Redster: Countdown to seven!
Cutester: Three and three quarters

Newt

It was a surprisingly enjoyable day out considering it was a last-minute decision the night before because our Legoland tickets failed to turn up in the post. I’d never even heard of the London Wetland Centre before the ensuing frantic Google. I recommend it – apart from the awful thing that I did, and you can learn from my mistake if you read on…

Highlights were: the Peacock bird hide, which had a lift (surely serious birdwatchers would be appalled?) and came equipped with a very nice man with a very nice telescope (we saw herons, teal, lapwings and Highland cattle, if you’re interested), a pond-dipping session in which one of the children actually found a newt, an underwater camera you can operate yourself, and one of the best adventure playgrounds I’ve seen. All the grass and trees and water and stuff was nice too, for London.

It would have been fine if it hadn’t been for Pond, James Pond. He bravely performed his edutainment show to a small audience in which the children’s average age was about two (the sleeping triplet babies did weight the bottom end of the age scale somewhat), none of whom got his James Pond jokes, and most of whom had wandered off by the time he’d finished. While he still had their attention, however, he’d found a volunteer to stand in front of us to do Pond Creature Noises.
‘What pond creature are you going to be?’ he said to his victim, a girl aged about seven who was clearly regretting volunteering. ‘Do you want to choose or shall we ask the audience?’

‘Ask the audience,’ she whispered.

My hand went up. ‘You choose!’ he said to me.

What I should have said was ‘Duck!’ or ‘Frog!’ because every seven-year-old knows how to make those sounds, even when terrified . But I was still dazzled by the excitement of the pond-dipping session, and what came out of mouth was ‘Newt!’

The girl stared at me, went white, then ran back to her mother.

I felt terrible. I did try to apologise, but it was too late. I don’t know how her mother managed to leave the session early with her child clamped to her side, but somehow she did.

The only consolation was the fact that Redster listened intelligently and remembered the tiny percentage of actual information contained in the show, and her friend did her best to alleviate her boredom by taking the show over. ‘Norfolk! I’ve been there!’ she shouted out at one point. By the time he’d recovered his thread she was saying ‘Excuse me! How long have you been a Wet Man?’

‘Er… about four years. Thank you for asking.’

But I still don’t know what noise a newt makes.

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