Overnight at the zoo

Sunday, August 26th 2018

London Zoo, or to give it its official name, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), is a well known institution and a favourite place to visit for Londoners and tourists alike. Did you know, though, that you can spend the night there? I didn’t but Tigger found out and secretly arranged a stay for us as a surprise for me ahead of my birthday.

We arrived in the late afternoon and made our way to the Gir Lion Lodge, a group of chalets, one of which would be ours for the night. Here we met the staff who would be looking after us and were given information about the event. After the general public leaves and the zoo gates are closed for the night, we and our fellow group members were taken on tours of parts of the zoo, some of which the general public never sees. The guides explained the characteristics of some of the animals and gave us insights into the complex care that goes into looking after them. I learned quite a lot from this. A highlight of the evening was a buffet dinner during which we were entertained with anecdotes from some of the more knowledgeable members of the zoo team.

On the morrow, a buffet breakfast was provided in the zoo’s cafe-restaurant and we were taken on another long tour which included visits to some of the more interesting animals and a glimpse behind the scenes at how feeding and general care are organized. All in all,it was a worthwhile experience and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in animals and zoos. You will find more details of these events on the Gir Lion Lodge Web page.

We arrived in good time and needed to occupy ourselves until they were ready to show us to our quarters. We deposited our bags which were later transferred to our chalet and went for our own tour of the zoo. Below are some of the photos I took during the course of the evening.

Feeding time for the penguins
Feeding time for the penguins

The penguins have a splendid enclosure with a rocky area surrounding a huge pool in which they evidently enjoy swimming. The fence is quite low, affording the public unobstructed views of the penguins and the pool has a glass front so that you can watch the activities of the penguins under water. These are Humboldt penguins and the enclosure mimics a South American beach landscape that is their natural habitat.

Penguins Penguin

The enclosure is of course in the open air which means that at feeing time, in addition to the penguins, numerous self-invited guests turn up hoping to share in the banquet. If you look at the above photo you will see a heron and several herring gulls. No attempt is made to stop these freeloaders but care is taken to make sure that the penguins get their rations, the more timid individuals being fed individually.

Heron
Heron

Herons are usually quite shy but at the zoo they feel safe, especially within the penguin enclosure where the public cannot go. I was able to take this photo of a heron standing quite near the barrier.

Butterfly

The zoo’s inmates have, unfortunately but of necessity, to be confined to prevent them absconding. Confinement is designed to provide, as far as possible, an environment natural to the species concerned while, at the same time ensuring a reasonable degree of visibility to visitors. ZSL does not force animals to appear and if they wish to hide away in their dens they are allowed to do so.

Butterfly

Another aspect is the safety of visitors. There must be impenetrable barriers between the public and any animals likely to be dangerous. Where the animals are completely harmless, a more relaxed regime may be allowed. The zoo provides several environments where visitors enter the space occupied by the animals. Such environments can offer a rewarding experience of coming very close to the inhabitants. One such is the butterfly house. The entrance is closed only by two layers of heavy curtaining which humans can push their way through but which the butterflies cannot pass. On a previous visit to the butterfly house, a large creature, possibly an Atlas Moth, perched on my handbag and refused to budge, much to my, and others’, amusement. Today’s passage through the realm of the butterflies produced no such close encounters, leaving me thereby slightly disappointed!

Jellyfish
Jellyfish

The dim three-dimensional world of the oceans seems to me as alien and mysterious as any fantasy environment dreamed up by a sci-fi writer. These jellyfish move sedately as though performing a slow-motion ballet.

Golden Silk Orb Weaver
Golden Silk Orb Weaver

If you are an arachnophobe then the sight of any spider is likely to make you shudder and the above silhouette will seem threatening. Golden Silk Orb Weavers are quite large and can make webs up to a metre and a half wide. The have been known to catch even small birds. Happily for you arachnophobes, they do not occur in Britain, though with global warming that might change…

Giraffe
Giraffe

This giraffe seems to be trying to decide whether to go out or stay indoors. Giraffes are not the only animals to have unusually long necks but they are the unchallenged champions in the field and have extra long legs for bonus points.

Giraffe
Giraffe

Their uniqueness has made them favourites as zoo animals and has intrigued generations of travellers and artists. Anciently, they were given the name camelopard, a word cobbled together from ‘camel’ and ‘leopard’, but the British eventually took over the French name, girafe, the origin of which is uncertain, probably deriving from Arabic zirafa.

Zebras
Zebras

Another colourful animal is the zebra whose name has been borrowed in the UK for pedestrian crossings marked out in black and white stripes. The pattern of stripes on a zebra is different for each individual allowing any one animal to be identified from a photo. (The same is true of my namesake the tiger.) The horse-like character of the zebra has suggested its use as an exotic beast of burden but they have proved difficult to coerce into this role. (Good for them!) In the wild they breed true but in captivity they have been known to cross-breed with related species as witness this report of the birth of a ‘zonkey’ (a zebra-donkey cross).

Pygmy hippopotamus asleep
Pygmy hippopotamus asleep

This pygmy hippopotamus was soundly asleep on a comfortable bed of what appears to be damp mud. He’d probably had a busy day so we tiptoed past and let him rest.

Pygmy hippopotamus awake
Pygmy hippopotamus awake

Later, we saw this pygmy hippopotamus awake though whether it was the same one I cannot say. The name comes from two Greek words hippos (‘horse’) and potamos (‘river). The name has been Latinized to ‘hippopotamus’ which has misled some amateur pedants into insisting that the plural should be *hippopotami but unless you want to be sniggered at in company it’s best to stick with ‘hippopotamuses’. Ungainly on land, the hippo, whether pygmy or full size, becomes a fast and easy mover in water.

Ring-tailed lemur
Ring-tailed lemur

Ring-tailed lemurs, easily identified by the tail after which they are named, are gregarious and very intelligent. Their large, noticeable yes are, I think, one of the factors accounting for their popularity. Though tree dwellers, they may spend a third of their time on the ground. In zoos, they are popular with visitors and often allowed to interact with them. Sadly, the species is endangered in the wild.

Aye-aye
Aye-aye

The aye-aye is also a member of the lemur family and comes, like the ring-tailed, from Madagascar. Mainly nocturnal, they eat fruit and insect larvae which they dig out from their holes in tree branches with their long claws. I think the red lighting was intended to make the aye-aye feel it was night time while providing enough light for us to see him.

Green iguana
Green iguana

Many of the zoo’s animals are so quick moving that my photos of them are just blurs so photographing a green iguana made a pleasant change! As happy in water as in land, green iguanas come from the Americas and are real tough guys: to escape unwelcome attention, they can allow themselves to fall up to 50 feet without getting hurt. This one was obviously not concerned about enemies and was probably asleep, though it’s hard to tell, really…

Bactrian camel
Bactrian camel

The camel is one of those animals that seem odd at first sight but when studied more closely turn out to be remarkably well adapted to  their native environment. Camels are reputed to be bad tempered but having been to Egypt and seen how the camel drivers treat them I am not surprised. These, though, are Bactrian camels from Mongolia and the east (they are the ones with  two humps) so perhaps they are more even tempered. We stood beside this group for some time while the zoo guide talked about them and throughout, the camels stood politely listening though they must have heard it all before.

Bactrian camel
Bactrian camel

Although we reached the zoo in the late afternoon, both on our own and on guided tours we did a lot of walking and standing listening, so I was quite glad when bedtime came around at last. We returned to the Gir Lion Lodge area and were assigned to our chalet where are bags were waiting for us. Did the nocturnal animals make much noise? I really couldn’t say because I slept like the proverbial log.

Copyright 2018 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Sculpture in the City 2018

Saturday, August 25th 2018

Every summer, the City of London, in association with city businesses, turns the Square Mile into a sculpture gallery with an exhibition called Sculpture in the City. The works remain on show from June to April. This year the City celebrated the 8th Sculpture in the City and, as usual, we went along to look at the artworks and photograph them. The fruits of that excursion are shown below. Here you will find a map showing the locations of the sculptures should you wish to visit them yourself.

The artworks are shown on this page and if you click on each image you will be taken to a description of that work.

In previous years, I have accompanied the photos of each sculpture with a copy of the information on it from the descriptions page. That seems unnecessary and so this year, instead of copying the text, I will simply provide a link to its Web page. It is the link labelled Commentary.

Twenty artworks were selected for this year’s Sculpture in the City but number 15, Opening the Air by Jyll Bradley, has been removed without any explanation that I have been able to find. It is, however, described here.

Untitled
01 Untitled
David Annesley, 1969
Commentary

 

Pepper Rock
02 Pepper Rock
Richard Rome, 1993
Commentary

The Adventurer
03 The Adventurer
Gabriel Lester, 2014
Commentary

 

Your Lips Moved Across My Face
04 Your Lips Moved Across My Face
Tracey Emin, 2015
Commentary

 

Sari Garden Sari Garden
Sari Garden
05 Sari Garden
Clare Jarrett, 2018
Commentary

 

Climb
06 Climb
Juliana Cerqueira Leite, 2012
Commentary

 

UNIVRS
07 UNIVRS
Michail Pergelis, 2012-2018
Commentary

 

The Great Escape
08 The Great Escape
Miroslaw Balka, 2014
Commentary

 

Synapsid
09 Synapsid
Karen Tang, 2014
Commentary

 

Perceval
10 Perceval
Sarah Lucas, 2006
Commentary

 

A Woldwide Web of Somewheres
11 A Woldwide Web of Somewheres
Amanda Lwin, 2018
Commentary

 

I'm Staying
12 I’m Staying
Shaun C. Badham, 2914
Commentary

 

Stack Blues
13 Stack Blues
Saun Scully, 2017
Commentary

 

Numen (Shifting Votive One & Two)
14 Numen (Shifting Votive One & Two)
Thomas J Price, 2016
Commentary

 

Body
16 Body
Jean-Luc Moulène, 2011
Commentary

 

Numen (Shifting Votive Three)
17 Numen (Shifting Votive Three)
Thomas J Price, 2016
Commentary

 

Crocodylius Philondendrus
18 Crocodylius Philondendrus
Nancy Rubins, 2016/2017
Commentary

 

Tree
19 Tree
Marina Abramović, 1972
Commentary

Work number 20 (below) was not available on August 25th. We photographed it on September 28th 2018.

Bridging Home, London Bridging Home, London
20 Bridging Home, London
Do Ho Suh, 2018
Commentary

Copyright 2018 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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Some art in Bristol

Thursday, August23rd 2018

Today is our last day in Bristol this time around. Our train departs later in the day, leaving us free to take a last look at this fine city.

Map of our visits
Map of our visits
(Click for live OpenStreetMap)

This map, courtesy of Geosetter, shows the location of our two main visits. (Click for a live OpenStreetMap of the locality.)

The Victoria Rooms
The Victoria Rooms

Our first landmark was this striking and elegant building called the Victoria Rooms. The Grade II* listed concert hall opened in 1842. It was designed in French Neoclassical Style by Charles Dyer with carvings by Jabez Tyler. Today it houses the University of Bristol’s Department of Music. In front of the building is an elaborate fountain with a statue of King Edward VII added in 1912 as a memorial to that monarch. I took this photo of it on a previous visit.

The Royal West of England Academy
The Royal West of England Academy

Almost opposite the Victoria Rooms stands another prestigious Grade II* listed building, the Royal West of England Academy. It opened in 1857 as Bristol’s first art gallery. Its royal title was conferred by King in George V in 1913. A more detailed history of the establishment will be found here. We stepped inside to take a look.

However Inconguous
However Inconguous
Raqs Media Collective, 2011

One of the works on display was this eye-catching rendition of a rhinoceros by the Raqs Media Collective. It is a 3D recreation of Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut of said beast, reimagined as a carousel animal. Dürer had never actually seen a rhinoceros and was working from descriptions of the animal. (See this Wikipedia entry on Dürer and his woodcut.)

Victoria Rooms from the RWA terrace
Victoria Rooms from the RWA terrace

We went up onto the terrace of the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) from where I took the above photo of the Victoria Rooms and its crossroads site.

John Flaxman Joshua Reynolds
John Flaxman and Joshua Reynolds

At either side of the façade stand statues of, respectively, John Flaxman and Joshua Reynolds.

Ceiling dome
Ceiling dome

On the first floor, this impressive ceiling done caught our attention.

Entrance Hall, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Entrance Hall, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery

We next walked down Queen’s Road to the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, always a good place to spend time. You can explore specific topics or themes or simply wander as fancy takes you as we did. Here are a few of the items that claimed my attention.

Kathleen
Kathleen
Jacob Epstein, 1935

Jacob Epstein is one of my favourite sculptors. His portraits of both famous personalities and members of his family are justly famous.

Prisoner
Prisoner
Elizabeth Frink, 1988

This bust, entitled Prisoner, is by Elizabeth Frink much of whose work is influenced by her experiences as a child growing up near an operational airfield during the Second World War and often explores themes of human cruelty.

Idiomorphic Beast
Idiomorphic Beast
Lynn Chadwock, 1953

Lynn Chadwirk is another artist influenced by the horrors of the Second World War. He is known for his human figures with geometrical shapes for heads (see Couple on Seat in my post West India Quay). This strange,  rather alien, creature is described by its label thus:

‘Idiomorphic’ means ‘having its own characteristic form’ and this sculpture is unique. Chadwick welded iron rods to form the cage-like torso. He exhibited the Beast at the Venice Biennale in 1956, where he won the sculpture prize.

Winged Figure 1
Winged Figure 1
Barbara Hepworth, 1957

Barbara Hepworth was a pioneer in abstract sculpture. Works featuring holes joined by wires are almost certain to be by her though other artists also used the technique. In her  day, her works were innovative though today they seem to me – dare I say it? – to have a slightly old-fashioned feel. They are, I think, very much of the period when they were made.

Professor Charles MacInnes
Professor Charles MacInnes
Jacob Epstein, 1959

One of his last works, this portrait by Jacob Epstein is of the historian Professor Charles MacInnes and has been praised for way in which the sculptor has expressed his subject’s blindness.

The Bristol Biplane affectionately known as Boxkite
The Bristol Biplane affectionately known as Boxkite

Suspended, as though photographed in mid flight, is a replica of the Bristol Biplane, known affectionately as the Boxkite. It was the first aircraft produced by the British and Colonial Aeroplane Company, later known as the Bristol Aeroplane Company.

For us, it was now time to turn for the station and take our train back to London. Bristol is a charming and historic city, full of interest for the visitor. We have visited it before and I don’t doubt that we shall return again.

Copyright 2018 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

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