ALWAYS it rains when we go to the zoo. This time it pours instead. At the
bear pit, the burger-bar bears presented to the burghers by the burger-bar
are getting wet too (sponsorship has hit the zoo, but at least the bears are
not yet jumpered with the burger logo).
One sits cataleptic; the other, regular as a metronome, moves three steps
forward, one right, and back, then in reverse repeating the imaginary treadmill
into which it is locked. Hypnotically we follow its movements until the rain
stirs us from the trance and we move on, leaving it to its 1, 2, 3, right,
back, forward, left, 3, 2, 1 .... it could be a new dance craze, the bear
plod, in 5/4 time.
The rain edges from downpour to cloudburst and we wish we'd stayed at home.
Most of the animals seem to wish they had too, but at least here they are
going to be handy for Noah, as through the trees we catch sight of his boat.
When we reach it, the Ark turns out to be only a large wooden shed for the
use of school parties. By now moated, without a drawbridge and very locked,
which seems appropriate.
Today is even too wet for the otter, who is nowhere to be seen, keeping dry
somewhere. We shelter under a six-foot high metal toadstool, red with white
spots; even the most unlikely objects have their uses (or too much water warps
the mind); no doubt a poisonous variety, but we are too sodden to care.
Eventually it clears enough for us to run for the exit and abandon our zoo
visit unfinished. The honey bee will just have to wait for next time.
Who goes to see the honey bee?
This zoo has a theme, specialising in animals which once lived - or still
live - in the wild in this area of Germany; from the smell some of them have
certainly been here for a long time. It's not easy to decide if the owls are
still living or not, perched so motionless they may be stuffed, although if
so they are surely rotting fast in this weather.
We keep moving; if you've seen one owl you've seen them all, and they certainly
weren't putting on a performance. With every step we become more nasally aware
that we are approaching the pigs.
There are those who assert that the pig is a clean animal, but here a whole
herd of some kind of ancient breed of Ur-pig determine to prove them wrong.
Their enclosure a sea of mud, crowded with bodies which had obviously enjoyed
rolling in it, a practice which two demonstrate for our benefit.
In one corner an energetic boar grunts and shakes impressively mounting an
impassive sow; nearer us in a puddle, piglets scramble over the torpid carcass
of their mother, fighting for teats amid their superfluity. Despite the revolting
fascination of this garden of delights we are unable to stand and watch for
long. They certainly smell like real swine.
Thankfully up wind are the dogs, where an uncaged Alsatian (or German Shepherd,
though I've always thought them more likely to eat the sheep than guard them)
quickly moves us on to his cousins, the wolves.
Here, in a small cage of her own in the middle of them, sits a young woman.
I begin to compose a notice for her like those on the other cages.
- HOMO BUREAUCRASIS (note the characteristic file and
- PLUMAGE: blonde hair, khaki jacket, blue jeans. Probably
a heavier coat in winter.
- HABITS: given to writing in file and scowling at strange
I wonder if they have got her diet right, or perhaps she is lonely without
a mate, for she certainly does not look happy as I stop and stare at her.
She sits watching the wolves and they sit watching her and occasionally howling.
No doubt in time she will get a doctorate on the results, but the wolves
are obviously hoping for the more immediate gratification of a good meal.
Me, I think she's a bit on the skinny side to really satisfy.