Last Sunday, we were hailed on while waiting for an owl display. Now, read that last sentence again, and you won’t have to read any of my other Distracted Dad columns (all three years of them), because that sentence pretty well sums up the tone the whole way through.
We had gone to the British Wildlife Centre, in Lingfield. The other key event was learning that the otter is considered one of the top ten intelligent creatures on earth. I haven’t actually checked that fact, but it’s a killer line, so let’s run with it.
The staff were knowledgeable, enthusiastic and relaxed. I love our trips to farms and zoos and fascinated by the details that demonstrate evolution. I hadn’t known that urban foxes have evolved narrower snouts to better access discarded tin cans. Successive generations accumulating small improvements.
It was a successful day with a winning combination of drawing, animals, and ice cream. It only hailed once. We started by getting two tiny pads from the gift shop (The Boy chose one with a badger cover, Youngest™ a deer). They are both very much into drawing at the moment. The Boy comes nearest to the observational drawing percentage rule of 80 per cent looking and 20 per cent actual drawing. Youngest™ is more 80 per cent scribbling, 10 per cent showing me what he’s just drawn, five per cent looking, and five per cent imitating the sound of what he was drawing. I imagine Stubbs was the same.
I say imitating, he did a good cock-a-doodle-doo, but I noticed that he had a different relationship to each animal. The otter he said “hello” to, he must have taken on board that old ten most intelligent creatures line and thought he’d strike up a dialogue. But the fox he treated quite strictly, standing by their enclosure and shouting simply, “Fox!” in a stern manner. I’m not sure a fox is the right creature to be authoritarian with. Then again, what do I know? I’m probably not in the list of top ten intelligent creatures.
So what else did we see? Deer, an adder, a badger, and a red squirrel, who skipped between The Boy and Youngest™ while they were engrossed in their pads. Oh and we saw some owls just before we got hailed on.
Having exited through the gift shop, the weather continued persisting down as we walked to the car. Then I realised – perhaps in a nod to evolution – that Youngest™ had accumulated his own small improvement in the form of a dinosaur gripped in his little fist. We took it back to the shop. Perhaps I should have spotted it earlier; perhaps I’m not intelligent enough.
I bet that otter would have been on the case.