A dip in the llotarium will leave youtloating on airlor hours atterwards

machine' and chiropody.

('hiropody'.’ What. like bunions and corns‘.’ So it would seetn. As the floatarium's proprietor. Mrs Brown. points out. not only are young sporty types prone to foot probletns. but tht service will help bring in the older folk. ‘l’eople are living longer and getting more probletns with their feet than they ever had before.’ she claims. and she should know. After all. her daughter is the chiropodist.

Whether the assembled ladies of the Stockbridge Day (‘entre will ever be won over to the joys of foot tnassage remains to be seen. For the moment. the floating is the thing. 'l‘hree tanks silently brood in the bowels of the building. waiting for their charges like the pods frotn lttt'tts’ftm nil/Iv Body .Stttttt‘ltcrs.

Standing in front ofone of the fibre-glass sarcophagi for the first time. the blue water solidly slopping about. New Age music psycho-babbling in the background and a whiff of Eastern Promise incense lingering in the air. the whole thing seems slightly ludicrous. And dangerous. Remember Altered States 1’ What would happen if I regressed and came out as a raving nutter with a strong penchant for raw sheep'.’

llardened floaters speak of the experience with great reverence. claiming huge increases in intelligence. out-of-body experiences. success with personal relationships and all the usual hype of the convert. After this. the first float. with the brouhaha ofearplugs and showering. can only be a let-down. Fun. relaxing. fascinating and gravity-free maybe. But not mystical.

As the hatch is lowered. the first pangs ofclaustrophobia tighten the belly. You can leave the light on. which helps. and then. hey! you really are floating on top of only eight inches ofsalty water. Turn off the light and with the skin- tetnperature water lapping around your toes. all you can hear above the gentle murmur of music is the creaking of your body. Then. just as you get your breathing quiet. your heart cuts in with a thump. Eerie.

But the real fun starts when the music stops. Weightless. you can manipulate your body round.

80 The List In July 8 August I991

floating ol’fjust by thinking about it.

Squeeze your eyes tight enough. and

glowing orange mandalas spin in front of them. "l'urn off your mind. relax and float down stream .' sang The Beatles on Revolt-er. reputedly their first ‘drugs' album. The experience is probably similar.

‘Do you expect to get many people coming in here in what you might call

an illegal frame of mind‘." I ask Mrs Brown later. A legitimate question.

given the experimentation with LSD

ofthe float tank‘s inventor. Dr John

Lilley. But after I explain what an illegal frame of mind might be. she thinks not. After all. which junky could afford £17.50 fora float'.’ For my second go in the tank.


instead of the bubble of autoharps. l i

choose the clinically-titled ‘Environment ()ne' to accompany my drift into semi-consciousness. This time tweeting birdies and babbling brooks are my ambient frame of reference. And yes. I can picture myself in a boat on a river or on a hilltop ifl choose. All the

wonders of nature on tap for an hour

in the middle of the city.

lt is like dreaming out loud. An escape from reality. from the pressures ofcity life. There is no chance of bumping into the boss. no portable phone to ring. no stress. I can picture the executive types. the accountants. bankers and stockbrokers. plunging into a tank. believing they have found a holistic cure for society‘s ills. There is nothing wrong with being able to purchase stress relief on demand. but the floatation tank is as much a symptom as a cure; if you need to escape from society. it might be

better to cut out the stress in the first


l lowever cynical my frame of mind

when entering the floatation tank. my float certainly had one very positive effect. Not only was I completely relaxed. but my arthritic back was straighter than it had been fora longtime. So. although I may not share the lifestyle of Mrs

Brown‘s potential clients. I wouldn’t

say no to joining them for another good long float. I The Edinburgh Floatarium 29 North West Circus Place. 031 225 3350.

I Floats cost £17.50 an hour. £45 for three and £130 for ten.

Climb every


Catherine Fellows puts a history of shirking sports lessons behind her to brave the heights of the Cairngorms with her intrepid brother in tow.

I should make my position clear from the start. At school. ‘games‘ was an anathema to me. I remember early morning lacrosse practices and netball team selections in all their grim detail. and still shiver at the freezing cold. physical terror and humiliation of being exposed as a gangly coward. It all seemed sadistic and pointless.

I got something of a shock. then. when having driven through the uplifting expanses of the (ilenmore National Forest Park. I came face to face with (ilenmore Lodge. a 1950s extended wooden horror of a building which resembles nothing so much as a giant school locker room. I realised my stay was going to be tnore testing than I had anticipated. As I sat in the institutional dining rootn waiting for ‘induction‘. surrounded by individuals who made the St Swithin's First Eleven look half-hearted. the only thing that kept me calm was the thought that if it all got too much. my car was in the car park.

Mountaincralt instructor. Sam Crymble. explains the geographical history ofthe area

Glenmore Lodge. situated at the head of Loch Morlich. a stone‘s throw from Avietnore. is the centre for mountain sports of the Scottish Sports Council. funded by public money and with a priority to offer top-level training. Around half the faces in the dining room belonged to

EDWARD Hill .( )WS

[ highly-experienced mountaineers on ' assessment for instructor status. The

super-fit young heroes I could see hurtling up the lawn outside. flexing their spandex-clad muscles in an ostentatious game of volley ball. were members of the British Nordic Ski and Biatholon Squads who spend the summer months here dreaming ofsttow.

The Lodge also aims to be a facility for the general public at all levels frotn children to the over-50s. and offers a series of appropriate courses centred around hillwalking and mountaincraft. rock climbing. canoeing and kayaking. It will tailor individual programmes for specific groups as well. For example. the high-pitched cries of‘Sir. sir!‘ that resounded around the building during my stay came from a dozen twelve-year-olds dispatched from Westminster School in tasteful mufti for a week‘s canoeing down the Spey.

My brother Ed (the photographer) and l were among eleven others enrolled on the .‘vfountaincraft Course and were relieved to discover that we were not the only ones who didn’t meet the experience specifications of ‘at least ten 3.000 ft summer hills.‘ Over an extremely hearty supper - soup and bread. enormous portions of vegetarian rissoles or chicken pie. mashed potatoes and salad. pink mousse or fruit we met Sandi from New Zealand (‘()h great. you're a girl too!‘). Andy. an engineer with wanderlust. John. a hospital director of works. Alan a Scottish Power employee. six shy teenage boys who i kept their eyes on their plates and blushed easily. and one shy teenage boy. Stuart. who confided in me at great cost to himselfabout his passion. rock climbing.

After supper. we were summoned by tannoy to the TV lounge fora lengthy and somewhat military introductory talk by Glenmore's director. Andy Anderson. Our schedule had been carefully planned; we were to refer to the noticeboard at frequent intervals. to be woken at 7. 15am by a bell (it sounded like a metal tray being whacked with a spade). to be at breakfast by 7.45am. issued with gear at 9am and sitting in ‘the transport provided‘ by"). 15am ready for the activity. And. as became increasingly clear. the activity is the whole point.

People come to Glenmore Lodge not for a holiday with a little sport thrown in. but to be taught by qualified professionals of the highest order and to acquire skills for themselves. The Lodge intends to turn people out with enough know-how to do it themselves. After a week‘s rock climbing. for example. a trainee should have the confidence to go and buy a harness and some ropes and lead his or her own climbs. Everything. from the high carbohydrate. low fat meals. to the impossibly high. but ultimately