I've passed my half century, along with my First Ever Best Buddy Beth, Cerys Matthews of 6 Music, and the Open University. Balloons and cake to us all!
Like your typical
eight year old fifty year old, I made the excellent decision to take a picnic to the zoo. I say zoo, I mean the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster which is a friendly and excellent place. It functions partly as a normal zoo and partly retirement home for animals no longer in the zoo breeding programme. It's one of my favourite places and somewhere all five of us enjoy.
Feeling pretty lazy, I bought a pack of fondant fancies to serve as a mini birthday cake. Feeling hungry, I made spanokopita to take with us on the picnic.
Leeds used to have a place called Salt's Deli, and their spanokopita was to die for. They vanished some years back and I really had a hankering for the lovely spinach and filo pie. As usual, I turned to Felicity Cloake of The Guardian for recipe advice. I roughly followed her recipe here.
I reduced the spinach from 1kg to 750g and would recommend increasing the feta to 350g. Chopping and massaging a tablespoon of salt through the fresh spinach did work, but I had to put it in a colander with heavy weights on to help remove the excess liquid.
It was a pretty easy recipe and I highly endorse it - it was delicious and kept me in lunches for several days. My VEM Kirsty had a taste and went home to cook it herself.
We had a brilliant time at the Wildlife Park. The baboons were busy with new babies, and freaking out about a male mallard that was somehow terribly threatening as he swan serenely around the pond. There were fights over a stick, brawls over getting too close to the babies, sibling jealousy, male posturing and female impatience with all this crap. Pretty much like the rest of us. Except for the mallard phobia, obviously. That was just weird.
The painted dogs were remarkably laid back in the face of their neighbours' noisy chaos. I'd swear one of them was rolling her eyes, but anthropomorphising is too easy.
One of my great delights is visiting the polar bears in their 10 acre playground. Polar bears are HUGE. Really, really huge. Not "gosh, that's big" type of beast, more "Holy Geez, look at the the size of him!" It's hard not to want to go in and give them a cuddle, even if they'd eat you - they are gorgeous and hey, a bear's got to eat. You don't get to be the world's largest land carnivore without a heck of an appetite. This is beautifully demonstrated by the sign on the staff entrance to the bear enclosure "Do You Know Where The Bears Are?"
Victor is my favourite. He's a behemoth of a bear - old, wonderful, father of 10, grandfather of many. He had a lovely swim in his lake and spent a lot of time blowing bubbles because he can.
I love the capybaras and the maras; if a rabbit and a deer had babies, they'd be maras. For my 40th birthday my Best Woman SJ bought me a hutch and two guinea pigs (Lola and Lotta because they were small and very funny) and it's hard not to see the capybaras as giant free-range guinea pigs, happily bimbling around and dozing in the sun. They *definitely* want a cuddle and a scratch on the back.
|Guinea pigs on steroids|
We were delighted to see the tiny baby anteater, Licky Minaj, having a cuddle with her mum then having a little wander in the outside world. She's ridiculously cute. Top work crowd-sourcing the name, YWP. No Anty McAntface for you.
Our big surprise of the day was discovering that armadillos go jogging. Watching them trot in opposite direction around their well-worn circuit had us transfixed for ages. Sure, the marmosets were cute, and it was exciting last time when they escaped, but jogging armadillos are adorable.
After our picnic, a visit to the tigers and giraffes, total failure to find the Amur leopards and a pause to admire the black rhino standing to attention, we met with Elvis the Emu. Elvis is under the misapprehension he's an ostrich. No one wants to hurt his feelings, so he lives in the African enclosure and hangs out with the female ostrich who's too polite to say anything. Maybe it's in the name. We adopted a hen called Elvis from my good friend Lisa recently. She and her lads all refer to Elvis as "he" despite Elvis laying eggs daily. Emu, ostrich, boy hen... Live your best lives, Elvis.
It was a lovely day spent with my best people. Dinner at Salvo's and home again to indulge in another birthday treat - watching the live-action Peter Pan from 2003, which remains one of my favourite film.
Over coming weeks I've a series of workshops, courses and performances to enjoy as I continue my bid to make this a year I look outwards rather than in. Textile printing, glass work, sewing garments, seeing ballets and shows... 50 has a lot to look forward to.
|I'm handsome and I know it|