Long leap [England is Evil 8]

I was going to say that our day trip to Longleat Safari Park was a bit of a flop, but that’s just the grumpiness poking out. A few years ago such an adventure would have been inconceivable or at least impossible once the double buggy went out of service. How I mourned the loss of the double buggy and it’s impossible to open safety straps, but heaving a five year old and a three year old around in the contraption became untenable. Freedom was the only way forward.

Freedom was a mixed blessing. I suspect that I stunted their ability to walk and navigate, but as one took flight and the other dropped in a heap I was at the bottom of another steep learning curve.

Thus we trundle around the park using our reluctant feet. It’s a classic scene from Dali as my children drape themselves over various fences and garbage cans. “Why dere are no fire hydrants for lying? England is evil,” he sighs. I yank the shoulder of my bra strap in the humidity. I wonder if I’ll find the time to buy additional garments in England as AAA is not available in the States. Mail order is silly when we’re already here, not so much battery powered and certainly not supercharged. British ones are so much more comfortable, free of wires and pads and other foul means of torture. I prefer a more natural line in any case, something that moves and breathes with you.

My youngest son is absorbed with pimples and pays no heed to the wide variety of exotic wildlife available for his entertainment. My older son is far more interested in the curiously abundant spiders’ webs. As such, our progress is slow.

Our slow progress is matched by an older couple, perhaps a husband and wife? Our paths cross frequently as we wind our way through the site. On each occasion I hear the same mutter, “acne uneven, acne uneven, acne uneven,” which is not a Dalek script that I’m familiar with.

My own elderly eyesight is poor, but apart from the male pattern baling they appear to be otherwise free from any blemish. Uneven? I have no clue. Why must everything match anyway? Indeed her crisp, Broderie Anglaise blouse makes me envious in the sticky heat. I pull at the pokey hook in the middle of my back. Who on earth designed this garment? A trip to Marks and Spencer’s lingerie department seems indispensable. Why do people wear luminous white bras under white fabrics? Why did I allow the volume control campaign to slide?

The park has one saving grace in the form of copious signs with interesting facts, figures and curiosities to read. We read each and every one of them. The boys repeat some detail that catches their fancy until we move to the next sign. As such, our progress slows still further until we are practically static. I’m discreet as I adjust an elastic strap that digs into my collar bone, maybe we’ll go to town tomorrow? Interspersed with these details, they insert their own interesting gems, extracted from the ether, “the lizard and the hobo, the lizard and the hobo, the lizard and the hobo.” I look around for visual cues. Where is it all coming from?

I notice that every other woman in the park is at peace with her lingerie choices. I also notice that there is a significant percentage of the population are without a foundation garment, and not only the men. I realize that I have never seen a braless woman in the States, not even in Santa Cruz. There again, until recently I’ve probably been too distracted to notice.

The strong American accent and growling, rumbling tone doesn’t help. I field a barrage of questions:-

“What is a ‘wanker’?”
“Why is this rock so gorgeous?”
“How you are spell ‘blue’?”
“Beep! Can I self censorship?”
“’Bleedin el,’ what is that meaning?”
“Can birds fly in the rain?”
“Is the night garden for babies?”
“Can you play cards wiv a cheetah? Never, never, never cheater.”
“An Afgan is a hound species?”
“Are seagulls have barbequed tail feathers?”
“Are there chips in English jacket potatoes?”
“Am I an endangered species?”

Non-verbal, my eye!

The lions yawn lazily in the long grass and so do the children in the car. Tigers drift through the shadows of trees and the children sink into their seats. The Rhinos nose in their feed bags and everyone decides that malnutrition is imminent.

We wander into the restaurant for sustenance and park ourselves next to the same elderly couple, now sporting a very fine wicker picnic hamper. “Acne uneven, acne uneven, acne uneven,” he glowers at them with his arms folded tightly over his chest.

“What’s the matter dear, you look ever so cross?”
“What deez fings are called?” he bellows at fifty decibels.
“Ow, don’t do that dear, people are looking!”
“Stop it! Don’t touch your mother’s……er…..don’t touch her……there.”
“Dey are not acne?”

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Learning under pressure.


As they leave the house to get into the car for school, my youngest son makes a U-turn and skids back into the house. He is nak.ed in a nano second and parked on the throne for a last minute pit stop. He is a moment or two, too late. I pick up his sodden clothing and toss it onto the washing machine. I dither. I'm confident that it will take him a goodly while to put his shoes and socks back on without me to prompt him. I know that he would never dare risk permitting his bare little toes to touch the ground outside the house.

I dash upstairs for replacements whilst the rest of the team waits on the driveway, engine idling. I return with the clothes to find him struggling with the Velcro on his shoes. I have no option but to give him a swift sponge down rather than a shower. If you could hear his screams you would assume I'd turned a pressure hosepipe of icy water on him.

I turn my back after toweling him down but he's off, wearing socks, shoes and a T-shirt, powering out to the car shouting, “be wait now, now wait now, wait, wait, wait!” I scramble after his partially clad form clutching his clothing as I skuttle down the path. I wave the clothes in my hand to attract the chauffeur's attention. The car occupants watch his arrival, so does my neighbour. I call aloud, “wait he can't go without his knickers!” My son does a little rain dance on the driveway concrete as his body shrivels and quivers in the early morning chill. Free of social cues, it is only his thermostat that will save him.

I think this is the first time in living memory that he has willingly submitted to going to school. His enthusiasm, eagerness and anxiety to join his siblings is quite breathtaking. I am uncertain whether his sudden keenness to conform has over-ridden his need for clothes, or whether it's just that clothes are still an after thought of no consequence? Either way, my son has capitulated and demonstrated a willingness to participate.

My neighbour, the man with the voice that could best be described as a fog horn, bellows from the other side of the road, “Git yur shorts on boy!” My son's ears receive the assault and his head flicks around to see our substitute grandfather modeling the desired behaviour from the other side of the street, legs akimbo, knees bent, curled arms hauling up the invisible underwear. What a trooper he is! My son is covered up and whipped off in a puff of exhaust fumes, safely on his way to school.

My neighbour steps over the road toward me. He tips his baseball cap up, the tired, faded red one, so that white tufts of thinning hair are visible. He blinks, with his crooked smile before he reminds me, “over here, we call em underpants.”

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