Just turn round

Sometimes it’s worth taking the time to turn round and see what’s behind you.

A few years back I was driving back home late at night. As a I was feeling tired I pulled over on a country lane and looked south at the beautiful starlight view. Feeling happy with myself I got back into the car. The next day the local news was full of videos of that nights stunning Northern Lights show. If I had just turned round I just might have seen one of the natural worlds greatest sights. Its a big deal here as we rarely get to see them. I still haven’t seen them. Just turn round…

Today I spent two hours ransacking the work base for one box. Not a sign of it. Then I turned round. Yep suddenly it was right in front of me. If only I had turned round sooner. With the box in hand I set off back home. If I had turned round as I left the office I would have seen my wallet and house keys on the desk. I then would have not got virtually back home before I realised that I had to turn round and go back to work.

I remember a Saturday afternoon visiting my partners bedside in the hospice. When I left the room something inside of me told me to turn round and spend some more time with her. I decided to go and pick my son up from relatives. I often think that I should have turned round as she died just a few hours later. Other times I think I probably made the right call. Son needed me. That’s probably an excusable failure to turn round.

Doncaster Wildlife Park is our zoo of choice. It’s a new park so the animals seem to be given space. It’s normally a good sign that due to the space and quality of the habitat that there is no guarantee that you will see all the animals. Some places (often the older sites) you visit are deeply depressing. Here it often doesn’t feel like a zoo as you walk round it. That’s probably why son likes it so much. Space for the animals, space for the humans.

The Wildlife Park also has a claim to fame. It’s the only place I have ever seen a snake in the wild. It was on a path at the edge of the Park – chomping on an unfortunate frog.

The irony. In my whole life the only snake I’ve seen in the wild was in a zoo which doesn’t have any snakes.

The Wildlife Park has one often overlooked attraction. As the visitors stand and look for the tigers a few people turn round. They look in the opposite direction. Across to the wetlands. It’s a stunning view. Yet so many miss it. What a waste.

Sometimes just turn round.

New New Year Tradition

We brought in the New Year by watching End Game.

Dad got to end the decade with the highest grossing movie. Wonder what movie will be watched in 10 years time. Please don’t let it be Avatar 2.

The movie was paused at midnight so we could see how many fireworks were let off in the distance. Living on a hill we often get a wide range of free displays to view. In the end a few but not as many as usual. Then it was time to go back into the house. As a kid this was a big deal. LETTING IN THE NEW YEAR. The youngest in the house would be thrown out of the house a few minutes before midnight. Thrown at without a coat regardless of the weather. Bit of a bugger when I was always the youngest. My job would be to stand outside and basically freeze my nuts off. Then at midnight I would be allowed back in carrying a piece of coke (coal) and a new coin. I would then have to go round every room in the house wishing happy new year. I always found the tradition thoroughly cold and most definitely bizarre.

A couple of hours before this midnight our son had asked about traditions. When he heard about our old bizarre ritual he decided to start his own.

Dad let’s restart your old family one.

Ok I’ve got some coins but I definitely don’t have any coal. Suppose we can see what stones we can find in the garden. Probably got some black paint somewhere,”

No Dad got a better idea. Much simpler and definitely more tasty.

So a few hours later son welcomed in the new year. Visiting each room carrying one pound coin and a bottle of Coca-cola. A New coke tradition started.

After a couple of hours sleep it was then an early drive to the Zoo. We have done this for the last four January 1sts. One of the first traditions started after his mum died.

Arrive when the zoo opens and try to get round before the crowds start to arrive. Basically we need to be back in the car by no later than midday.

Some traditions never die out. Dad being a plonker.

“Son looking at the map the zoo has a bug zone. Not seen that before.”

Dad the zoo doesn’t have any spiders or bugs.

The map says bug zone. So which bug do you hope they have”

Well I wouldn’t mind seeing a Tarantula. Maybe a Goliath Birdeater. Bullet Ants. A Tarantula Hawk would be cool. Quite excited now.

“It’s just round this corner”

Dad you complete muppet.

“Erm. Not quite what I expected but you don’t see many 4ft ladybirds……”

Switzerland and the Zoos

It’s Sunday and it’s time for another dose of Switzerland. With reflection maybe this should have been moved either to Monday or Friday.

When your an Aspergers parent(s) you get used to repetition and routine. Holidays are often no different. When we were fortunate to go to Switzerland we afforded ourselves a couple of days to explore but we had to factor in certain routines.

  • Sunday would be a boat trip to Interlaken. Here son would go into a gift shop which sold the full range of Schleich Toy Animals. Son would browse the range while his mum looked at all the amazing Swiss Cuckoo Clocks. Strangely we left with a couple of new animals but sadly no clock.

  • Monday would be a train trip to Zurich and a visit to it’s large Zoo
  • Friday was the last day of the holiday and we would have a visit to the small local zoo in Bern.

Before we get onto some zoo animals I have had a few people ask me to publish a photo of my Clooney like looks. For the ones who have asked HERE I AM swimming…

The two zoos are so different. The one in Bern is small and always seems very quiet. So so relaxing for someone with Aspergers.

Bern Zoo doesn’t have a huge range of animals but the animals facilities are modern. You get the real impression that the animals are really well looked after here.

Very unusually part of the zoo can be accessed without having to pay. What a brilliant idea.

It also has the most wonderful little adventure park for kids. It’s one of the few which our son was comfortable playing on.

Zurich Zoo is so much larger. It has over 4000 animals.

This zoo seems to focus on trying to give the animals the closest natural habit possible. The animals are being moved from cages to spaces. The elephants have a huge new indoor shelter and a purpose developed habitat outside.

It has a massive indoor tropical rain forest where you can walk about and also climb into the trees. The animals are free to roam in the trees and undergrowth. Maybe it’s coming from Yorkshire but I came out looking like I had just run several marathons.

Zoos can often leave you cold. Feeling sorry for the animals. You don’t get that feeling at these two zoos. This is how zoos should be.

The animals in Switzerland were so good for our son I will certainly revisit this again on this blog.

And finally if one image from all the zoo trips always brings a smile – it’s the one below. First of all I didn’t realise Giant Tortoises could move so quick. It certainly surprised our 6 year old.

Mum what are they doing?

“Ask your Dad”

Dad

No idea son. Maybe it’s some form of wrestling….

Hot

It’s hot. Yes I’ve said it now. Yes Yorkshire is hot. When I say hot I mean hot for Yorkshire which probably means it’s probably two jumper weather in Arizona.

A grand day for a trip to the zoo.

Clearly the zoo animals had the right idea. Stay in the shade and watch the silly humans walk round in the blazing sun.

Dad can I have a slush.

What a grand idea. Unfortunately the kiosk informed us that they had just switched the slush machine on and if we came back in a couple of hours they should be available. It was a similar story with the ice cream machine. So we purchased from the limited available snack range. Sat in the hot sun with two cider lollies and a bag of just fried hot donuts.

Dad it’s a good job your a professional athlete or you would be getting a Dads Belly.

Clearly a kid with Aspergers don’t have a sense of humour. Come on Hollywood get your facts right.

Dad it’s getting too busy.

And with that we left. But the zoo gave us one last memory. As we were walking out of the main door a delivery driver had arrived and asked a parking supervisor where he was supposed to drop off. He was told “Through those gates. Just unbolt the lock and drive into the compound. Just make sure you lock the gate immediately”. The delivery driver in a slightly alarmed voice asked “Are you sure”.

Visions of Jurassic Park and a driver about to come face to face with a suitably pissed off carnivore came to mind. Clearly the driver had similar thoughts as he made sure he round his van window up before he ventured any further.

Pepper

Today was a trip to the Zoo. Cold and a bit damp but so worth it. Helps take son’s thoughts away from school. Animals never fail to deliver. Need to make him smile.

We bought a heavily discounted season pass last year. Unbeknown to a certain Dad the pass expired last night. So the trip was significantly more expensive than expected. As we go every couple of months the pass is worth it. Not often can you say that about the stuff you end up forking out for.

Son challenged me to the usual ‘who can spot the Painted Dog first competition’. As ever Dad lost. So what was the forfeit. In the cafe I was to buy a coffee. I could enjoy half the cup THEN….

It was seasoned with pepper. Plenty of pepper.

Strangely the Peppered Coffee was not the worst thing I’ve tasted this year. I can think of a few horrible tasting Jelly Beans which take that particular award. However I suspect Peppered Coffee isn’t going to feature too heavily on the Starbucks menu.

It certainly cleared my blocked nose.

Tonight we had a lovely dog walk. Enjoying an other world type sunset – all with an underlying peppery undertone.

Bern

Bern is Switzerland’s de facto capital. It’s the location for the country’s Federal Government – it is really the country’s Federal City. It is built around the River Aare. It is relatively small and extremely beautiful.

Bern’s famous Clock Tower provides an elaborate mechanical show every hour. Medieval figures and bears intricately dance and weave. This Tower provided the inspiration for the young Einstein to start his journey on the way to understanding time, space and light.

We visited Bern so many times. Strangely it never once rained. Coming from Yorkshire that is mind boggling. The city has a wonderful small Zoo and a Bear Park (thankfully now upgraded). With our son’s Aspergers we would precisely follow the same itinerary on each visit.

  • Arrive by Train
  • Zoo
  • Bear Park
  • Sausages and Fries over looking the river
  • Clock Tower
  • Ice cream
  • Back on the Train

One memory sticks and it really sums up Switzerland. On our very first visit we arrived by train and had absolutely no idea how to get to the Zoo. Clearly lost we asked a random person if they had any idea where we would find the Tourist Information. The really friendly Swiss chap asked (in perfect English) was there anywhere in particular we were trying to get to. He went into his bag gave us a pristine timetable and then explained the precise timings. Five minutes later the chap had walked with us to the Bus Stop and waited with us until the Tierpark Bus had arrived. So utterly Swiss….

Animals

Our son has a bond with animals. He feels so comfortable with them. As he says “they might occasionally want to eat you but they never ever try to judge you”. Our local zoo gives you the opportunity to interact with some of the animals. As long as we go early, before the crowds arrive, then he is in raptures. The looks we get as we leave just as most families are queuing up to get in.

Dad was brave on the photo above and managed to get close enough to take a picture. On encounters with snakes, tarantulas and reptiles you normally find Dad a respectful 100 yards away – with at least two walls between me and the stuff of my nightmares. A few weeks ago he got to handle a cotton snake, a bearded Chinese dragon and two tarantulas. He was just so happy. Strangely dad was hid behind a wall.

For all his confidence with these terrifying animals he does have a couple of beast fears. Strangely those two killer beasts I am really brave with and would happily stroke them. 🐄 Cows and 🐪 camels.