Anyway, the rainforest exhibit was quite delightful. You walk inside on a raised walkway, special equipment provides the
moist, steamy atmosphere of the South American jungle, small monkeys, such as tamarins, which make up a large part of the exhibit, jump into the branches of trees which overhang the walkway – so close, one could reach out a hand and touch them (although this is not advisable), and in the central well of the building, trees, simulating the forest canopy, are populated by iguanas and brightly coloured tropical birds.
Downstairs in the same building, one can explore the nocturnal world of bats and other such creatures. I have always found bats quite fascinating – but frightening, nonetheless. Fortunately, the Bat Cave is behind glass…
Another relatively new exhibit – for me, at least – is the Butterfly World. Here too, in keeping with modern concepts of "up close and personal", one walks among misted foliage as hundreds of tropical butterflies and moths dart and hover about one, sometimes even landing on a lucky visitor’s head or shoulder. Have you ever seen something so lovely, you just wanted to cry at the sheer beauty of G-d’s creation? That’s how I felt amongst the butterflies.
Whenever I go to the Regent’s Park Zoo, I make a point of visiting the meerkats – possibly my favourite animals (after cats, of course!). These are adorable little mammals, as I am sure anyone will agree.
Their next-door neighbours, the otters, are also among my favourites:
I could write much, much more, about my day at the Zoo, but time is pressing so I will leave it at that.
As usual, I spent a lot of time in the park – or rather, parks, of which London has many.
St. James’ Park, favourite lunchtime picnic spot for many a Whitehall civil servant:
Golder’s Hill Park, a lesser-known green haven bordering on Hampstead Heath, where, one Friday afternoon, after stocking up with egg-and-onion salad, gefillte fish balls, chopped liver and other traditional Jewish delicacies in Golder’s Green, we had a memorable picnic lunch amid rising winds which culminated in a cloudburst:
Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park’s swankier neighbour, famous for being the home of the Peter Pan statue, where nannies still take the children of the upper-crust for walks and to sail toy boats on the Round Pond, although these days one is more likely to see the children of well-to-do Saudis accompanied by burka-clad females (mothers or maidservants, one would be hard-put to tell),
I mentioned art exhibitions. Besides the annual Summer Exhibition, the Royal Academy regularly devotes exhibitions to individual artists. This summer, I was able to enjoy the seascapes of American artist John Singer Sargent – and, incidentally, escape from a sudden torrential downpour which hadn’t quite finished by the time I had .
The highlight of every trip to London (apart from seeing my brother, of course) is always the theatre. As I already mentioned, I managed to squeeze in 2 plays and a West End musical – all 3 of which, I approached with a certain amount of trepidation, although in each case, for a different reason. The first play was "The Comedy of Errors" by none other than William Shakespeare at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park. No, it wasn’t the fear that it might rain that bothered me. It was the knowledge that the director had chosen to update the plot and set it in 1930s Casablanca. As my regular readers will no doubt recall, in general, I shun this kind of updating of the classics like the plague. However, I needn’t have worried. The Bard is well-nigh indestructible and can take whatever whimsical directors choose to throw at him. In this case, in fact, the transfer worked pretty well. The plot is the kind of farce that works in more or less any cultural setting, what with long lost relations, 2 sets of twins and a plethora of comic situations resulting from mistaken identities. My brother and I enjoyed it and the various school parties present had the opportunity to learn that there is more to Shakespeare than the weighty historical tragedies painstakingly studied for A-levels. In fact, Shakespeare can be very, very funny. Oh, and as for the weather – it was glorious!
The next play was an adaptation of E. Nesbit’s "The Railway Children". This was one of my childhood’s favourite books, so I felt jealously protective of it. How would it adapt to the stage? Remarkably well, in fact. Staged at the disused Eurostar terminal in Waterloo Station, with the audience seated along the former platforms on either side of the railway track, a moveable performance space on the track itself and incorporating a real steam engine, the play managed to recapture all the magic of the book and of the classic 1970 movie starring Jenny Agutter. Bobbie’s climactic, heart-rending cry, when her missing father finally returns home –"Oh, my Daddy, my Daddy!" – has lost none of its gut-wrenching power over the years. Neither David nor I were ashamed to admit that at that moment, we both shed a tear.
Last, but not least, was the new Andrew Lloyd – Webber musical, "Love Never Dies", the long-awaited sequel to the immensely popular "Phantom of the Opera". Rarely has a musical engendered such controversy, its detractors claiming it deprives the Phantom of the "salvation" he achieved at the end of the original musical by his renunciation of the heroine. Furthermore, they claim, it debases the characters of Christine and Raoul, while that of the "new" Meg Giry simply isn’t credible. I won’t spoil things for those who haven’t seen it by revealing the plot. I will say that the music, the sets and everything else were wonderful – not least the sexy and talented Ramin Karimloo as the Phantom!
That’s it for now. This will probably be my last posting on Live Spaces. I hope we shall continue to meet, somewhere in the Blogosphere, as soon as I manage to transfer The View from from the Palace to whichever blog host Possum, Pixie and I decide to honour with our presence .