Two senior ladies, mother and daughter as it happens, are sat in Costa Café wondering why so-called small coffees have arrived in soup tureens.
Older senior lady: there’s absolutely nothing to recommend getting old.
Younger senior lady: well you don’t have all that monthly business and you can’t get pregnant.
Older senior lady: well there’s no sex so it doesn’t make a difference.
Younger senior lady: shall we go and see the penguins then?
There is, after all, something to recommend being aged – you can get into Longleat much cheaper than you could if you were under sixty. And we are here specifically to visit Penguin Island. My mum likes penguins and donkeys so this is a good read for her.
It’s the inaugural day for Penguin Island – the penguins spent last night in their new home acclimatising. Now, they’re standing in a bewildered line staring at their first ever visitors who, in turn, are staring back. The website advert says we’ll be thrilled to see the penguins swimming under our feet through the glass-covered tunnels that lead to the other tank. Because it’s their first day in a new job, the penguins don’t know that the glass-covered tunnels lead anywhere, let alone that they’re supposed to thrill the audience by swimming through them. They’re still staring, mesmerised possibly by the womb music and the disco lighting. It’s nice though. They’re not stressed and neither are we so their probationary appraisal should go well.
On to the second attraction opening today – Stingray Bay. The good thing about coming here in a heat-wave is that hardly anyone else has bothered to make the effort: no crowds and we get to lean over the water and touch these lovely animals (fish?)
I’m not going to give a full account of everything else we did except to say we did do everything else at a pleasing pace: river cruise, jungle train, house, safari park – you name it, we were there. Except for the maze: too hot to get lost in there without supplies. What a treat to be out with my mum with her penguin pick-up stick; doesn’t pick up things very well but then she only bought it to peck at my dad’s nose.
But for something completely different – why not have a daughter who goes on one of those find-your-lost-family-websites? And when you’ve found all the lost family, why not invite them round for the afternoon? So we did. The day after Longleat. Just in case we weren’t tired enough.
No photos here so we can protect the innocent. The problem is identifying the innocent. Obviously all those present are innocent… not their fault they’re related to the guilty. Not their fault that they’re all struggling to remember or explain how they came to be related. Or whether Charlie, who died from the direct hit of a bomb whilst sat in a chair was the same Charlie who’s recorded as being found dead in the street. Or whether said chair was in the same room as his latest trick and child were cowering under a nearby table. And who were they anyway? Must have survived or how would we have known Charlie was in the chair in the first place?
Could this be THE chair? Probably not.
Younger senior lady, who has had a very morally strict upbringing, is somewhat taken aback to learn that everyone was doing it with everyone else, that no-one seems to have been married, or if they were – not to the right people – and can’t understand all the double standards, conflict, compromise and adjustments. Younger senior lady has spoken to several folk at work and discovered that no-one’s grandparents seem to have been married. As for the great-grandparents, well, what a shower. Baby Boomers and children of the sixties, we thought we were the brave new things who invented sex and freedom. Actually, without exception, we were governed by idealistic principles that bear no relation to the reality of our ancestors’ behaviour. We cowered in the invented fear, disgrace and embarrassment imposed by the last generation but one.
Younger senior lady: you can’t get pregnant
Older senior lady: you can’t have sex.