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I went to Linton Zoo (see also their useless official site) today. In fact, as a whole, the day was a bit of a disaster, firstly because I forgot to recharge the battery in my camera and then because I managed to destroy the front wheel of my bike when I hit something going downhill on the way home, leaving me to pay an exorbitant taxi fare in order to get back to civilisation, thence to await another bill from bicycle repair man. Such is life.
The zoo was a bit depressing, which I almost predicted. (I'm not, by the way, making any comment on the conservation work they do.) Now, as we know, anthropomorphising animals is Bad and Wrong, which means that I oughtn't to place any interpretation on the actions of the panther which was, every ten seconds, pacing up and down the length of its tiny cage. I thought it looked pretty pissed off, myself. The happiest-looking animal was a very fat tabby cat which wandered around amongst the visitors; this surprised me, on the basis that for a cat in a zoo, all of the animals in its vicinity must fall into one of two categories: `things I am absolutely forbidden to eat', and `things which will eat me if I get too close'. Perhaps -- dangers of anthropomorphisation again -- cats don't react to stress the way we do. That said, there were pigeons in the tiger enclosure, and they didn't look too worried, so perhaps the mog had nothing to fear.
Other details... well, the tortoises had a larger enclosure than the leopards, which all looked very forlorn; for the tortoises, at least it would take the best part of quarter of an hour to get from one side to the other. A tortoise can live for more than a century (they were described as `mature at 25' which is a lot better than many PhD students), but I don't know how long its memory is. (Ooh, people again! Now, where have I seen those before?)
There was a snowy owl which had been sponsored by a girl guides' group; you can probably guess that the unfortunate creature had been christened Hedwig.
More creditably, a Cambridge cat society had sponsored a Siberian lynx, which was a rather pretty looking animal.
And they had cotton-top tamarins, which are pretty cool and look to me as if they'd be the perfect addition to any office environment (assuming -- I've lost all credibility here so I'll anthropomorphise away whatever -- that they are as mischievous as they look); here's a photo from before my camera batteries ran out.
Did you know that emus are (a) damn big, and (b) make a noise which sounds like somebody beating a drum inside their throats? (Well, I suppose that if you knew anything about emus you would; I didn't.) A few moments with Google suggests that this noise is a `gorble', but I'm not sure I'd rate the source (search for `emu' on this page) as the most reliable....
And, apparently, it is illegal to feed live mice to snakes. Presumably herpetologists must know this stuff; I guess they need to.
Who'd 'a' thunk it?
Normally at this stage I would have found someone else to buy tickets from -- on the basis that if a company can't manage to produce a simple web page which works it's unlikely that their order fulfilment software works either -- but airline ticketing has worked OK since the 1960s so it's unlikely that Opodo have managed to foul it up too badly.
It turns out that their site, rather than having a phone number on it, has a link you can click which instructs an Opodo employee to telephone you. So I clicked that and an they did indeed phone me. So I explained that I couldn't make a reservation using their website; the lady to whom I was speaking didn't offer any comment but went through the whole booking procedure by asking me what I should put in each box. (``Is it OK for me to click the box that says `I accept the terms and conditions'?'') Needless to say, this was pretty tedious, but it got the job done.
Since the demise of AT&T Laboratories Cambridge, the Cambridge Panorama hasn't been updated, which is a pity, since its time-lapse film was quite fun. The BBC have a much lamer web cam, but no time-lapse films. Ah well, there's nothing that cron and the Berkeley MPEG Tools can't fix, after a fashion. Now, can anybody tell me why you would turn a web cam off at night?
A letter I sent to the Cambridgeshire Police this morning:
I would like to bring to your attention the behaviour of a motorist during an incident at around 10:40AM this morning (Wednesday 4th September).
I was on foot, crossing the Zebra crossing at the corner of Chesterton Road and Victoria Avenue in Cambridge. I was crossing from east to west, walking towards town. As I was on the crossing, a motorist turning south onto Victoria Avenue from the roundabout drove on to the crossing and stopped his vehicle. I noticed as I was crossing in front of him that he was gesticulating at me, and when I turned to face his car, he opened his window and complained that I was impeding his progress. I cannot remember the exact form of words he used.
I pointed out that it was a pedestrian crossing and that he was obliged to stop his car when a pedestrian was using it. At this point I was standing on the crossing in front of his car. He then started his car and drove into me. The car was moving slowly and I was unhurt, though very surprised. At this point I shouted at him to stop, which he did after pushing me about a yard along the road.
When he had stopped the car he got out and shouted at me. I took out my mobile phone and indicated that I was going to phone the police to report his behaviour, at which he got back into his car and drove off, swearing at me from his car window as he did so. Unfortunately my phone was not working and I was unable to report the incident at the time.
The car was a large, dark-coloured saloon or estate car (unfortunately by the time I was able to see the whole vehicle, when the motorist was driving off, I was too shaken to note a full description), with the registration number KY51VHA. The motorist was a heavily built white male with greying hair; he was probably a little over six feet tall, and wore dark trousers and a lighter collarless shirt. There was a passenger in the car who did not do anything during the incident but would have seen it take place through the windscreen of the car; she was a white female with short fair hair wearing (I think) dark blue clothing.
I do not know whether the Police will be able to take any action in this case but I hope that by reporting it I am assisting you in the task of improving road safety in Cambridgeshire.
(signed) Chris Lightfoot
-- now I feel suitably public-spirited, if still somewhat shaken.
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