Ever since Lily turned One, I have been longing to take her to Longleat Safari Park to show her all the animals.
Much to my frustration, a devastating outbreak of Monkey Genital Herpes forced the closure of Monkey Jungle to the visiting Public for over two years, preventing our greatly anticipated trip. After all, what is the point of visiting a Safari Park if you can’t get in amongst the Monkeys?
For months, I have been sporadically checking Longleats website for news of the re-opening. I grew increasingly dis-heartened to be repeatedly informed that the hapless residents of Monkey Jungle were still strictly off limits due to their prolonged venereal disease.
I had all but given up, when one day, I was flicking absent mindedly through the Daily Mail, when I came across a picture of an old car swarming with monkeys, beneath the head line “LONGLEAT MONKEY ENCLOSURE OPEN AGAIN AFTER 2 YEARS!”
To say I was excited is an epic understatement. I almost choked on my tea at the sight of them scuttling all over the car, gleefully perpetrating acts of childish vandalism .
Having been bored witless for 24 months, deprived of the entertainment provided by the almost permanent stream of visitors through their enclosure, the head keeper deemed it wise to present them with a dummy car, on which to release their pent up excitement and adrenaline, thus ensuring that the novelty of flagrant vandalism had diminished sufficiently, by the time the first member of the public entered their Kingdom. They were clearly beside themselves with glee. Their funny little faces remained incongruously solemn as they snapped off ariels, ran off with hub caps and wrenched off bumpers and played tug o war with windscreen wipers.
What characters! I couldn’t wait for Lily to see them at close quarters. I excitedly pushed the newspaper in front of her and waited for her reaction.
“Oh dear!” she said in a shocked voice, pointing at a juvenile monkey , who was scampering away from the car wreck clutching a wing mirror in one hand, and bowling a hub cap along in front of him with the other.
She looked up at me uncertainly.
“Funny Monkeys!” I giggled.
She tittered, and peered in fascination at the bunch of gimlet eyed hooligans.
“Monkey Jungle’s open!” I told Jasper excitedly as he came in for breakfast.
“Oh Christ. “ Was his gloomy reply.
I stoically ignored his expression of poe face resignation as he came and peered at the scene of carnage.
“I thought they all had Gonorrhea.”
“They had herpes, but they’re fully recovered now and are open for visitors. We could go tomorrow. You’ve got the afternoon off. ”
He failed to suppress a look of fleeting panic.
“I can’t, I’m straw hauling.” He blurted.
“No you’re not. The Contractor’s coming in. He called this morning.” I said triumphantly.
“Okay, but we’re not driving into Monkey Jungle. Look what the little bastards have done to that Volvo.” He said grimly.
“Bastards.” Said Lily, looking pleased with herself. She clapped her hands delightedly.
“Monkey Bastards!” she hooted.
I pulled a morose face. “No darling. Daddy says Lily can’t see the monkeys.” I told her in a profoundly sad tone.
Instantly, Lily turned around and stared at Jasper with a heart rending expression of bewildered devastation.
“Monkeys!” she whispered pleadingly, her big blue eyes brimming with tears as she gazed up at him beseechingly.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see him scowling furiously at me.
Lily’s little hands reached out to him in supplication.
“Please Daddy! Monkeys!” she gulped.
“I wuv you!” she added shamelessly, and burst into tears.
Instantly, Jasper scooped her into his arms, and I marvelled for the millionth time at her astounding ability to play him like a fiddle.
“There there my little angel, of course you can see the monkeys.” He said soothingly, as she clasped her hands round his neck and snivelled pathetically into his jumper.
I stifled a snort of derision.
Two seconds later, she looked over his shoulder and shot me a conspiratorial smirk.
I gave her the thumbs up.
Monkey Jungle, here we come.