I love surprises. I mean, not the kind of surprise when you check your bank account and realise you’re going to need to start selling your possessions, or when you find a spider up your top. I love good surprises. But in true totally nonsensical control freak style, of which my mother can be very proud, I like knowing that I’m going to be surprised. I like it so much that I will go to quite extreme lengths to make sure that the surprise is preserved – you could tell me that you had left my unwrapped Christmas presents in a pile (optimistic use of the word pile here) at my feet and I wouldn’t look down.
So when Boyfriend called me on Friday night and said to come over because he had a surprise planned for Saturday, I metamorphosed into an excitable puppy waiting to be given a really good chew toy. I bounced out of bed first thing Saturday morning, and bounced into the shower, and bounced my way through breakfast. Teddy, who is not used to someone else playing the role of excitable puppy, was very enthusiastic about my enthusiasm and joined in with the bouncing. Boyfriend, who isn’t exactly the biggest fan of mornings, was probably thinking he’d unleashed a monster.
By the time we were ready to leave I was terrified I would accidentally work out the surprise, based on Boyfriend telling me to wear clothes suitable for the outdoors. I realise that does not sound like a massive hint, but I’m really good at ruining my own surprises. I’m quite the surprise killer. (As in, I kill surprises. I don’t sneakily murder anyone.) When it comes to surprise ruining, put me in 221B, stick a deerstalker on my head, and call me Sherlock.
I decided that the best way to proceed would be to fill my brain with a cacophony of white noise to block out any unwanted eureka! moments: cue BBC Radio 1. After driving for about half an hour, Boyfriend expressed concern that I would work out the surprise based on the road signs. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to ignore the feeling that I might not be impervious to travel sickness after all.
Finally, just as I was wondering whether I love surprises enough to be sick out of the window of a moving car with my eyes shut, the sat-nav announced that we had reached our destination. Boyfriend confirmed that I could open my eyes. We were driving along a track with a field of red deer on one side and a sign saying “Go Ape” on the other. After a couple of seconds I yelped “Are we at Woburn Safari Park?!”
We were indeed. Bearing in mind that I have only been to Woburn once about ten years ago and had no recollection of there being any red deer, you have to admit this was pretty impressive. Admittedly, it would have been much more impressive had I not seen a road sign to the village of Woburn whilst briefly opening my eyes to help Boyfriend navigate a roundabout which the sat-nav didn’t think existed. But I know stuff about red deer so I’m going to keep my imaginary and very aptly named deerstalker hat on, thanks, and you can still call me Sherlock.
Anyway, Boyfriend (who shall now be officially known as The Best Boyfriend Ever) paid for our tickets and we started the circuit.
First of all were rhinos, and oh boy were they friendly.
I mean, really, really friendly.
The tigers, lions, bears and wolves were far more camera shy, and I wished I had my SLR, but the giraffes more than made up for it.
After the giraffes came the monkeys. In the middle of their enclosure was a climbing frame which I didn’t think saw a lot of use: the moving cars were a far more exciting adventure playground. They leaped all over the vehicles, perching on wing mirrors and play fighting on roofs and wind screens. I wish I’d been fast enough with my camera to capture them ripping the aerial from the roof of the car in front of us but I was too busy trying to see if we had an aerial and if it were still intact.
We then moved on from the road safari to watch the sea lion show (very entertaining but I thought it was bested by its equivalent at Whipsnade Zoo) and then stopped off for lunch. Boyfriend proved the value of his good surprise by creating a bad one: accidentally covering our chips in sugar rather than salt. I was extremely amused, especially after Boyfriend (who is more of a barbecue sauce man than a salt and vinegar fan) allowed me to drown out the flavour of the sugar with malt vinegar. Then we moved on to the foot safari to ‘take a walk on the wild side’. We saw penguins playing, elephants caravanning, yellow mongoose scurrying, red lorries flying (they’re a bird not a vehicle), a porcupine snoozing, and, much to the dismay of Boyfriend who takes after Indiana Jones in this respect, a boa constrictor. He shuddered from head to foot (Boyfriend, not the snake) and was very keen to move on to the next animal.
I have a bit of a thing for fluffy tails so I was very excited about the lemur exhibit. I started feeling a bit emotional when one ring-tailed lemur cuddled his tail.
Then my heart melted when a three-legged red-fronted lemur followed me around his enclosure, walking beside me along the fence. Apparently he had lost a leg when a visitor accidentally shut him in the gate, but he seemed energetic and cheerful and all in all a very happy lemur on only three legs.
And just when I was feeling decidedly emotionally vulnerable, we came to the meerkat exhibit and witnessed a pup losing his mother behind a rock and making the most heart-wrenching little crying mewling noises until she came back to find him. I had to blink quite rapidly at this point.
So I lost my cool, but I had an amazing day and it was a top-notch surprise. Hats off to Boyfriend!