Month: October 2020

A visit to West Midlands Safari Park

It’s been many years since I went to West Midlands Safari Park and, in truth, I don’t remember anything about the animals. I do remember going on a rollercoaster with my Dad, who was a big scaredy cat and said “Jesus Christ” at the end of the going forward bit, just before the coaster started going backwards to do a loop the loop in reverse.

I’ve asked the husband if we can go over the years, but he always refused on the basis that the monkeys might rip his car to pieces. So when my sister mentioned taking my toddler nephew, I jumped at the chance to join in and offered to be the designated driver.

There aren’t any monkeys on the loose these days – precisely for the reason husband feared – they were pulling windscreen wipers, bumpers and aerials from cars. But there is a wide range of animals, many of whom you can feed through your car window.

First things first – tickets aren’t cheap. You’re charged per person rather than per vehicle. It’s £25 per adult, £20 for children aged 3 to 15 years, and under 3s are free. On the plus side, after your visit, you’ll receive an email with a code for a return free visit within 6 months, which makes it an appealing prospect if you can get back there for round two. As with everything in these weird Covid times you can’t just rock up on the day; you need to pre-book tickets online – even your free return visit.

We arrived at around 11am after a pit stop for a McDonalds breakfast and the queues were already quite long as people snaked towards the ticket booths to show their proof of purchase. You get the option to purchase a box of food at the same time as your ticket purchase online, and this is handed over to you at the ticket booth, with some handwipes. If you plan on feeding the animals all the way round DEFINITELY take more hand wipes and gel. Some of them are a bit slobbery and you’ll be wanting to sanitise after being licked by a huge giraffe tongue!

The Park is split into sections with animals specific to that area. Not going to lie, the first time I put a hand full of food out of my window and an eland approached, I squealed. They’re just so big and so close up and so keen to eat! But you get more used to it as you drive round the 4 mile route. Obviously in the carnivore section you have to keep your windows firmly closed, unless you want to become lion feed.

There are lots of rangers in vehicles all around the park; they’re there for the safety of both the visitors and the animals. They also drive around the park in the right places, and encouraging them to move so that visitors get to see them. And sometimes they need to get them out of the middle of a traffic jam!

We were lucky enough that a ranger had just disturbed the lions as we drive through the carnivore enclosure. It was incredible to watch this male just wander in front of my car!

The elephants aren’t allowed to wander freely – probably in case they inadvertently trample your car – but you can pull up really close to them.

It took around 2 hours to drive the whole way around – a mix of busy traffic at the beginning (which thinned out), driving slowly so as not to scare the animals, and spending more time in different areas in order to get close to our favourites.

It was super cute to watch my nephew seeing things he’d never seen before.

It was crazy to see the giraffes just wandering amongst the cars! I was thrilled to feed them on the way in and on the way out (the giraffe area straddles both the entrance and exit). Giraffes are my favourite anyway, but just wow!

After the safari we then parked the car up to go into the theme park side. This comprises of gift shops and places to eat, smaller animal exhibitions including penguins and reptiles, Land of the Living Dinosaurs, and fairground rides which are an additional cost on top of the entrance fee.

Unfortunately by that time it was raining heavily which wasn’t conducive to fully enjoying the outdoor sections, so we’re saving that for our return visit next year.

The opening hours are variable now with the darker nights and in the lead up to Christmas, but you can check availability and book tickets here.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Who votes against free school meals for children living in poverty?

The Tory party, that’s who.

The news today that, in a House of Commons vote, there was an overwhelming majority AGAINST providing free school meals for children who need them over the upcoming school holidays is absolutely abhorrent.

The irony of awarding footballer Marcus Rashford an MBE for his services to supporting the food needs of school children living in poverty, only to then refuse his call to extend provisions is hypocrisy at its finest.

The sheer audacity of MPs who are supposed to have the best interests of school children at heart voting no, including:

  • Minister for School Standard Nick Gibb
  • Children’s Minister Vicky Ford
  • Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock

Then again, when the leader of our country himself, that self serving out of touch prat Boris Johnson, votes against looking after youngsters who will be going hungry through no fault of their own, what can you expect?

Far from this descending into name calling, insulting and absolute incredulity at the unfeeling, uncaring and downright hateful government, I’m going to make this into something more positive. I’m going to suggest ways that you and I can help.

Donate to Fare Share

FareShare is a charity dedicated not only to helping those in need access food, they’re also working to reduce food waste. Double whammy of goodness. They take surplus food from across the industry and distribute it to food charities, breakfast clubs, homeless shelters and more. This isn’t about giving out the scraps that are left at the end of the day, but identifying good quality items which still have plenty of value in terms of nutrition but which retail stores can’t or won’t sell.

You can find out more about FareShare here.

If you’d like to support FareShare and the work they do, you can make a one off financial donation, or set up a monthly direct debit. I’ve set up a £10 per month donation this morning which was quick and easy, and will provide 40 meals to people who need them.

Trussell Trust

The Trussell Trust have a countrywide network of food banks supplying food parcels to those in need. They accept both financial and food donations. To donate food, find your local branch and check their opening hours online. They also have collection points in some local supermarkets.

Write to your local MP

Yes it may seem old fashioned, and yes it may seem futile, but there is still strength in letting your local MP know how you feel. They are supposed to represent their constituents, so they need feedback from those constituents to let them know they’re performing very badly. It may not make a difference, but I guarantee you’ll feel better for saying something.

Educate your peers around the issue

I’ve seen too many comments blaming parents who live on benefits, parents who can’t be bothered to get a job, parents who have kids they can’t afford, and parents who spend their money on cigarettes and big TVs instead of prioritising their children’s appetites. Of course there will always be people who abuse the system and don’t put the needs of their children first. But don’t tarnish everyone with the same brush. There are parents who work damn hard in poorly paid jobs and can’t make ends meet because the cost of living is too high in comparison to the minimum wage. There are parents who may have lost their jobs – with those numbers due to increase with the way the government is poorly handling the Covid pandemic. There are families in which one parent may have died, or left the household.

It doesn’t matter what the reason is – the end result is hungry children who don’t have the personal power or wherewithal to conjure up food for their empty tummies. None of it is the fault of children.

Remember also, as I posted about 2 years ago, that charities exist because of a government failure or unwillingness to provide financial support. You can try and place lame wherever you like, but ultimately a government has a responsibility to look after its citizens.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Just checking in…

Hello! How is your pandemic life going? Remember back when it all started, around March, and we talked about things being back to normal in 6 months? How naïve we were, eh? I planned on keeping a few days annual leave back in case I could get some winter sun in the Canary Islands. Ha!

So, we’re now in tiered lockdown, and there are lots of different thoughts on why that is. Some blame students and young people who haven’t followed the rules, others blame minority groups and worshipping congregations, many blame Eat Out to Help Out which literally encouraged people to visit hospitality venues, who are now bearing the brunt of tiered lockdown as their opening hours are curtailed.

I blame the government. They’ve handled it appallingly, acted too late, made allowances for their own ministers setting bad examples and generally presented the appearance of headless chickens. We know that it can, and has, been handled better. Just look at New Zealand.

A while ago I posted about my pandemic life so far, so I thought I’d do an update!

Blogging

I stupidly let my domain and hosting expire, which means my site has been MIA since mid September. In truth it was because I wanted to leave GoDaddy but didn’t know who to go with and then, by the time I’d decided, they (GoDaddy) wanted to charge me $149 to reinstate my site! So I’ve spent a good few hours calling them thieving gits, asking to speak to a manager (I was such a Karen!) and then, once they waived the charge, more hours with online support who told me lots of conflicting things until finally it was resolved. Hurrah! My main issue with GoDaddy was not wanting to pay 2 years up front, which they were trying to bill me for, but it turns out you can now pay monthly so I’m still with them for now. My whole blog needs an overhaul and tidy up and new theme, and I did consider just ditching it altogether as I’ve posted about 5 times in the past year, but ultimately I enjoy knowing it’s here for me when I feel the need, and I don’t want to lose 5 years of writing.

Campervanning

Earlier this year it seems like the worst time EVER to have bought a campervan, as we couldn’t go anywhere, but once restrictions were lifted somewhat our Bodhi Bongo actually saved our summer. We managed to get away 6 times in 9 weeks; mainly weekends away but also a couple of longer trips to Dorset and Devon, which I’ll be blogging about. In the absence of being able to have our usual Summer overseas holidays this year it’s been an absolute godsend and, dare I say it, I haven’t missed getting out of the country. I know I’m privileged to have been able to still make something good out of a crappy year in terms of holidays and getting away from it all, and I’m super grateful.

Watching

A couple of new box sets have come my way since I last posted. The first being Entourage, which first aired in 2004 – never say I don’t have my finger on the pulse of popular entertainment! The good thing is that it means there are a whole 8 seasons to chew through, with no breaks or waiting for the next episode to be released, which is THE BEST way to indulge in a show. It’s good fun spotting all the LA landmarks and reminiscing about our trips there over the years.

The second is Selling Sunset, which is a recent addition to Netflix from the same people who created The Hills (which I used to be obsessed with). We’re one season down, with two to go, and OMG what a bunch of bitches those realtors are (including the guys). And OMG 2, how the other half live? Spending $10 million on a house? Crazy!

Working from home

I am now firmly ensconced in working from home territory, and can’t imagine having to go to the office every day. I love slowly easing myself into the morning, not having to rush, no road rage as I clock watch when I’m stuck in traffic. I don’t feel at all disconnected, because I have A LOT of meetings and my manager is very good at making sure we all know what’s going on – we have weekly team meetings, fortnightly one to ones and chat over Teams or individual catch up calls. I guess part of it is that I had only been in my job for 6 weeks when we went into lockdown, so I hadn’t really had time to build any attachment to the workplace, or a desk, or even the people, really. I think, even when the threat of Covid has gone away, my company will adopt new ways of working. We’ve all proven we can be incredibly productive without the need for a physical desk, and obviously it will save them money in terms of office space too.

I do feel that it’s making the transition into autumn – which I usually struggle massively with – easier as well, thanks to no cold mornings or driving in the dark.

Emotions

Like many people my emotions around Covid are very up and down. I do worry that the situation has made me more introverted. I’m so used to the way things are now that it feels normal, which is concerning. I have a very small circle of people I speak to on the phone – mainly family (does anyone actually speak to friends anymore? Isn’t it all just texts, Whatsapp and social channels?), and I don’t leave the house very often either. I’m strangely OK with all of that, which is also a worry. Facebook enables me to feel like I still know what’s going on with my friends’ lives, even though I’ve barely seen any of them this year. Technology definitely makes being separated much easier.

That’s not to say I don’t also have wobblies and feel overwhelmed! There are still days when it all feels too much, and never ending. I think winter may be a big test because, while I say not leaving the house is a good thing, dark mornings and nights and grey days are likely to be less enjoyable than the sunshine and open windows and lunch in the garden I enjoyed for much of the WFH summer.

How about you? I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to and how you’re coping with all this crazy. Hit me up in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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