The next morning, I was up at first light, giddy with anticipation about our trip to Longleat Safari Park and Monkey Jungle.
I looked in to Lily’s nursery on my way downstairs. She was sleeping soundly, her long eyelashes fanning her rosy cheeks, oblivious to the excitement in store for her.
I pottered around the kitchen enjoying the early morning solitude. All was quiet. The sun had not yet risen over Bulbarrow Hill, the lawn was wreathed in mist, and the dogs slumbered in their beds by the AGA.
Betty the Bantam sidled in to say good morning, and watched beadily as I buttered bread, grated cheese and packed sandwiches into Tupperware boxes.
Lily appeared in the door way, trailing her blanket and yawning sleepily.
Mindful of Jasper’s pathological aversion to Monkeys, and aware of the possibility that he might attempt to extricate himself from what he clearly deemed as The Day From Hell, I diligently ensured that Lily was sufficiently wound up to a degree that precluded him from refusing to come.
Lily’s powers of persuasion are legendary, and having presented her with a plethora of Chimp videos on You Tube, and repeatedly informed her that “Daddy’s taking you to see the Monkeys! TODAY!” I was confident that she wouldn’t let me down.
By the time Jasper came in for breakfast, she was so excited that she was almost hyper-ventilating.
“MONKEYS!” she screamed, jabbing frenziedly at a video depicting a gang of loutish Chimpanzees plundering a Rover. The elderly driver and his Wife could only look on helplessly as their assailants wrenched off the hub caps, snapped the aerial, and in an unmistakeably measured and deliberate act of vulgarity, defecated on the windscreen before turning around to smirk at his victims.
As a boorish Alpha Male urinated on the bonnet before swaggering off with a section of roof rack, I registered Jasper’s stricken expression, and felt a small twinge of guilt.
“MONKEY WEE!” hooted Lily, shrieking with laughter.
“I’ve got a really bad head ache. I don’t think I’m well enough to go.” Jasper said, slumping in a chair.
“Don’t tell Porkie Pies!” I chided, putting a bacon sandwich in front of him.
“You’ll enjoy it once you get there. Hurry up, eat your breakfast and then we can be on our way.”
He looked utterly aghast as he chomped dolefully on his bacon sandwich. His pessimism had a deflating effect on my high spirits; as I put the cool bag into the boot of the car, I grumpily reflected that he might just pretend not to feel suicidal at the prospect, for mine and Lily’s sake. After all, I don’t mope about when I’m forced to endure three hours of mind numbingly boring Formula 1. Nor do I protest when he gleefully informs me that I can’t watch the film I’ve really been looking forward to because the sodding football’s on.
It was only Monkey Jungle for heavens sake! Anyone would think that I was forcing him to partake in a late night cycle through the dodgy part of Guatemala on a 3 seat tandem.
We’re going to have a lovely day, I thought stoically as I slammed the boot shut and strapped a delighted, babbling Lily into her car seat.
I was making a flask of tea and humming with determined optimism when Jasper walked in a couple of minutes later. He was literally shuffling, dragging his feet as though he were wearing shackles. I bristled crossly. He walked with the tragic faced, slump shouldered resignation of a death row inmate about to face the electric chair.
I finally snapped.
“Oh for Gods sake! What in the name of arse is the matter with you? You’re being totally ridiculous! They’re monkeys, not bloody Chechnyan Rebels. They’re not going to shoot us, or chop our heads off. Can’t you at least pretend to be looking forward to a nice family day out?”
“I can hardly wait.” He said in a dead pan voice.
“Don’t be facetious, it doesn’t suit you.”
With overwhelming reluctance, he walked to the car and flopped into the seat with a defeated sigh.
“Off we go!” I trilled as I started the engine.
My jolly smile was met with a withering stare.
A few minutes later we were driving through Sturminster when Lily suddenly started screaming in anguish.
“BARBIE! BARBIE! WANT BARBIE!” she bellowed lustily, kicking furiously at the back of Jasper’s seat.
I suddenly remembered seeing Barbie on the kitchen Island just before we left. Lily would be inconsolable until they were re-united, such was the strength of her devotion to the pint sized plastic slapper.
“It’s no good, we’ll have to go back.” I sighed.
Jasper huffed and puffed and crossed his arms grumpily as I turned the car around.
“Can’t we just get this over and done with?” he tutted.
I could hardly hear him over Lily’s grief-stricken sobs.
“Do you want to drive around Longleat with her screaming in your ear?” I snapped.
He looked incredulous.
“I don’t want to drive around Longleat at all. Can’t you drop me off at the Happy Eater?”
I took a deep breath and feigned a lofty indifference. The rest of the journey home was silent, apart from Lily’s pitiful snivelling. Having been finally re-united with the wretched doll, she fell instantly asleep.
“And off we go again.” Sighed Jasper.
I ignored him and turned the radio up to drown out the frosty silence.
The journey was uneventful, although Jasper’s impermeable gloom lifted briefly after an impromptu trip to the Macdonalds drive-thru. He made a few witty asides about other road users, and even remarked that he was looking forward to seeing the giraffes.
I smiled inwardly, and silently thanked the Lord for the consoling properties of an egg McMuffin.
“Why are we stopping here?” he asked, as I pulled up outside a village shop.
“I’m going to buy some bananas.” I said breezily.
“What do you want bananas for?” he demanded.
“Duh! For the Monkeys.” I said, reaching over and scrabbling in the glove compartment for my wallet.
“You can’t! Feeding the Monkeys is strictly forbidden.” He shouted, making a wild grab at the £10 note.
Five minutes later I emerged from the shop brandishing three bunches of bananas. I put them on the floor of the passenger seat. Jasper was so cross he refused to look at them.
“You’ll get thrown out. There are rangers everywhere, watching people through binoculars.”
“I’ll be discreet .” I said soothingly.
He shook his head and muttered something under his breath.
Lily woke up. “Monkeys!” she trilled happily.
Jasper closed his eyes and sighed wearily.
I turned up the volume and sang gaily along to Dusty Springfield on Radio 4 in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere.
The song ended. The mellifluous tones of John Humphries announced the next song.
“And Barbara Thwaite from Norfolk correctly guessed the name of our next band. Well done Barbara – Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Monkees!”
“MONKEYS!!” screeched Lily, clapping her hands in delight.
This synchronicitous turn of events was too much for me. As the first twanging strains of “I’m a believer!” thundered from the speakers, I was consumed with the giggles.
Jasper’s disapproving expression only compounded my hysteria.
I convulsed over the steering wheel in a delirium of helpless mirth. Three hours of pent up tension came pouring forth like a burst dam. I snorted, whooped and shouted. I laughed until my sides ached and I couldn’t breathe properly. I tried to regain control, wiping my eyes and taking a deep breath.
“It’s not even that funny. “The Monkees.” Big deal.” He tutted.
I was still sniggering when we joined the long queue of cars snaking towards the entrance.
I excitedly handed over £25 to the lady in the ticket booth and slotted the CD into the stereo.
“Welcome to Longleat Safari Park. You are now entering the giraffe enclosure.”
At that precise moment, the heavens opened and it started to pour with rain. Visibility was reduced to zero, as the windscreen wipers struggled to clear the deluge.
Jasper snorted and shook his head.
“Just a passing shower.” I declared stoutly, as I parked next to the fence.
“Would you like to see the giraffes Lily?” I said excitedly.
Lily looked at me doubtfully before turning to gaze at the rain bouncing off the window.
“You’re not getting out in this?” Jasper asked incredulously.
“Bit of rain never hurt anyone.” I replied with a cheery smile.
Jasper looked as though he’d swallowed a pigeon.
I had already realised that I had failed to bring any coats or water proof clothing on our expedition.
Determined not to lose face, I grabbed a bin liner and leapt out into the down pour. I gasped in shock. The rain lashed down like icy needles, turning my white linen top transparent. Freezing mud oozed between my toes as I squelched round the car in my flip-flops.
I opened the door to get Lily out. She returned my grim smile with an expression of baffled disbelief.
“Come on, I’m taking you to see the Giraffes!” I trilled, lifting her out of the seat and into the monsoon. Her initial shock rendered her momentarily speechless, as I attempted to fashion a make shift umbrella out of the plastic sack, before making my way over to the giraffes barn. I slipped twice on the way there and almost dropped her. Her squawks of protest were drowned out by the sound of the rain bouncing off the barns corrugated roof.
I squinted through the deluge, into the barn. The giraffes were hidden from view. I gave a yelp of excitement as I made out a protruding section of hind leg.
“Oooh! Look Lily! See the Giraffe!” I squeaked, shivering as cold water dripped down my back.
Lily took a deep breath and started to howl.
“WET!” she screamed, arching her back and kicking wildly.
A gust of wind blew the bin liner away and she grunted in shock as the rain soaked her hair.
“DADDY!” she shrieked. “WANT DADDY!”
As I plunged back across the grass which was by now, muddier than the Glutton’s Circle in Dante’s Inferno, I noticed a gang of youths under a shelter, openly laughing at me. I scowled at them and carried on.
I got pack into the car, panting and shivering.
“I can see your bra.” Said Jasper helpfully.
I looked down. My black bra was indeed plainly visible through the almost sheer, soaking wet material. My painfully erect nipples protruded boldly through the fabric.
“Never mind.” I said through gritted teeth, reversing the car back onto the road.
“You are now entering the zebra paddock. These fascinating creatures are herd animals. ” Intoned the presenter.
There was not a zebra in sight.
“Look at the Zebra’s Lily, aren’t they nice?” said Jasper.
Lily peered out into the damp gloominess of the deserted paddock, and slumped back into her chair with a bored sigh.
“This is fun isn’t it Lily?” asked Jasper in a nauseatingly enthusiastic tone of voice, which was, I presumed, intended to be an impersonation of me.
“Shut Up.” I sighed.
We continued winding our way through empty stretches of grass land, until we reached Monkey Jungle. I felt dizzy with excitement as we pulled up in front of the huge double gates.
“Thank God it’s raining. Hopefully the little fuckers will all be up a tree.” Said Jasper
“Fuckers. FUCKERS!” said Lily.
“Well done Jasper.” I said tartly.
Jasper turned in his seat and looked at Lily. “No darling, you mu –“
“Fuckers.” Said Lily happily.
We edged towards the gates, which were festooned with the detritus of the Monkey’s previous acts of vandalism. A plethora of hub caps, windscreen wipers, roof racks, pieces of car bonnet, number plates; they were all up there. The Simian Equivalent of heads on sticks at the gateway to a kingdom, and a sobering testimony to their rampant appetite for destruction.
Much to Jasper’s dismay, the little fuckers were not sheltering up a tree. Clearly unperturbed by the torrential down pour, they were mooching about quite happily. A gang of juveniles watched our progress with bored expressions.
I had lifted Lily out of her car seat and put her on Jasper’s lap so she could observe them closely.
Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open with astonishment, as a mother with a baby hanging upside down from her stomach, strolled out and sat in front of the car.
“Quick, get the bananas!” I hissed excitedly.
“Wassat?” Lily asked in an awed voice.
“It’s a monkey darling!” I told her,
“Monkey!” she whispered.
The Mother strolled towards the car and momentarily disappeared from View.
Lily’s crestfallen expression turned to horror as she suddenly reappeared on the bonnet and peered through the windscreen at us, her wizened little face alight with curiousity.
Lily gave a shout of fright. “Go away!” she screamed, head butting Jasper in her desperate attempt to turn round and scrabble between the seats into the back.
The monkey looked on impassively and scratched absently at its stomach.
Having managed to calm Lily down, and reassure her that the monkeys weren’t dangerous, she grudgingly consented to sit on my knee, although I noticed that she clutched her Barbie doll so tightly that her knuckles shone white through the skin.
After a few minutes, she relaxed, and having ascertained that there weren’t any rangers in the immediate vicinity, I wound down my window and opened the first bag of bananas. The Monkey’s eyes lit up as it spotted it’s favourite grub. It gave a small chirrup of recognition as it edged round to the window, snatched the proffered treat and stuffed it in its mouth whole.
Lily whooped with delight and clapped her hands.
The other monkeys noticed and came scampering over, chattering excitedly. Soon, the car was swarming with monkeys, all pressing their little faces to the window, as they waited impatiently for their bit of banana. It was all going swimmingly until the arrival of an Alpha male. Instantly the rest of the monkeys scattered to make way for him, as he hopped up and glared menacingly in at us.
He snatched his banana and ate it on the bonnet of the car, watching us appraisingly. Something pink and shiny appeared in his fur. A few seconds passed before I realised that it was his penis.
“Willy!” Lily shouted. “Willy! Willy! Willy!”
Still chomping, and never taking his eyes off me for a second, the Monkey grabbed hold of his erect member and with an expertise borne of long practise began to pleasure himself with long, measured strokes.
“Well this is nice.” Said Jasper.
“Wassit doing?” Lily asked.
“Spunky Jungle.” I sniggered.
Jasper tittered despite himself. The Monkey carried on, faster now.
“Get it off the car, Lily shouldn’t be watching that.” He said in a serious voice.
I turned the wind screen wipers on. The monkey leant forward, grabbed them, and wrenched them off before resuming his wank.
“Fucking hell! Little bastard!” Jasper exploded. He banged on the windscreen and waved his arms.
“Get off the car you dirty little fucker!” he yelled.
“Please darling, mind your language.”
“Fuck my language. Get that fucker off the car!” he bellowed, puce with rage.
Other cars had stopped to have a look. People were pointing and laughing. People were recording the spectacle on phones and cam corders. I slumped down in my seat, utterly mortified, as the depraved ape pushed himself towards the brink.
Lily peered closer, fascinated.
“Drive off fast and then brake!” barked Jasper.
“How? We’re trapped!” I hissed.
There was no way out. We were effectively surrounded on all sides by spectators.
“It’s going to spunk on the windscreen! Put the washers on!” he spluttered.
I did as he asked. Nothing happened
The monkey was reaching his climax. His long tongue had slipped out and his eyes had glazed over with erotic pleasure.
“He’s wanking over you.” Said Jasper.
“Erm, yes, I can see that.”
He shot me an accusing look.
“It’s not my bloody fault!” I shouted.
“Your nipples are on show.”
“Oh FOR God’s sake!”
Suddenly the monkey made a strange chattering sound and went rigid. I grabbed Lily and covered her eyes, just before it ejaculated liberally all over the windscreen. The people in the other cars were going ballistic. My face was on fire as the wretched animal jumped down and sauntered off.
“Get that stuff off the windscreen.” Jasper ordered.
“Put the wipers on.”
“I can’t. It broke them.”
Jasper made an undecipherable noise and covered his face with his hands.
The show was over. Gradually the cars dispersed, and we were made our ignominious way to the exit. We passed two rangers in a jeep, who smirked as we drove past with our semen splattered wind screen.
The whole experience left us feeling slightly dazed, and we decided to drive to Longleat house for a restoring cup of tea in the basement café. I queued up with Lily and Jasper went to sit down. His rage had given way to shock. He looked pale and shaken. I felt strangely violated.
An enormous American woman was trying to squeeze her elephantine proportions into one of the narrow seats. Her husband, a vertically challenged ineffectual man who was sporting a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to grow a beard, was looking on dispassionately at his wife’s cumbersome attempts.
“They make seats so small over here!” she whined, grunting and straining. Finally, she was wedged firmly in. With a sigh of relief, she shook the rain off her sou wester, covering Lily with water.
“Awww, I’m so sorry honey! Aw you are such a cutie pie!”
Lily stared mutinously up at her.
“Silly cow.” She said crossly.
The woman recoiled in shock and put her hand to her chest in dismay.
“I’m terribly sorry. She doesn’t know what she’s saying.” I grovelled.
“Fat!” Lily said accusingly, pointing at the womans straining gut.”
“Oh God, I’m really very sorry.” I whimpered.
“Lily. Say sorry. SAY SORRY NOW!”
“FAT!” said Lily stoutly.
I abandoned the pot of tea I had ordered, grabbed Lily’s hand and shuffled towards the exit, the second time that I had left somewhere burning with mortification.
Jasper had already made a furtive escape, and was outside in the cloisters, puffing furiously on a cigarette.
Lily smiled up at us angelically and took hold of our hands.
“Well that was a fun day.” I said with a rueful smile.
“Definitely a day to remember.” He replied, giving me a hug.
“Next time, we’ll go to Peppa Pig World.”
I nodded in agreement and giggled.
He took my hand. “Shall we go home?”
“Yes, let’s go home……”