We’re going to the Zoo

I posted yesterday on learning strategies and perseverance, but clean forget to mention the zoo. Or more particularly, I forgot to mention one example of remarkable doggedness which I witnessed many years ago, in Italy, where I was parachuted in to teach a senior manager at Telecom Italia, a man in advanced middle age sitting behind a vast kidney-shaped desk, who spent half an hour making a Herculean effort to describe to me the animals he had seen at London Zoo. At London Zoo I seed a tiger. I seed a lion. I seed a elephant. On and on.

This estimable gentleman had been learning English for two years at that point, and clearly had no aptitude for the language, whatever other qualities he doubtless possessed. I sat and marvelled as he struggled over his task. When I tried politely to bring his agony to a conclusion (right, so you seed plenty of animals, got it, let’s move on) he held up a tremulous hand and bowed his head, while he forced his reluctant brain to screw together one last meaningful proposition. Also, I seed a ghepard.

That, with some licence, is how I remember it. A man squaring up to his own inadequacies. I like to think he is by now retired in conspicuous ease on some tropical island where the strange animals run free on his verandah. I seed a monkey.

tyger

*

There are two zoos in the vicinity of Cambridge, for those who are keen to bone up on zoo animals: one at Shepreth, the other at Linton, both easily reachable, neither hugely disappointing. Linton, if I remember, has tigers, lowland tapirs, some zebra, a number of kooky birds; Shepreth has a vigorous toucan, some rival tigers, wallabies, a pensive axolotl, and a doleful mini railway. As learning experiences go, you never leave the zoo short-changed, in my experience.

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