There are certain perks to the job of co-Director at Hobeck Books. It seems that day trips out and about is one of them. Of course there are days spent in front of a computer but they don't make for such an interesting blog.
Today was one such day as we had arranged to meet with our second Hobeck author, Antony Dunford, author of the forthcoming Hunted, and professional photographer Jayne at Chester Zoo. The purpose of the day was to take some photos of Antony in various settings (most importantly, with his beloved rhinos) so that we will have some images for his website (to be launched soon - watch this space) and other publicity material.
Despite having three children, I haven’t been to a zoo since 1990 so this was to be a real treat for me. I had been very much looking forward to the day (not least to be meeting Antony for the first time). The last time I went to a zoo, I hadn't found it a particularly enjoyable experience. In fact, I had found it a rather depressing experience. This had been a French zoo (I can't now recall where). The time before that had been Dudley zoo on a biology school trip, this had been the same year that Duran Duran released The Reflex (funny the things you remember). My memories of both those visits were not good - sad and often mad, caged animals with deeply sad and soulful eyes.
This time was different. We didn't see many animals as the purpose of the trip was to focus on the rhinos and taking photos (we were there to work, don't you know). However, the animals we did see, much to my delight, seemed to be living a completely different life to those animals of my memory. I take my hat off to Chester Zoo. It is a lovely place. They have done a fantastic job of creating a warm, friendly and loving atmosphere for the animals while facilitating the full spectator experience.
We saw a lot of the rhinos, of course. That was inevitable. Jayne took lots of photos of them. They were glorious. I didn't expect anything less. The rhinos had soul. I fell for their eyes, for their ears and for their grace. They are creatures of contradictions. They were petite but they also gave off a sense of density, size and majesty. I also felt they had an aura of vulnerability yet equally they are creatures of strength. They have a commonality about them too, yet they move and glide like members of royalty. I fell in love. Who wouldn't? I now see why Antony is so in awe of these creatures. I feel as if I fell in love a little bit today too.
Despite the oppressive heat, we managed to take some great shots (and drink amazing pineapple icecream float creations - much needed in the heat), before we called it a day (rather reluctantly but the heat beat us all). I can't wait to see the fruits of today's labour - hurry up Jayne!
Adrian and I are so excited to be working with Antony and it was great to meet him in person, finally. We now share a little bit of his passion for those animals. I can't wait to go back. I will see if I can persuade the children to come too.
As for my opinion to zoos? Yes, that has changed. And a little known fact, related to zoos, I once met the great, late Johnny Morris. While we were at Chester today, I caught a glimpse of the elephants - in the distance. I fell in love with them a little bit too. This made me think of that day, the day I met Johnny Morris. And here I am with the great legend.