Andy got us free tickets for 'Live 'n Deadly Deadly Days Out''. It was a two hour drive North so not free by any means, but boy was it worth the trip! 'Live and Deadly' is the latest TV show in a series of programmes about deadly animals. It started with 'Deadly 60', the 60 deadliest animals in the world, then there was 'Deadly Art', 'Deadly 360'....well, as you might guess it is a popular theme with children! Astra loves the show and was super excited.
So, we were up at 5.30am :) Astra is not an early riser, EVER, so this was quite a shock. We didn't NEED to be up at 5.30am, but clearly this was even more exciting than Christmas. It was going to be a looong day. I had done some back reading and discovered that we should expect a fellow crowd of 8000 people, painfully long queues, and next to no chance of being caught on camera (Astra was very keen on being on TV). And then there was the 'live show', with the star of the series, Steve Backshall, to which access would be on a 'first come first served' basis. We set off early, but I couldn't see us being early enough to gain access to the show. I was hoping for the best but also prepared for a day of disappointments and soothing.
We were just in time for the Birds of Prey display. Astra gently and politely manoeuvred herself to the front. Naomi 'from the telly' asked for volunteers. All the children jumped up and down. She chose....she didn't choose Astra. I watched from behind and I could sense Astra's genuine confusion. 'Well, she must have picked me and I just missed it. I mean, how could she have NOT picked me?'. She hesitated for a moment - the chosen children were already being instructed in what to do. Then she lifted the cordon, and ran to join them. Naomi eyed her, dumbfounded for a moment, then accepted it. What could she do?! Astra, who is sometimes shy, who is not at all pushy, who is very concerned with justice, KNEW that this was justice for her. She was MEANT to be a part of this. The children played at being mice, closing their eyes and squatting down when they heard the owl flying overhead. Thank goodness they were not actually mice :)
Next, the live show. The queue to get into this was hard on us all. We played games, we giggled, we observed our fellow queuers. And then did all of that again. Many times.
Eventually, we were in. Oh yes, 'we' was Astra and I. Poor Andy.....but luckily he managed to get a great spot outside the tent where he could still see and hear everything. The warm up was my favourite part. They got all the children singing 'live and deadly'. Then the audience was asked, 'Can anyone beat box?'. 'Me, me, I can!' shouted out Astra. Wow, she was absolutely on a mission to get the most she could out of this day! The microphone appeared in her hands. She looked at it with bemusement, 'what's this?', and then proceeded to sing her own version of 'live and deadly'. I can assure you nobody minded that she had not the faintest idea what 'beat box' means. She knows now!
Steve was fab, of course. He unrolled a giant snake and stretched it across the stage. He got a nip from a scorpion. He answered the most random questions, got genuinely excited by some of them. This is a guy who really knows about and loves animals. Truly inspiring.
After the live show we queued again, to get into the 'Animal Handling' tent. This queue went much better, we weren't fenced into position and there were trees and a low rail for sitting on, climbing on, jumping over. Astra made some new friends, which was handy given that we queued for over an hour. She had a ball playing, we got coffee and chatted. Inside the tent, a look at some pond life in trays, a foam bat to be made, and the highlight of the day for me, watching Astra holding a snake and loving it even as it snaked it's way around her body. And then a gecko, inching up her arm. I can still picture the tenderness on Astra's face as she cradled the snake in her arms. This girl loves animals!
We finished off by looking at the few stalls. Astra made a nature crown out of leaves and seeds, we did a quiz, 'identify the weird object from nature', we stroked deer skins and antlers....and finally we headed back to the car for the long happy drive home. Looking back on the day now, the image that most stands out to me is Astra concentrating on Jo's instructions for drawing a shark.....all around people were chatting, moving about, calling out for pens, fidgeting....in spite of this Astra heard and followed every single instruction, and ended up with a brilliant picture of a shark. She loves animals, for sure, but drawing is her biggest passion. I think she's amazing.