as you want in a year. Just pop in for a late afternoon just to visit a few of the animals? No problem. Turn up one morning for feeding time with the penguins? Easy! You only need to make a few visits and the pass pays for itself. Anyway, enough of the free advertising…

Call that a MAP ?

Of course the zoo is as great as we remembered it from last year but I do have one big gripe. The so called ‘map’ they give you has to be the worst I have ever seen. Totally confusing in places. Add to that the fact that the main stars of the show  are not always well sign-posted it is actually easy to go the wrong way. Not a problem when the weather is fine you might think. Also the zoo is really not that huge. But when you have two young primates jogging along between animal attractions, going a hundred yards out of your way a few times can start to add up. Now I am not saying this because I could not always figure it out. Everybody I spoke to about it said the same thing. How can (arguably) the best zoo in the country and one of the top such venues on the planet have such a crappy map? Beats me. Come on Chester Zoo. Please sort this out eh…

In search of Painted Dogs.

OK. Off the soap box and back onto the map reading… It was Dani’s mission to see the painted dogs this time. They had escaped us last year so this time we were both determined to see them. Meanwhile they were also on Stan’s list. Painted dogs, crocodiles and hyenas in fact. I had to explain to him that there are no hyenas at this zoo. I also couldn’t remember whether there were any crocodiles although I thought so. He kept repeating that he wanted to see the crocodiles. I would have to find them.

We found the painted dogs so a photo was needed. Getting two small boys to keep still for a photo is hard enough. The dogs obliged way in the background but the photo is still very poor. But not as poor as the map of the zoo. Did I mention how bad the map is?

Almost Everything. Including the Crocodiles…

An almost useless map never stopped us seeing just about every animal there was to see. At least those that graced us with their presence. The only animal we tried and failed to see was the Sumatran tiger. There’s always next time. We even found the crocodiles. They were the small Caiman type rather than the large man eating beasts you may find in the swampy Australian outback. It wasn’t their size that bothered little Stan however. It was their lack of movement. Ah well you can’t win them all…

The crocodiles lived in the ‘Tropical Realm’ building which also housed a fair number of tiny colourful – and lethal – frogs. For me they were as interesting as any of the other creatures at the zoo.

 Even the Extinct

This year there was a new feature. The Predators area. Basically no animals to be seen only models of extinct dinosaurs and similar Jurassic Park-like attractions. Very odd I thought that this section was so popular when it really belongs in a theme park rather than a real zoo with live animals. Naturally the youngsters like it. Dani was no exception. And it was OK – I suppose.

Even more bizarre was the fact that in the dinosaur area there was actually one glassed off enclosure which is supposedly home to Komodo dragons. Real life, large lizards. I looked for them. On the way in and on the way out. But I never spotted them. Amazingly nobody else seemed to even bother looking. They were only there for the models of the extinct.

Dani with one of the extinct models
No live tiger but we did spot this Sabre Toothed version

Giraffes and Chimps

While it is usually best to see the animals wandering around outside their ‘houses’ it can also be great to get right up close to some of the bigger animals. None more so than the giraffes. We were lucky enough to catch them at feeding time – indoors.

We also managed to see the boys’ close cousins wandering around outside. The chimps are always one of the most popular. For a reason.

Dani with some close relatives in the background

Finally. I have to ask again…

How can an establishment that is ranked so highly on the “zoo scale” (let’s call it) have such a crap map? It doesn’t add up. I can’t get my head around it. Enough…


Flying Semi Economy?

This one will definitely be filed under ‘Grumpy Old Dad’. I thought about it for a few days and cannot see how this one doesn’t fit the bill. That said, I am sure many you will agree with me. This topic is a problem. This could equally qualify under the heading ‘Angry Old Dad’.

Flying to UK 

It is that time of year again. Dani and myself have flown over to the UK so he can visit his family there. It all started well with an on time flight. We boarded. Dani sat in the window seat I had the middle seat. Then our row sharing passenger boarded. Some enormous fat bloke. Really. Far too big for one seat. He sat down next to me and I immediately had to lean towards Dani. This man was far too big for a single budget airline seat whose space is already limited. While most men my age are struggling to keep their midriffs in the 30s (inches that is) this fat man must have been over 100 inches in circumference.

It’s just not on….

This is not the first time. It has happened before and I have seen other unfortunate, normal sized passengers suffering the same space invasion. And there is no need nor excuse for it. Why don’t airlines insist on them buying a pair of seats so that they can spill into their own (paid for) space only?

I paid for two seats and got one and a half. This fat f***er paid for one and got the same. How is that fair? Instead of me leaning into Dani’s space you might expect such people to be the one to make the move. I would have been within my rights to say “Hey fat man. It’s your lard arse spilling out of your allotted space. Why the hell am I leaning out of the way?  You lean over (into the aisle) for most of the flight.” But I didn’t. I suffered in silence as people tend to do. But this will not be the end of it. I intend to make a formal complaint to the airline.

New Seat Class

So: Should there now be a new class of airline seating? The bigger airlines offer first and business class seating- both usually too expensive for most people. Many also offer something a little more affordable – usually called something like ‘premium economy’ or ‘economy plus’. I propose that these budget airlines offer a new service/seating Semi Economy or  Economy Minus ! You pay less but only get half the seating space. Why not? They are already selling limited space seats at full price for crying out loud!

Then when you arrive…

I have been using the relatively efficient Gatwick airport for months. For this trip we returned to the UK landing at the much smaller Liverpool airport. That disastrous combination that is Liverpool airport and the (ironically named) “UK border force” produced the predictable results of long, slow queues. The miserable and useless “border force”  dossers are the first impression many people get of the country when they arrive at the airport. It’s a real embarrassment.

Final thought…

Despite the seating situation  I actually ended up watching the ‘Shaun the Sheep’ movie with Dani. So in the end I probably would have spent most of the flight leaning over into my son’s space. But that’s not the point. Is it?

Am I over-reacting or do you agree? Has something like this happen to you? Please let me know.