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.


Birds of the World

We spent Sunday morning up at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.  It had been a whole, brace yourselves, TWO WEEKS since our previous visit (in the rain).  One of the Cheetah Keeper’s favourite things is to go to the “Birds of the World” demonstrations.  At 11.15 of a morning, a selection of birds are ‘flown’ and their individual skills demonstrated – and usually the birds are pretty willing to show off.  The Cheetah Keeper’s Sister knows the answers to ALL the questions (to the extent the presenters will direct comments at her/us *cringe*) and would happily stand up and do the show herself.  To the extent that she spent the visit (and the trip home from school on Monday) carrying 2 imaginary Harris Hawks on her arm.  They’re called Emily and Pranav – because she likes the names.  She’s learning the hand signals that the bird trainers use (just in case she doesn’t get a job as a sealion trainer straight away) and is sure that she could carry her hawks around quite easily…

In that I’ve heard this talk one or two hundred times I spent yesterday trying to photograph it instead and therefore – bring you this selection:

This cheeky chap is Chico – he’s a Toco Toucan.  His beak is made of the same stuff as our fingernails so it’s really light (good job too, otherwise he’d fall off his perch) and he has fondness for grapes.  He hops around most of the time (he does a nifty side step to order) because having  such a small wingspan makes flying really hard work.

He also has really good eye/beak coordination and will snatch insects or other trips out the air.

Generally he’s pretty well behaved and generally has small children pointing at him muttering about In The Night Garden or grown ups talking about Guiness adverts.

This is Hood and she’s an American Black Vulture.  She’s an intelligent girl – eating the leftovers from other animals (including humans) and having such a powerful intestinal system she can eat poisonous and festering food and still be ok.  She has a bald head (stops the gunk building up – ewww) and lovely white legs.  Lovely white legs because her poo drips down her legs every time she ‘goes’.  Lovely.  But rather elegant.

On Sunday, she was rather enjoying the sunshine and getting up on the breeze and having a good soar.

Unfortunately for her handler, that meant that she wasn’t too keen on doing anything that she was asked to do!

Next out:

This little cutie is Belle and she’s a Merlin.  Less than 30cm high she’s new to the show this year and does the most amazing acrobatics.  Her swoops and stoops had everyone ooo’ing and ahhh’ing like a rather good fireworks display.  She also had a bit of a moment before showing off her skills – every good aerobatic artiste has to have a good poo before they start!  Her reward at the end of her display is a nice bit of mouse.

The next star of the show is Timbo – he’s an African Grey Parrot and he flies soooooooooooo fast that a photo (I reckon) is nigh on impossible.  The more you cheer for him the closer to your head he flies – so everyone ducks – a bit like a reverse Mexican wave!

The final birds out (at this show) were the Macaws.  The Cheetah Keeper loves the Macaws and against a blue sky and with the wind conditions favourable (apparently) they make the most gorgeous sight.  So to introduce you:

This is Neava – she’s a Hyacinth Macaw and still pretty much a ‘baby’ at 4 years old.  She’s part of the breeding programme of this endangered species at ZSL London Zoo but until she’s old enough to breed (that’ll be when she’s about 7) she’s up at Whipsnade.  They’ve taught her to wave with her claw (a completely natural behaviour just channelled) and she’s really rather lovely.

Macaws tend to fly in pair bonds – almost touching wing tips and this chap – Rio used to fly with Bolivia but he’s now at London Zoo.  Rio has a new partner to fly with but we’ve yet to see them in action.   They’re Military Macaws who are the smallest of the ‘large’ macaws.

The next pair out are Harry and Sidney – Blue and Gold Macaws (the originality of these names is amazing!) and finally, out come the Cheetah Keeper’s favourites – Inca and George who are Scarlet Macaws.  He loves them and knows that they’re brothers and the best flyers.  Any chance to get up close to them is seized upon at which point he watches in wide eyed wonder absolutely transfixed.

My favourite bit – watching them fly.




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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…

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Ring Tailed Lemurs

Here’s the second in my essentially photo posts from our last visit to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.  With a bit of Google research I discover the collective term for a group of lemurs is a ‘troop’.  I am sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong!  The group at Whipsnade are the very distinctive Ring Tailed Lemurs are an all male group – seeing out their retirement years in comfort and entertaining a few folk at the same time.  The Cheetah Keeper’s sister knows all the answers to the questions asked during the feeding talks – her brother just loves the fact that they have stinky scent pads on their ‘wrists’ so they can stink fight with each other.

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Now the clocks have changed, Whipsnade is open later so we’ll be able to go up after school for picnic teas – I bet the lemurs will be looking at us and thinking “not them again“!


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Californian Sealions

We spent 7 hours at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo yesterday.  The Cheetah Keeper, his sister and I.  Well, and about a zillion other people enjoying the sunshine but the good thing about Whipsnade is that it absorbs people and you don’t feel squashed.  I went a bit camera crazy so I think a series of picture posts is in order.  Starting with the Californian Sealions, Dominic, Salt (Dominic’s mum) and his harem of girlfriends – Bailey, Lara and Kyra.  They’re practicing hard for their ‘proper’ demonstrations that start on Saturday and so we got to watch them training…

So Embarrassing



Surfing out the pool

Training over, time for a game - you looking at me???

The Cheetah Keeper’s sister wants to be a sealion trainer when she grows up – she’s made herself another name badge and it’s tough to part her from her whistle….


Inspired – Winter Whipsnade

Lucy over at Dear Beautiful Boy has started this lovely new link asking me to post 5 pictures of something that’s inspired me.  Her amazing pictures of all things white this week are just lovely but I’m not sure anything white would ever last in this house!  So, I’ve chosen 5 pictures that I took on our last visit to Whipsnade Zoo.  I’ve blogged before about how much we love it there and even in the depths of winter it’s still fantastic.  Once again our thanks must go to the lovely Explainer Catherine for being the highlight of our visit for the Cheetah Keeper’s sister and for building the Cheetah Keeper’s confidence to the point where he can actually touch the bugs!

In the summer, there’s a talk about the bears every morning and if you answer the questions correctly you get to throw a bit of fruit or veg in for the bears.  In the winter there’s almost no-one there and when the keeper rocks up with a bucket of veg for the bears and says ‘do you want to do this job for me’ the children burst with excitement.  To be fair, so did I.  There’s something very cool about being allowed to feed the bears at the zoo.  And did you know that bears eat carrots like this?

This little chap is a Wolverine.  He knows that when the keeper appears with a bucket of fruit & veg for the bears that his morning snack (dead mouse or chick if you wanted to know that) isn’t that far away.  They dash over to as close to the van as they can get – this one stands up on his back legs and looks hopeful whilst the other one runs round and round in circles in excitement.  They look very cuddly – and then you see their teeth.

This is Tashi the Red Panda.  She’s 3 and they’re hoping she’s going to breed with Peter – the red panda she shares her tree with.  She had her tail bitten off when she was a baby but that doesn’t affect her zipping up the tree when she fancies a quick snooze.  Their favourite food is bamboo leaves and they also have hypermobile paws to help them balance – which delighted the Cheetah Keeper and his sister because (unlike most zoo visitors) they can turn their hands out as far as a red panda can.

The Cheetah Keeper has been very wary (well, terrified) of the bug handling sessions in the Discovery Centre.  All credit for him finding his confidence must go to Catherine who has been so patient with him, and to his sister who has encouraged him without pressure all the way – and wanted to take photos of him “being brave”.  This is Delilah – she’s a stick insect and likes climbing over warm hands.  Mine are always cold – there’s a relief!

Finally, meet Marvin.  He’s a hissing cockroach.  His skeleton is on the outside and he makes his hissing noise by blowing out air through the gaps in his armour.  He eats plants apparently and won’t live for that long.  The kids think his antennae are really cool – good for them.

Whipsnade inspires me every time we visit.  I love the space, I love the light, I love the animals, I love the fact that every time we go, the children look at something with wide-eyed wonder and we learn something new.  I love the fact my children aren’t bothered by the mud or the deer poo, that they appreciate wrapping up warm and getting out in the fresh air (and believe me, it gets extremely cold up there on the Downs) and that they remain fascinated by what will happen next.  If they could just avoid asking me (again) to explain in more detail how the baby hippo got out from her mummy’s tummy…?



New Arrivals

It’s not often that you wake up to the news that 10 new groups of (imaginary if you’re new to this) Cheetahs have moved in.  Neither do you expect, on the same day, to receive the “very good news” that the Banana People have given birth to 10 babies today.  So, as far as I’m aware, here’s the current roll-call in the Cheetah Keeper’s menagerie…

19 groups of 10 Cheetahs.  Each group contains at least 3 generations (ie those young enough to go to school, the parents working/looking after the little ones and then grandparents for the fun stuff).  That’s 190 Cheetahs now.  Oh, and there’s another one moving in at midnight tonight.  He’s going to run from where he’s living now (in a road the other side of town from here), through town under the Christmas lights, jump on the roof and come down the chimney.  He’s then going to sleep on the sofa tonight ready for us to meet in the morning.  All the new ones will be going to school in the morning – super, must be prepared to repack the lunch box.

14 Banana PeopleThat’s the 4 grown up ones and 10 new babies – who are upstairs tucked up under blankets as just their yellow skins won’t keep them warm enough when they’re little.

96 Dinos.  The original 4 groups of 12 that came from Knebworth back in the summer and then the next 4 groups of 12 that flew in under the watchful guidance of their leader Strike, from Spain.  They liked the warmth of Spain but want to be here so are now wearing orange winter coats and waterproof trousers.  Of course.

The Cheetahs have sold their original Banana Plane and upgraded to a much larger version that can accommodate everyone.  It’s flown by some of the new Cheetahs that arrived today (they’re qualified pilots) and uses the same airport facilities as before – I’m so glad the runway is long enough.   They’ve also upgraded their magic carpet as they were having problems balancing just a few Cheetahs on it, especially when it went really fast.  Now they’ve got a much bigger one (it’s red, green and blue in case you were wondering) and they can all fit on – and whiz around corners and everything.

So what does one do on a Sunday morning when you suddenly have 190 Cheetahs to deal with?  You leave the original 90 in bed (what a good idea, if only I could have joined them) and then take the new 100 and all the Dinos trampolining.  It transpires that the new Cheetahs were living together in a house on the other side of town (in a road that oddly enough we’d been to a party in a couple of weeks back!) but they’re definitely staying here for ever and ever.  They flew their aeroplane to trampolining – good job there wasn’t any fog and they had a jolly good time running around.

Then, on a not too cold, gorgeously sunny afternoon we took them all on a trip to the zoo (ZSL Whipsnade Zoo – of course).  All 190 Cheetahs and the Dinos – the Banana People were going to come but decided to stay at home as the babies were a bit too small.  They came in the car with us (so much easier that way, no one gets lost on the motorway) and were very keen to see the real Cheetahs, Hippos and Giraffes.  They were also very keen to make sure they got lots of exercise so we walked all round the zoo – the bigger Cheetahs started tennis club yesterday and will be going again tomorrow after school so need to get fit.

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The absolute highlight of the afternoon being when the Cheetah Keeper got to meet the REAL Cheetah Keeper!  The one who really looks after the Cheetahs!!! (and what a jolly nice bloke he was too) – if you saw a sudden brightness in the sky over Bedfordshire at about 3.45pm this afternoon it was the beaming grin that came over his face.

All Cheetahs are now home and accounted for and the Cheetah Keeper has introduced his sister to the tiny Banana babies.  We’ll see what the new one arriving down the chimney adds to the mix tomorrow…



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Magic Carpets, See in the Dark Eyes and Dinos eating out – just a normal start to half term then

ZSL whipsnade zoo logo

Image via Wikipedia

We’ve been back to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo today and enjoyed the best part of 7 hours of fresh air, gorgeous sunshine and the company of good friends.

The Banana People seem to be on the quiet side at the moment, although Strike (yes really), one of the new Dino Brothers that flew in from Spain last week, seems to be asserting himself as the alpha-male of the Dino clan.  He also seems to be able to run “100 fast” and sometimes “100 million fast” like the Cheetahs and occasionally wins one of the many races he instigates.  Strike also seems to be a bit of a mischief maker and takes great joy in getting under our feet.

The Cheetahs had to take their C-Max to the zoo today – it means more of them can travel and one of their other cars seems to be having the same wheel falling off problem that it’s experienced before after the bee sting incident.

Not the best photo - it's hard taking pictures of Hippos! Hula Hippo giving mum Lola a kiss

The Cheetahs were to be spending the day being cheetah, rhino and hippo keepers and can apparently shovel full size rhino poo even though they are small enough to live in shoes.  Giles is always impressed by the amount of poo the hippos produce – the fact that every time they’re given clean water in their pool, they immediately poo (to mark their territory – there’s a fact for today) never ceases to amuse him.  Classy – as is going up to friends and declaring “Hoover the hippo is a poo machine”. I so enjoy those parenting moments.

Wolverine looking proper fierce.

The spent the day travelling around the zoo on their magic carpet (don’t know where that came from) and having a good run around in the leaves.  We got to see the gorgeous baby elephant again, Hula hippo and the wolverines (in all our visits to Whipsnade I’ve only seen them 3 times, they are a seriously snoozy lot) as well as our usual friends.  We enjoyed the Boo at the Zoo activities – although watching a mother taking home the example ‘make’ rather than wait around for her daughter to finish her own creation does nothing to keep my faith in the human race.

They decided to come home on the magic carpet – (I assume someone drove the C-Max back?) and we stopped at the Harvester for dinner.  The Cheetahs have always loved the Harvester – even when they were very new to the shoes they came out with us for sweetcorn and cucumber from the salad bar.  They were essentially vegetarian for a long time – always finishing their salad so they could have their ice-cream sundae (or for today, an ice-cream Monday) afterwards.

Is it just us, or do others of you suffer from the compulsory drink spillage when out for a meal?  We cannot go to the Harvester without someone emptying their refill lemonade over the table/the floor/themselves with the then necessary top-up necessitating umpteen visits to the toilet.

We excelled ourselves this visit with an almost full glass of lemonade hitting the beautifully tiled floor at speed.  Glass and lemonade everywhere.  Joy.  The staff produced the dustpan and brush and terribly technical napkins for mopping up, leaving us with an ice-rink of drying lemonade and broken glass under the table.  Super.

The Cheetahs enjoyed their sweetcorn and chips (they can scoop them out of bowls and swallow them in a a big gulp) and the ice-cream with chocolate sauce (they can jump into the glass and eat it – I hope they’ve cleaned their paws after shovelling all that rhino poo).  By the time we’d finished it was dark so they put on their “see in the dark eyes” to drive (or should that be fly if it’s a magic carpet?) home.  There’s a switch behind their ears in case you were wondering.

They seem to all be sleeping in their Keepers wardrobe now – it’s definitely warmer than the porch or the building brick/duplo constructions we’ve been lovingly preparing.  I’m told our original Cheetahs are now the granny/grandpa Cheetahs, the baby ones are parents and we have some new baby ones – with more expected around Christmas (that’s a mighty good grasp of family groups for a 4 year old). There’s only so much room in the wardrobe, and with 96 Dinos and however many Banana People we have (note to self, pay more attention), it’s going to be quite a squash in his bedroom.

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Boringly Enthusiastic? That’ll be me…

Whipsnade Zoo

Image via Wikipedia

I admit it.  When it comes to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, I become rather enthusiastic and given half a chance, will go on at length about how much we love it.   So as we were blessed with beautiful weather yesterday afternoon, a trip up to see the cheetahs and their friends was most definitely in order.

OK – we had an ulterior motive to our visit.  The arrival on Tuesday of a new baby elephant – all 104kg of him.  We’d known he was due – but when an elephant has a 700 day pregnancy the due date gets a bit vague…

So, wellies and coats on, off we went.  Obviously the Cheetahs had to come with us too.  Almost every time we set off for the zoo the Cheetahs seem to have created a new vehicle.  This week we have a flying/driving car pod that can go on grass, pavement and fences – drop down to ride on white lines (the little Cheetahs say ‘wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ when that happens apparently) and it’s all jolly good fun.  The Cheetahs also help count the brown ‘tourist’ elephant signs that direct us to the zoo – just so you know, there’s 7 on our route.

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Why do we love it there so much?  Well, we’re part of the privileged few who get to see these beautiful animals and their young in a place where they are clearly thriving  – with amazing staff who happily answer the inane questions of a 4 and 6 year old in the most glorious space.

With two children who aren’t the biggest fans of ‘change’ or ‘different’ we get to watch the seasons change along with the natural highs and lows of life at our own pace.  Even when it’s busy, the masses that you see queuing at the gate just disperse so you don’t feel oppressed and there’s always a fair amount of enjoyment to be taken in spotting the most inappropriate footwear of the day (if you’re going, stilletoes are really not a good choice…)

So yesterday we got to see the 4 day old baby elephant out with his mummy, the European Lynx kittens having their tea (quail don’t you know!), the wild boar getting pumpkins full of treats to forage in and the children got to stroke the spiny stick insects and the hissing cockroach (no, it’s fine darling, I’ll just take the pictures).

Whipsnade is one of the few places we get to do ‘normal’ family stuff.  No doctors, no paperwork, no routine meds – we get to kick leaves, eat ice-creams and learn loads of interesting animal facts – like who will win in an ostrich vs cheetah race (the cheetahs), what makes baby flamingoes turn from grey to pink and why lion cubs are spotty.  We’ve watch green tree pythons shed their skin, the cheetah cubs grow, wallaby babies pop out of their mother’s pouches and know that if you make them cross Mara deer spray you with wee (bit like small boys then.)

We’ve spent today making zoo name badges for the children to wear on our visit tomorrow (we’re going back with friends).  “Whipsnade” doesn’t work well spelt phonetically but she’s made a pretty good attempt – and I think it’s a zebra she’s drawn.  I’m not sure it will give them access to the bits where the keepers go (Giles seems to think it will – like the new security badges at school do for the teachers) but I reckon it’ll make a few people smile.

We’ll be off to do their Half Term ‘Boo at the Zoo activities’, check up on the cheetahs/Hula hippo and a massive other list of Giles’s Cheetahs ‘friends’.  It’ll be cold (Whipsnade is always colder than anywhere else around here) but they can’t wait.  Alice is preparing her ‘very important questions’ for the lovely, and oh so patient Explainer Catherine (I think Alice quite wants to bring her home) and she wants to dress as a Zoo Keeper tomorrow.

Fresh air, fascinated and engaged children learning about the animals who make part of our amazing world – that’s why I love Whipsnade.  I wonder what would have moved into Giles’s shoes if we didn’t go?

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The Cheetahs; surfing, skateboarding and enjoying Book Week…

The Cheetahs (and the Dinos and Banana People for that matter) seem have been pretty busy this week, mainly concentrating on their education and sporting matters.  The number of training sessions that are apparently required for the big Cheetahs should have them ready for international competition pretty soon (in football that is) and the smaller Cheetahs have been focussing on their indoor training and snuggling skills.

Whipsnade Zoo

Image via Wikipedia

It never ceases to amaze me how the mind of their keeper works and how little it takes to set him off into the most awe-inspiring world of detailed explanations about how the Cheetahs run their everyday lives.  We spent a glorious day back at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo at the weekend – as well as visiting the beloved Cheetahs (yes, the real ones), we collected conkers for them to play football with and they had a brilliant time running through the leaves – as long as Giles acted as ‘leaf plough’ first as they couldn’t get over the big piles of leaves on their own.  Apparently they haven’t got the springs on their feet at the moment.

We had the privilege of seeing Hula the 2 week old hippo as well as twin baby marmosets (OK, it was me that thought they were very cute!) and pretty much every other animal in the zoo as well – the babies who we’ve watched grow up over the summer and some other later arrivals.  We’re keeping everything crossed that there will be a new, healthy, baby elephant very soon.

Back to the Cheetahs…

They seem to be heading into a bit of an adrenaline junkie phase with the arrival of super jet powered skate boards that are powered by a combination of rocket and biofuel and shoot big smoke and lots of flames out the back; and that’s just for getting from school to football and/or home.  There are designated roads in both St Albans and Welwyn Garden City that are just for skateboarding down – with the Cheetah skateboarding song being sung for the duration.  The song started off as a bit of a variation on Hawaii 5-0 theme but now has Cheetah words (others would call these gibberish) which are sung with gusto.

They’ve also taken up surfing – the little Cheetahs have ‘surf pods’ which they can go into and it means they don’t get their fur wet.  The big parents have to push them out so they can surf back in.  The bigger cheetahs have one massive surfboard that they can all ride together.

So where does a Cheetah surf at this time of year when based in St Albans which is about as far from the sea as you can get?  In Giles’s bedroom, of course.  In the surfing pool – which is perfectly accessible to all concerned.

For those of you not yet tuned in to the ability of Giles to turn an essentially everyday object (or indeed absolutely nothing) into a piece of kit fundamental to the existence of the Cheetahs, I shall elaborate on the surfing pool.  It’s an Ikea storage box.

You knew that really, didn’t you?  This humble piece of formed plastic is the source of hours of entertainment, especially when you add a bit of Duplo, some Lego, the wooden ark (with animals – although they’re in his pant drawer tonight, as the pants needed looking after) and the wooden bricks.

Obviously the Cheetahs can’t jump into the pool when they’re on their big surf board or in their pods so we have spent ages perfecting the steps and ensuring that they have separate entry and exit points.  I assume that’s to prevent issues when you’re carrying a surf board up the stairs.

He’s also built them running tracks – lanes made out of Lego – but with lights (Lego ones) on each end to make sure the Cheetahs know where they start and finish.  He also made a timing camera for them (I hasten to add with absolutely no prompting) so they can find out how fast they’re going and if they need to go faster or slower next time.  The big Cheetahs seem to be required to achieve at least “100 fast”, the smaller ones seem to be OK as long as they keep up with the Dinos.

The Banana People have enjoyed a brief “9 week” holiday which involved leaving as Giles went to breakfast club and being back in time for football on the same day.  They flew by Banana Plane to Banana Land (of course) where they enjoyed some running training the sunshine, a shower and a bit of swimming before coming back.  This trip however was only for the 8 year old Banana People – the little ones had to stay behind and were looked after by the Granny and Grandpa Cheetahs (who, incidentally, are in Group 3 of the 9 cheetah groups).

The Cheetahs, Dinos and Banana People have all embraced the idea of Book Week at school and have increased their attendance as the week has gone on.  As usual they prefer to travel by lunchbox but have been into the classroom playing, have had more furniture manufactured for them and really enjoyed going to the library for the first time.

As ever, the Cheetahs are helping Giles cope as things change around him.  Apparently they don’t have nosebleeds as they have extra soft layers of fur around their noses so if they have a bang it doesn’t hurt.  The Cheetahs are also preparing for the autumn by growing their extra layers of fur (they’ll have 4 in total when it’s coldest) – although they took their fur off and just wore their spots when it was really hot last week.  They’re looking forward to doing some more leaf kicking, some leaf sliding (when the leaves get wet and slippery) and digging out their wellies for some more puddle jumping.

In the meantime, they have a new favourite book – which they had to bring home from the school library, even though we have it at home already.  Julia Donaldson is their new favourite author and they all sat nicely with their legs crossed and their paws in their laps as I read Sharing A Shell to them this evening.  If they’re going to encourage a love of books they can definitely stay a bit longer – even if their sports facilities are beginning to take over the house.

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