When I was ten, my parents and I paid the first of four annual visits to the seaside town of Paignton in South Devon. I went to bed one night and was severely discomfited to hear the sound of a deep and guttural growl coming from under the bedroom window (or so it seemed.) I was already well acquainted with my absolute terror of lions (as previously reported on this blog) and this was definitely a lion.
Well, lions aren’t what you expect or want to encounter on a trip to sunny Devon are they, so I went downstairs and found my parents talking to the woman who ran the guest house.
‘There’s a lion in the garden,’ I said.
‘No, dear, it isn’t in the garden,’ said the-woman-who-ran-the-guest-house, ‘it’s in the zoo a little way across the fields. It only sounds like it’s in the garden when the wind’s blowing in the right direction.’
I wasn’t convinced, but I went back to bed anyway feeling a little feverish and not at all content because the lion continued to growl and still sounded like it was under the freggin’ window! Sleep overcame me eventually, because… well… it does, doesn’t it?
I faced my lion demon manfully the next day by consenting to have my picture taken with the stuffed lioness which stood at the entrance to Paignton pier. I remember being disappointed that it was a bit moth-eaten and not as big as I expected a real lion to be, but at least it didn’t growl.