Hand in hand at London Zoo with a simian friend

Font Size:

YourLifeChoices’ 91-year-old columnist Peter Leith recalls an encounter of the simian kind during a visit to London Zoo back in the 1930s.

In 1936, Mum took my brother Jack, aged nine, and me, aged seven, to Regent’s Park zoo in London. Even in those days it was at the leading edge of zoos around the world. One of its unique and popular features was the children’s zoo.

Apart from baby animals of all kinds was the photographers’ section where children could be photographed with the animal of their choice.

Mum, being a devout feminist, thoroughly approved when a full-grown chimpanzee took us both to a bench and literally gave us a gentle push in the stomach to sit us down. Having done so he/she (we never did find out) moved us apart, squeezed in between us, put an arm around our nervous shoulders and ‘smiled’ at the camera.

The smile on the face of the chimpanzee was much more genuine than the apprehensive smiles on the faces of Jack and myself!

For many years that picture took pride of place in our home, wherever that might be. Mum, with the casual sadism of which she was capable, would, on showing it to visitors, amuse herself and mortify us, by saying things like “Can you pick the chimpanzee?”

To this day, 84 years later, I can well remember how relaxed the chimpanzee was.

I also remember the simian arm round my right shoulder and the hand that dangled below my chin.

I clearly remember, looking from the black hand dangling inches from my chin to my own hand clutched nervously in my lap. They were so incredibly alike. The lines on the fingers and palms, the pads on the finger tips – they were all there.

Later, very much later, I learnt that we humans are superior to ‘the great apes’ because we have a wider range of movements in our thumbs. At least we have something superior about us – and that has got to be better than nothing.

Do you have a story or an observation for Peter? Send it to [email protected] and put ‘Sunday’ in the subject line.

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy


In the days before TV, when cards were king

Before TV, and social media, and online games, there was … a deck of cards.

Dunny lane – an essential feature of a former time

When there were no flushing loos, dunny lane was a pivotal part of town planning.

Demise of the lovable larrikin

Our larrikins were once earthy, irreverent types, devoid of malice and viciousness. But they

Written by Peter Leith


Total Comments: 0



    continue reading

    Health news

    Australians want to die at home - but do we achieve that goal?

    How do you want to die? More than 70 per cent of Australians want the end to come at home,...


    Rise in 'grey divorces' sparks warning from legal experts

    More Australians are divorcing later in life, leading to "unique, confusing and overwhelming" challenges for couples aged over 50. The...


    Friday Funnies: Short jokes for the shortest month

    February flies by too fast, just like these short but sharp jokes. What is the recipe for Honeymoon Salad?Lettuce alone...


    The four types of hearing loss explained

    Research indicates that one in six Australians has some form of hearing loss.  Hearing loss refers to reduced hearing, which...


    Fabulous Fish Pie

    It should go without saying that a fish pie needs to have lots of big chunks of fish in it,...


    Succulent Spice-Roasted Salmon

    These little salmon bites are something I've made time and time again over the years and this method of roasting...


    How to take great pictures of gardens

    If you've never been too good at taking pictures of your beautiful blooms, now's the time to brush up on...

    Aged Care

    Paid on par with cleaners: the broader issue affecting aged care

    Paid on par with cleaners: the broader issue affecting the quality of aged care Ben Farr-Wharton, Edith Cowan University; Matthew...