Chester Zoo – Day Three…

Right away I felt that the layout of Chester Zoo was better than that of Alton Towers. The routes were marked out and signposted in a simple to read fashion, and the map wasn’t just a confused mess of pictures. Sure, it’s a zoo, so we’re maybe talking apples and oranges, but still…

We saw a lot of animals today, from the obvious attractions such as elephants and giraffes to the less common sights like a Tree Kangaroo and painted dogs. There were several talks and lots of information points (as you would expect, really) so there was no shortage of knowledge for those with a thirst for it.

Elephants are The Girlfriend’s© favourite animal so we spent a lot of time with them. Chester Zoo only has Asian Elephants as they are more endangered than their African cousins.

We managed to get very close to the giraffes which was fun because they are often creatures you only get to see from a distance.

There were a number of walk-through areas – butterflies, orang-utans, bats – where the temperature was turned up to the max to accommodate the residents. The bats were especially good because the room was pitch black and they were just flying around at their leisure, because we were in their space. I enjoyed it but I think The Girlfriend© would rather have ridden Oblivion at Alton Towers.

There was a ten minute lazy boat ride around several of the enclosures. There wasn’t much to see during the journey, but it was a nice change of pace and a chance to sit down.

The big cats were disappointing – the lions were asleep on the grass, the Sumatran Tiger was barely visible in the reeds, and we never did catch sight of either the jaguar or the cheetah. But I understand that is simply the nature of a zoo – five minutes either side may have been an entirely different experience – so I won’t fault them for that.

I enjoyed the chimpanzees and the rhinos, and of course who doesn’t smile at the meerkat?

There were also animatronic dinosaurs on show as part of a three month focus on prehistoric predators which was good to see as I have fond memories of my dinosaur love from my childhood.

All in all, a very good day. I have not been to many zoos, but this is up there as highly recommended. I appreciate that zoos can be quite a combative topic as some people feel the animals should be out in the wild, running free. And I happen to agree: they should be. But until we stop killing them for sport or decoration, zoos are helping to preserve these creatures for as long as possible.


Alton Towers – Day Two…

I have never been to Alton Towers, so my primary point of reference for large theme parks is Orlando. It’s not a bad place to start, but hoping things will be like they are in Florida can certainly skew an experience.

We started on the Congo River Rapids, which is a fairly standard raft ride. It’s tame and will only get you wet if you decide to jump in the water (which is not advised).

From there we went on the Runaway Mine Train – a family friendly coaster, which actually feels a bit sharper and quicker than I had expected. Typical, yes, but at least it had some zip to it.

Duel was next, which is a haunted house dark ride where you can shoot the ghosts and ghoulies with your laser gun… or just do what I did and just sit back and enjoy the effects and everyone else reacting to the jump scares.

We took the Sky Ride across the park and although not a ride, as such, it did afford us some spectacular views of the countryside. It’s a great way to see the park… and really the only way to get across it quickly.

We had paid an additional charge to go through the Alton Towers Dungeon – a new attraction for 2019. It’s a very lengthy presentation (perhaps 45 minutes) which includes a brief dark ride on a boat and about five short segments of audience participation with performers, ranging from a torturer describing how he uses his tools to a wench behind a bar warning us of the arrival of Dick Turpin. I liked it. It’s a little slow, but with the right crowd I think it would be a lot of fun.

Galactica is a flying coaster with several inversions that makes you feel like Superman. It’s an odd feeling, going head first into a loop, but certainly one worth waiting for.

Rita launches you from 0-60 in 2.5 seconds, and that is not just an empty tag line. You pull away so fast that I was concerned we weren’t going to hold for the first bend. Great experience.

Oblivion is the ride that Alton Towers is still famed for. It was the first vertical drop coaster in the world… but that’s all it is. There’s nothing else to it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a frightening experience and I screamed like a little girl on the way down, but that is me in the picture… third from the right, second row.

Make no mistake about it: Alton Towers is a large park, but I definitely feel the rides and activities could be organised in a more guest-friendly manner. It often feels as though you have to walk for twenty minutes just to reach your next ride, and then when you’re done you have no option but to turn around and go back the way you came. The layout needs to be rethought, or at the very least, they need a train that circles the park, picking up and dropping off people at various areas. Having said that, I certainly got my steps in.

So it was a good day, but there were several rides we missed altogether because the park is so goddamn big. With some better planning (from us and the park designers) it could have been a great one.

Tattenhall Travels – Day One…

We left home about 9.30am, with the journey all mapped out ahead of us: lunch stop, pee stops, and stretching-of-legs stops. It was a seven hour trip so we were never going to be able to account for all eventualities, but apart from a motorway accident involving three cars and a pig… we managed to make good time.

The Girlfriend© drives as well, which makes travelling so much simpler, because we just swapped seats every couple of hours. It helps to alleviate the required concentration of being behind the wheel, and also keeps the tiredness at bay.

The caravan was The Girlfriend’s© idea, and so far it’s turned out to be a good one, but I probably would never have thought of it. Maybe I’m too used to my first world comforts because I would have had us booked into a hotel or – at the very least – an overpriced guest house.

I have only stayed in a caravan once, and that was well over thirty years ago. Things have certainly changed since then. This one has separate bedrooms, a gas oven, and even a couple of plumbed-in toilets. There’s wi-fi as well, but that’s one modern convenience I could have lived without for a few days.

Still, I’m able to upload this from the middle of a field in central England because of it, so there is that.

Life (Next Week) Is a Rollercoaster…

We’re leaving for our little English vacation on Sunday morning, and I can’t wait.

I’m looking forward to the excitement of fresh adventures and experiencing new places, but most of all I’m just happy to have a week away from work to relax and – to use that very modern American word – decompress.

Of course, rollercoasters and relaxation seems like a juxtaposition, but there’s something liberating about straddling that line where fear becomes a very real part of your pleasure.

It’s difficult to explain the feeling to anyone who’s never ridden the rails before, but once you pull down that lap bar or snap the harness down over your shoulders… that’s it. For the next couple of minutes, your enjoyment is in someone else’s hands, and you know what? Letting yourself go – giving control to another person – feels good.

Maybe I’m a submissive after all.

What I’ve Done This Week #26…

I got it into my head these last few days that I really should back up my stories on a disc, because if my laptop takes a swan dive I will have lost most of what I’ve done over the last quarter of a century. And that… well, let’s not think about it.

Sure, I have some of them printed out, and most of them are sitting in a folder in my Hotmail account, but most is not good enough. I wanted everything all together. I don’t want anything to be lost because I was too lazy to do anything about it.

After having an extremely hard time with blank discs that my laptop struggled to read, I zipped it all and sent myself an email. I also uploaded everything to one of those clouds for extra insurance.

Every draft of every short story. The novel, in all its iterations. The poetry. All the stuff in progress.

Quite simply, it’s everything I have: my life’s work packed up in about ten megabytes.

That’s a scary thought.

Employed, But Looking…

At the moment, I don’t have much of a social media presence at all, so I’m not about to become one of those idiots who wax endlessly on their timelines about how shit their job is and then wonder how on earth their boss found out about it, but suffice to say…

I need a new one.

I am off every weekend, so that’s a tick in the pro column, but on the other hand I’m up at 4am Monday to Friday, so that’s a big fat con.

I’ve been doing it for over a year now, but contrary to my expectations, you never really get used to waking up in the middle of the night. I’m fine when I’m working, but the moment I get home I’m fighting sleep until bedtime… which is another thing: I simply can’t go to bed early enough to set me up for the next day. I mean, I could, but kids are still outside playing at that time. I probably average 5 hours of sleep a night, which may not sound like much of a sacrifice but believe me, it catches up to you.

So, I need to find something with hours that are easier to manage, and something that gives me options in the evening.

Watch this space.

What I’ve Done This Week #25…

Rico is drunk more often than he isn’t, and he usually clutches a half-bottle of cheap supermarket vodka to his chest like he is nursing a child. It’s one of those brands that is more petrol than alcohol. Occasionally, when he thinks nobody is watching, he will take a swig. Like anyone really gives a shit. Charlie lets him ride for free as long as he keeps his slurred and salacious comments to himself which – to his credit and my surprise – he usually does.

That’s near the beginning of Flowers For Someone Else, and I probably won’t be changing it. I like it. It’s got a sustainable rhythm, although I’m not even sure what I mean by that. Sometimes, the magic of writing is in how it sounds: how it feels when you read it back. You can’t point it out, and you can’t pin it down. It’s just… right.

Yeah, I know. It all sounds like self-congratulatory bullshit. And to some degree it probably is, because writing can be a very lonely and insulated endeavour. You may go for long stretches when you are the only one who will be saying nice things about your words, so patting yourself on the back from time to time for a job well done is no bad thing.

The story isn’t finished yet, but it’s getting there. And when it’s done, it’s gonna be good.