The Lanterns

Carolyn Voisey's avatar

by Carolyn Voisey

After my father passed away on the 16th December, I wasn’t sure how to face the world. 

With Christmas so close, and Sam evidently looking forward to it for the first time, collapsing into grief wasn’t really an option.

Earlier in December we had booked tickets to the Lanterns at Chester Zoo, following a recommendation from friends of SN children who had already been… there was so way I could disappoint my little boy, so mustering all the strength I had we went.

And oh boy, am I glad we did.

With Sams other Grandparents in two, we arrived at the Zoo for our allotted time slot – in order to control numbers of visitors, the Zoo very wisely had split the event into time slots so that there was a steady movement of visitors around the grounds.

Our time was 7.30pm (granted, late for a 5 year old but the only time left when we booked!).

Sam had already become interested in the proceedings from the moment we’d loaded him into the van in the dark, and on arriving at the zoo he was most definitely awake and curious.

It was absolutely fantastic – on entering the zoo the first sight was of flower lanterns glowing brightly through the coloured paper (or whatever they were made from).

A pair of moving flamingos were spotted, on closer inspection there were two staff members dressed in black, moving the lanterns just like a puppeteer would move a manikin on strings… Sam thought it was very funny when Mummy was pecked (gently I should add!) on the head by one of them, while signing to him.

Further round and near the elephants and giraffes we came upon a large grassy area covered with amazing lanterns in the shapes of some of the zoos best loved creatures, and more staff dressed as animals including bats, a spider and a pair of kingfishers… following the route round we met a lovely owl character who appeared to be very sleepy, much to the amusement of the surrounding children!

Finally, Sam spotted several elves and, of course, Santa – I really can’t thank the staff enough as they made sure that Sam and the other little ones were able to get past the adults and see the big man himself.

The Lanterns was a fantastic evening, it took around 90 minutes to go round the entire tour and Sam absolutely loved every minute of it.

For a child with visual impairment, the beautiful colours of the lanterns against the pitch black of a winters night were perfect for him, the staff could not have been more helpful and lovely (making a point of coming close to him in his wheelchair so he could see, then playing with him when he made it clear that was what he wanted).

Really can’t recommend it highly enough.

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