...take it on a journey to infinity, the shops and back
Tim Abrahams revisits his youth with a soirée among the beasts that prowl
around Corstorphine Hill.
‘A zoo is not an ideal place for an animal.‘ wrote Yann Martel. author of Life of Pi. a Man Booker Prize-winning novel that is. in part. a meditation on the nature of zoos. 'But a good 200 is a decent. acceptable place.‘ I was 11 the last time I visited Edinburgh Zoo and. on the surface. it is still the decent. acceptable place I always
remembered. Friendly staff. Clean enclosures. Nice wee shop.
That's why it has taken a good idea to get me back. Twenty years ago I spent most of the day in an underground bunker known as the education centre. This time I arrive for a night safari after the day of zoo-ing is almost done. As a blustery autumnal dusk turns to night, we are driven in a safari bus up through the bestiary on Corstorphine Hill by Sandy. whose descriptions of the animals. although heartfelt. are lost in the squall. It matters less because we are actually observing animals awakening in the growing
gloom. A Great Grey Owl stares at us menacingly.
Sandy drops us off at the looming big cats' enclosure. Apparently. when the security guards are forced to do their turn of the zoo late at night on foot. an odd noise can convince them that something has escaped and they have been known to run the length of the zoo in the belief that they are being pursued. Being led through the dark to see animals which. by nature. wake up at night. is exciting in a glad-that-glass-is- thick kind of way. We pass a beautiful prowling lynx and snow leopards that eyeball us from just behind the glass. Occasional howls from the chimp house come in on the
breeze. Decent? Acceptable? Even after a mulled wine in the Monkey House. it's clear
that zoos are better than that.
I Next safari is Mon 24 Nov. 7pm. £70, Edinburgh Zoo. Corstorphine Road, 314 0324.
Without getting into an existential crisis over who we are and if we have a soul and stuff like that. we all know when our inner sense of wellbeing is all yin and no yang. So take time to nourish the deeper you. By bending your legs round your head. a sense of peace will. so they say. prevail. Try this at the newly opened Union Yoga Centre (25 Rodney Street. 558 3334) which offers daily classes between 6—8pm.
Once you've unwrapped your legs.
Energetics (Mon-Fri, until 9pm. (48 Broughton Street Lane, 557 9567) offers a Zen garden of treatments and therapies. including Pilates and massage. but also the newest spiritual Craze to reach these shores: craniosacral therapy. By massaging and reading the energies in your head. a greater sense of balance and harmony will apparently result.
If you want to look out rather than inside your head towards infinity. take yourself along to Edinburgh Royal Observatory (Black/0rd Hill. 668 8404). Every Friday from 7pm in the winter months you can go Stargazing through its mighty lenses and take in the Big Dipper, the Milky Way and all
the millions of celestial wonders. You might. too. be seeing stars after a visit to The Edinburgh Floatarium (Mon-Fri. 8pm, 29 North West Circus Place. 225 3350.
www. edinbi irghf/oatarium. co. uk). Suspended in warm water. enclosed. if you wish. inside a dark tank. the womb-like sensation sends yOur mind into deep. deep relaxational states. so much so that you may never want to be born again. And with all that night swimming. why not try a night safari (see panel) at Edinburgh Zoo (Murrayfie/d, 334 9 I 7 l.
http://www. edi/ iburghzoo. org. uk/ whatnexthtm). They also host occasional singles nights: 'We met in the giraffe house. I knew she was the one.‘
But sometimes there is only one thing that can lift a weary s0ul from its mid- winter gloom. And that is the ancient therapy known as retail. Perhaps the curse of modern times and a quick. temporal fix. yes sure. but a little extravagance is sometimes an essential. Most shops stay open late on Thursdays but Fopp (Mon—Fri. until 9pm. 7 Rose Street. 220 03 (0) and Waterstone’s (Mon—Fri. until 8pm, l3— l4 Princes Street. 556 3034) offer regular beacons in a stormy sea. And there '3 nothing like a new CD or book to make things seem
a little less rubbish. Then there's yOur stomach to think of: get good soul food in your belly at Ndebele (57 Home Street, 668 4999). It's warm and friendly. and. as the rain lashes down outside yOU can eat chocolate chilli cake and feel like it doesn't matter at all. And one final idea: get yOur friends and yOur favourite film on DVD. take them down to Brass Monkey ( l4 Drummond Street. 556 (967) and snuggle into the soft, cushions of their back room: get the White Russens flowing. chill out and feel your SOUI fly. dude.
When Jimmy in Anne Donovan's award-winning Buddha Da turns his attentions away from his life-long dedication to family and the pub for the Glasgow Buddhist Meditation Centre (Sauchieha/l Street. 333 0524) all hell breaks loose. His Spiritual enlightenment rocks everyone's boats. but it needn't do. Rather seek out calm with its yoga classes from Tuesday to Thursday 5.45pm (booking essential) and meditation from 7.30pm on selected evenings. In the West End. the Maharishi Vedi Centre (Clouston Street. 946 4663) offers transcendental meditation with a light vegetarian supper at 6.30pm on Thursdays. And while we're on the theme of ancient alternatives. yOu could try the Japanese art of reiki.
practiced at Harvest Clinic (Wed 6.30pm 8 7.30pm. 207 St George '3 Street. 333 0878). The idea is to channel your body's energies. inducing a sense of balance and vitality. SO a bit like kung fu but without the fighting and tracksuit. Although you probably could wear a tracksuit if you really want to.
Leaping across oceans and continents. Cafe Cossachok (70 King Street, 553 0733) offers food. music and art for the soul. the Russian way. Live folk and jazz make a conducive after-work resting place. And if that doesn't help. a good dose of vodka is bound to warm the spirit. One way of taking you out of your spiritual self while bumping up yOur karma rankings is a couple of hours doing voluntary work. There are lots of things you can do between 6pm and 8pm that can be good for your sense of not being a cog in a big clockwork corporate system. Go to the Volunteer Centre (746 Argyle Street. 226 3437.
www. vo/unteerg/asgow. org) for a full list of possibilities.
And there's always good old late night shopping on Thursdays for the material soul. Trusty Fopp (358 Byres Road. 357 0774) keeps its doors open for lost ones until 7pm every weekday. Enlightened shopping. enlightened spirits. elevated minds. And all between 6pm and 8pm. Wow.
13—27 Nov 2003 THE LIST 2‘!