All / Originally Posted on Skirt

Umbrella-Based London Activities

I left without my boots. I thought, “the zoo is paved! Surely mud will not be a factor.” Oh how wrong I was.

It was Friday night. I’d gone for a Zoo Late Nights event with some friends. We expected that, with the pouring down rain, we would be the only ones there. But no! The zoo was full up, end-to-end and top-to-bottom, with young Sloane Square types carousing merrily about the animal cages in the downpour. The number of conversations I overheard like this was considerable: “Hello? Tarquin? Yah, we’re sort of by the big cat enclosure. There’s like a champagne bar? Under a tent, yah? Just by the burlesque show. Did you tell Anthea to meet us in the Snake House? Hello? Tarquin?”

To be fair, the mud was not actually that much of a problem. It was just raining so hard that my legs from the knees down were completely soaked, all the way through my shoes and into my penguin socks. Even the paved pathways were basically just hard-bottomed rivers. Nevertheless, the throngs of people were so thick it was difficult to see any of the animal shows. There must have been well over 200 people huddled in a soggy mass trying to peer through each other’s umbrellas at the penguin show.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the evening happened under those umbrellas. In the water we could see a line of some sort of black, feathery substance floating just under the surface. It looked sort of like seaweed, but it was hard to tell through the rain. At this point one of our number, Stu, asked “What are those black things in the water?” A woman standing in front of us turned around, confronting him with a look of the most resigned disdain you can imagine a sopping wet person at a penguin enclosure having.

From there we decided to retire to the warmth of the reptile house for a time. The reptiles seemed agitated. But I suppose so would you if a bunch of drunk people were peering at you and making judgmental statements. My favorite part of the evening was the indoor rain forest enclosure, with its sprightly emperor tamarinds. Those are the wee monkeys with long white mustaches. Being nocturnal in nature, they were perfect to see at an evening show because they were quite excitable. I also became quite excitable, and there’s a photo of me with a look of utter joy on my face whilst I watch two monkeys playing. In summation, that is probably the maddest evening in which I have ever taken part. Edit: I have been informed by One in the Know that they are in fact emperor TAMARINS not emperor TAMARINDS. Which are evidently a type of fruit that can only be found in the bowls of sovereign rulers. Carry on.

The following day was also full of rainy excitement, for I had tickets to see Bob Dylan live at the Feis Festival in Finsbury Park. Now, I admit, I am not the world’s most ardent Dylan fan. However, the likelihood of getting to see this iconic figure live before he shuffles off this mortal coil is waning. And were I the sort of person to make such a joke, I would say that is exactly what it was doing on us…waining. But I am not. However, I will say that I was glad I came prepared with sturdy boots.

It did in fact stop raining after a while, but the mud was already in full squelchy flow as we listened to Dylan’s combination gravelly/Scooby Doo voice. Admittedly, it’s not what it once was. Listening to him was a bit like playing the Intros round on Never Mind the Buzzcocks as we all strained to be the first to figure out which tune was wafting about us, but I realized part of the issue is that the musical arrangements had changed so the tunes themselves sounded quite different. I suppose if you’d been singing the same songs for 100 gigs a year since the 1960s you’d probably want to play with the arrangements every once in a while too. Once you got over listening for the radio versions we’re all used to, it was quite fun. And he seemed to be enjoying himself, having the occasional little boogie across the stage in his wide-brimmed hat. Then we managed to get on the last bus that actually had any seats left before 10,000 people tried to find transportation after the concert. Did we stare smugly at the throngs of concert-goers in the road? Well, maybe.

So, penguins and Dylan. I will hand out a prize to anyone with a stranger weekend than that.
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