A Guide To Hitting North Mallorca With Kids – Part 2

Any cave fans that find themselves in Mallorca should go directly to Porto Cristo. There are two cave complexes here, both at Cuevas del Drach and Cuevas del Hams. I presume this is just because of the natural geography of the place and not a response to an unusual demand for cave systems.

We did not know that del Hams existed until we accidentally pitched up in its suspiciously sparse car park. At that point our sat-nav threatened to walk off unless we started listening to it and we made our way to del Drach.

If you really love stalagmites and stalactites then del Drach is the ultimate destination. If they make you weirdly uncomfortable then probably steer clear because there are millions of the dangly bastards there. It is a bit like walking under a massive canopy of stony daggers. At least my sons had great fun comparing them all to gigantic bogeys.

At the base of the Drach complex is a large auditorium carved out of the rock in front of an underground river. As we filed in I was expecting some kind of rudimentary lightshow but in actual fact a solemn-looking chamber quartet came floating past in a barge. They were straining out an awful dirge and it came across like a funeral, but for someone who really liked caves. Or as if band on the Titanic managed to find a lifeboat. Needless to say it filled my little boys with the sudden urge to return above ground.

Above ground in Mallorca there are other things to do and see with small children. Such as the Zoologica Parc Natura which lies in the centre of the island. I am ambivalent about zoos. I normally find that the animals seem depressed, either mooching around or asleep. But my kids love them.

The Parc Natura is a really bad zoo. It’s poky and slummy, and everything seems to be coated in a fine film of shit. The enclosures aren’t really fit for purpose, there was a confused-looking zebra plonked in the same pen as a confused-looking ostrich for instance. The redeeming quality of the Parc Natura is that it’s a rescue centre so technically its inhabitants have been saved from an even shitter existence.

A prime example is an elderly lioness who was rescued from a circus where she’d had her claws removed and been generally brutalised. She is described as being cross-eyed and having learning difficulties. I know that she is in a slightly better home but even a minute in her company proved to be a dismal experience. We didn’t dare enter the gift shop but we later found a tick which had embedded itself in my youngest one’s arm so we did at least take away one souvenir.

The aquarium in Palma is altogether a more wholesome venue. I feel less guilty about aquariums than zoos, mainly because it’s more difficult for a fish to look sad. This one has a solid variety of tanks but an also a section resembling the Amazonian jungle and an impressive and unlikely selection of bouncy castles. It should be noted that in the blazing Balearic sun the bouncy castles become hot enough to fry an egg or a small child on.

Perhaps the most memorable trip was a spontaneous nose with my eldest around the church in Pollença. There was a service in progress when we visited so we took our seats in the most reverential way possible. My son gazed with widening eyes at the spreading stain-glass windows to his left, ornate figurines to his right and a gleaming gilded altarpiece in front of him. As I looked at him and wondered if right there he was being filled with the fear of God.

A deep and involved theological discussion followed later, during which the little boy seemed confused. Probably wondering how what God was thinking about when he created a bullied, cross-eyed lion with learning difficulties.

In case you’re wondering, Part 1 is here.

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The Increasingly Freaky Story of a Chocolate Zoo

This morning the Major asked me to create him a book about a chocolate zoo, which is the sort of commission I can get stuck into.

The contents of the book that we eventually produced together probably relates more truth about our relationship than anything that I could write down.

Once I’d been given the brief, I conceived the story as a cautionary tale about the folly of attempting to build a zoo out of chocolate. We never got that far.

The first step was to make the book itself, a botched job of binding with a hole-punch and string. Then the cover. Partly through wanting to live up to the exacting standards of the Major and party through a lack of creativity the book was titled “A Chocolate Zoo”.

Most of our art projects happen in the same way. I become too ensconced in my own activity and the Major and Minor become bored and drift away. I decided to sketch a gorilla eating a Mars Bar on the cover but I fucked up the arm and improvised a meerkat instead. The Major took control and began working on a flamingo instead.

a chocolate zoo



He then asked me to write some words down. I still hadn’t formulated a plot but I sensed an opportunity for us to collaborate on some writing. I tried to teach him using the classic ‘up-and-down-and-round-and-flick’ from the seminal Word and Pictures programme. The Major chose to disregard this, preferring a more freestyle method with the letters above each other in Japanese style. Again we aborted partway through so instead of two exquisitely crafted ‘flamingo’ on top of each other we had some that resembled more ‘flamin’ Koq’.

flaming koq

The Major now seized the pen and began etching out the remainder of “A Chocolate Zoo”. First of all something called a ‘bird-goat’ which I’m pretty sure once visited me during a night terror. Then a ‘bird-Dalmatian’, appended to which I thought was a well-rendered tail with a tasselly bit at the end. The Major set me straight and it turns out it was the bird-Dalmatian’s penis and the tassel was a robust sprinkle of piss (not his words).

bird goat

Things got weirder after that. A surrealist image of his little brother and then a picture of me and him together, which I considered was a fitting end to the book, a symbol of the camaraderie we’d shown in putting it together.

Until he explained that he’d imagined us with our willies out, weeing on the ground. I stress that this was not created from an actual memory. Like much of the Major’s material I find this violently amusing but vaguely disturbing also. The serious point here is at what point does a parent step in with this sort of stuff? I know that lavatorial humour is part of the lifeblood of a small boy (and some larger ones as well) but also don’t want the Major be that child at school. And again ‘the cross that bridge when we come to it’ that underlies so much of my parenting philosophy kicks in again. Besides, he’d been very generous in his depiction of me.


The upshot of all this is that of course that the Major and I have got a publishing deal for ‘A Chocolate Zoo’ so soon it will be available in all good bookshops. And some really fucking weird ones as well.

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