Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails


The Cheetahs and Their Fog Busting Suits

Every now and again I have to return the subject matter that started me blogging in the first place – the Cheetahs that lived in their Keeper’s shoes.  Obviously imaginary ones (just in case you were wondering).  They’ve been with us for a good 2 years now and although not quite as domineering as they were originally, they’re still a fairly regular part of every day life.

The move to Year 1 has been a challenge for the Cheetah Keeper – the physical effort needed to keep up is exhausting him, as is the processing of all the new facts, information, time-table and having to sit still for slightly longer than a nano-second at a time.  We’ve had tantrums (including the removal of trousers and pants in the street on the way to school and trying to give himself a nosebleed), refusal to eat – and subsequent very early morning starts because he was hungry and a defiance both at school and home that has raised more than a few eyebrows.

We’ve instigated a complete change of diet, rationed the screen time severely and carried out our threats.  It’s working but the changes have obviously been rather stressful for the boy as the Cheetahs are back big styleeee.  Even in his shoes before school this week – they haven’t been in them for months – preferring the snuggliness of his duvet.  They’ve been sleeping under his new orthotic insloes – because they’re so comfy and they need looking after.  We have to make sure that they’re out of his shoes before school otherwise they will be trodden on and that would not do.

This morning we set out for another trip to our beloved Whipsnade Zoo.  I love autumn at the zoo – the colours, the lack of visitors – it becomes ‘our’ zoo again before the harshness of winter sets in.  The conkers aren’t quite ready yet (cue another visit in a couple of weeks) but there are zoo babies in abundance and I have yet to see them all.

It was a real ‘pea-souper’ of a foggy morning.  The M1 was engulfed by thick fog (note dear reader, if you are driving in this, put your headlights on) and a little voice pipes up from the back of the car…

“The Cheetahs have got their fog suits on today… and their fog helmets… and fog shoes…. and fog coats… and fog gloves for their paws….”


“And it means they can ride on the top of the cars so they’re safer….”


“and their fog lamps are so bright that once they’ve got really hot they start pouring out boiling hot lava that cuts through the fog and sends it back up into the sky ready to turn into snow in time for Christmas”

ah – ok – but doesn’t the lava burn them?

“no, they have knee pads, and elbow pads and paw pads that stop the lava”

of course.

So that was that – until we got a little closer to the zoo.  The Cheetahs were riding on the road next to us on their “fast car bikes” – seemingly they can give Sir Chris Hoy a run for his money – cue much discussion about whether Chris Hoy riding against the Cheetahs would be a fair race and how it could be judged who was fastest in the world…

We had a wonderful time at the zoo – being surrounded by thick fog makes you look harder and appreciate it more.  It’s a beautiful place, one where we genuinely feel ‘at peace’ with ourselves.  As the staff and volunteers say, if you’d gone today and seen a load of foggy paddocks and some sleepy animals you wouldn’t feel like you’d had that good a day.  For those of use who visit again and again, we see the circle of life moving on (a week old giraffe today – he’s just gorgeous) and the seasons changing in their own good time.  It’s perfect.

As for the Cheetahs – they loved coming up with us today – unfazed by the boiling lava they apparently loved seeing the Cheetah cubs playing together and eating a chicken (yes, with feathers) with their mummy.  They came back with us in the car and as far as I’m aware are snuggled up with their Keeper in bed.  It’s getting a bit chilly in the porch now.

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Olympic Cheetahs

This seems to be my 300th post.  In less than a year I’ve gone from writing purely about imaginary friends to having 2 blogs, a love affair with my camera and collaborating on all sorts of other stuff.  I digress… (it may be something to do with the shock…)

I haven’t written about the imaginary menagerie for ages.  Their antics, whilst amusing, are part of our lives and they live quite a ‘normal’ routine – lots of jet-packs, magic powers, vehicles and jumping around.  There are a whole load more imaginary friends – Rockhopper Penguins being the favourite although I’m not entirely sure whether the Rockies are the Cheetah’s imaginary friends or are adding to the register of Cheetahs, Banana People, Dinos, Strikes (the Dino brothers from Spain) and their friends and relations.

As I’ve written about already, we’ve been thoroughly caught up in Olympic fever.  The Cheetahs came to see the torch relay:

look – here they are to watch!

and as far as I’m aware, got to balance along the Olympic bunting – although I’m never quite sure now whether they’re doing that to get up to mischief or just for a bit of fun.  The Cheetah Keeper is a very different character to the one I first started writing about – his confidence has grown so much during his time in Reception and the Cheetahs are now part of our lives in a more imaginative (and surreal) way than purely being a crutch in stressful situations.  They still increase in their activity when he’s worried about something and always come to hospital appointments but he is growing the skills to use them to his advantage!  (“Mummy, you’ve hoovered up my Cheetahs and now I shall cry…”)

I posted about our trip to the Madejski Stadium for the Olympic Torch Celebrations over here and there was a ridiculous quantity of time spent sitting around.  To ‘entertain’ the the crowds, the Olympic mascot Wenlock was out and about – way out of our reach though.  And as we sat there, a little voice whispered to me “I’ve got ‘maginary Mandevilles and Wenlocks now Mummy”.  I winced smiled lovingly and asked him to elaborate…

Apparently every Team GB athlete in the Olympics has a tiny imaginary Wenlock who sits on their shoulder (or shoe, or swimming hat etc) who’s there to help them try to be the best that they can be.  Without them, the athletes won’t be as good.  The same goes for the Paralympians – they’ll all have a tiny Mandeville to help them.  He’d clearly got this all worked out in his head (as he always as, to the most minuscule of detail) but it never ceases to amaze me how he has the ability to consider the needs of so many others – from his little head that melts down completely if he can’t sit on a particular chair at a particular moment.

As well as all the Olympic ‘maginaries, the Cheetahs have been taking their role in the Games incredibly seriously.  A 3 week training session in Running Land produced genuine tears as they hadn’t come back to see their Keeper at bedtime and he missed them.  There was no consoling the boy – the other friends would not do – and then he milked it, and milked it a bit more.  I started to run out of sympathy (sorry).

So they’re back now – they’ve apparently had a run on the track (obviously beating everyone) and a swim in the pool (yes, Cheetahs can swim – the real ones – as long as there’s food involved) and have their own little team trainers.  They’re taking it as seriously as their Keeper but I guess he’s a bit gutted that they can’t compete in the Velodrome (never say never…).  The Cheetahs are going to take part in the Paralympics too – I suspect helping the wheelchair athletes go a bit faster.

In the meantime, some of then have been to MudLand to jump in some puddles and let off steam.  Some have been on holiday with us – can you see them in his hood?

The Cheetahs hardly ever live in his shoes any more – they’re far too busy with their other stuff – and tend to sleep in  his bed – it’s much cosier there.  They’re fond of spotting an Eddie Stobart lorry (as they always have been) and running along the motorway with us (that’s what the white lines are there for…) or surfing along on the back of the car hanging onto the back windscreen wiper.   I admit that some of their antics do drive me nuts now – especially when they invite all their friends over (giraffes, penguins, flamingoes) and I’m expected to remember them all but I suspect they’ll be with us for some time to come – especially as the beautiful mummy Cheetah, Dubai, at Whipsnade Zoo who gave birth to the original Cheetah cubs that inspired these friends in the first place, gave birth to her second litter in May this year.  They went on show to the public last Friday and we were there on Sunday – and with such a beautiful mummy and 7 new bundles of fluff, I think the ‘maginaries will be with us for some time yet…


See It, Snap It, Love It – Candid

OK, I admit it, I googled ‘candid’ (or ‘gooooooooooooooooogled’ as it’s known in this house).   I needed to find an unposed picture when the person pictured wasn’t really aware I was taking the photos.  I knew what it meant really but didn’t want to make a fool of myself!

It’s be bit tricky for the children not be aware that I have the camera – it’s with me more and more.   However, they’re relatively easy to take unposed photos of because of just that fact – they’re so used to be snapping away and want to be off doing their own thing.

This weekend we went out to ‘do some nature’ as part of the Cheetah Keeper’s Sister’s “Out and About” Brownie badge.  She’d missed the walk when the rest of the Brownies did it having had a particularly long, boring and painful afternoon at the hospital.  It broke my heart when she said she didn’t want to come to Brownies because she was too tired and just wanted to go to sleep.  It’s not a decision that you would want any 7 year old to have to make.  Anyway, the distinct advantage of your mum being Tawny Owl was that I’d planned the whole thing and we could go on the walk anytime we wanted.  So, we donned our ‘appropriate clothing’, grabbed the cameras, her carefully annotated Goooooooooooooogle map and set out.

The Ver Valley walk is lovely – especially in the sunshine and we had a fabulous time ‘doing nature’.  We ended up on a playing field on the way home – some of which is being left to grow as pollinator meadow with grasses now taller than the children.  The Red Kite was up circling and as I am still on a mission to get a decent photo of it (now ‘them’ – how exciting!) the Cheetah Keeper (and the Cheetahs for that matter) were off exploring.  And then he just decided to do this, because he could (and didn’t realise I could change the camera settings that fast!).


Oh Cheetah Keeper – what have you done?

I seem to have lost the Cheetah Keeper.  Not as in lost, lost but lost as in my cuddly, smiley, biddable, slightly cheeky, polite and funny boy is missing.  In his place I have a stroppy, flailing, spitting, plotting, nastily mischievious and over dramatic child.  It’s beginning to try my patience.

With man to man marking he’s a lovely child.  His concentration and focus when doing an activity of his own choice is phenomenal (I know plenty of grown-ups who’d struggle for that amount of time without a tea/loo break).  When engaged in his school reading book or writing something he’s sparky and enthusiastic.

And then we’ll find something he doesn’t like or want to do.  Or something he really wants to do but either his sister is in the way (allegedly in most cases) or he’s not allowed.  Then the arms and fists start flying, or he’ll spit or, joy of joys, there’ll be what we call the ‘protest wee’ which will be anywhere except the toilet.  This morning, as I was in the toilet (shock horror!) I caught him just about to ‘go’ in the washing machine.  The apology is instant – the look of mischief is there.  Boys, apparently, will be boys, but really…?

We’ve now discovered his hiding place (“I’ve lost my cake mummy, can I have another one..?”) where snaffled food is consumed ‘in private’ (until I get there and remove said contraband) and precious things are hidden.  This week it’s extended to his sister’s insole for her shoes – because “he was tricking us”.  He had to apologise to her (the lack of the insole meant her shoes had rubbed) – she took it remarkably well.

He’s driving me quietly mad.  But then I think on.   The imaginary friends are extremely active at the moment.  28 new baby Cheetahs accompanied us to Great Ormond Street Hospital on Friday, 20 meerkats went to school on Monday and all the Cheetahs came with us when he had his hair cut yesterday.  The mention of any of the imaginary menagerie will generally diffuse a situation.

He’s also had a bit of a cough, his excema’s flared and he’s got what are either heat or non-specific viral spots on his chest.  He’s not slept that well because of the heat and this half term’s been a week longer than usual.  They’re ‘off timetable’ at school and therefore the routine is different, his friends in the classroom are all tired too and they’re beginning to think about moving on from their cocoon in Reception into the bigger world of Year 1.  Maybe he’s just got a particularly nasty bout of endoftermitits.

So Half Term will be a chance to break the pattern – nauseating amounts of positive praise, earning goodies and getting away from the behaviour patterns that are producing the friction points.  Hopefully I’ll get him back again – because when he’s his usual happy self, he’s pretty damn cute.


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Everything you need to know about Rhinos (and how to start a Cheetah race)

The Cheetah Keeper’s sister has been desperate to make her own vlog(s) and (small admission of guilt coming up here) this has been sitting on my computer for a little while – mainly as I needed to learn the skillz to edit out the complete drivel and other people shouting.  I don’t think I’m doing too badly now and so, here’s everything you may (or may not) need to know about Rhinos at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo…


The Cheetah Keeper on Slides and Rocket Boosters

I know that videos aren’t everyone’s ‘thing’ so for those of you who want some more ‘normal’ photos and writings, these will come soon.  It’s just a week ago that I was sitting with a very groggy Cheetah Keeper on Peter Pan Ward in Great Ormond Street Hospital.  Today he’s finished his antibiotics and his nose has only bled a very tiny bit.  He’s still off in Cheetah world – but in that I think Cheetah world is better than being glued to the computer screen (give him half a chance and here’s there) so, apart from their demands for Easter Eggs, I’m going with them for a while.  And if that includes building them slides out of duplo, bring it on…


The Cheetah Keeper Speaks

The Cheetah Keeper has never let me film him speaking about the Cheetahs…until today!  He was very sad yesterday (even squeezing out some real tears) that all his imaginary friends had gone on holiday and left him at home.  They had, to be fair, worked incredibly hard during our stay in Great Ormond Street (I bet it’s the first time they’ve ever had Cheetahs in the anaesthetic room) but I’m not sure they should have deserted him when his nose is still a bit bloody and his fuse is ridiculously short – then again…

They came back today – and he’s been making something for them…