Another hot day. It’s early but the last vestiges of moisture are quickly vanishing under the sun’s floodlight. Jackdaws shriek. Wood pigeons flap by with beaks full of twigs.
Welcome to the jungle!” says my daughter, beaming. “I’m the zookeeper. There are lions by the rhubarb, do you want to see them?”
It transpires there are also leopards up the slide, zebras near the trampoline and lions prowling by the see-saw. I visit the animals in turn and have brief conversations with all of them. “Hello. Are you well? Do you enjoy living in this garden?” “No daddy, it’s a JUNGLE.” “Oh sorry, er … jungle.” I feel like Prince Charles. My daughter is jumping up and down with excitement and skipping from one toy to the next to introduce the garden’s denizens.
There is a reason for this menagerie. The previous day we visited the Cotswold Wildlife Park with my wife’s parents. Our hearts sank as we handed over an assortment of banknotes and saw the blanket of parked cars stretching across the horizon. We left ours several fields away from the attractions and went off to get some lunch. With the queue for the canteen too long to contemplate we opted for the snackbar and came away with a selection of children’s lunchboxes, and chips smeared with translucent ketchup. As we grimly tucked into the processed feast, perched at a picnic table and silently bemoaning our misfortune, my daughter suddenly bounced up and down and said “This is the best picnic EVER!”
By her bed she has collected a holiday assortment of favoured possessions. A snail shell, a piece of felt, a pendant on a pink ribbon, a rabbit sticker, a padlock. I love the care with which she has assembled them so thoughtfully. Just by being there they mean so much. Right by her dreaming head.