I was fortunate to join Edinburgh Zoo in celebrating their centenary on Monday.
As the local councillor for the last 19 years I have had my ups and downs with the Royal Scottish Zoological Society which runs the zoo, principally over one planning matter, but in spite of that I have always been a strong supporter of the society and the zoo.
Like many Corstorphine teenagers I got my first job there working for a couple of summers in the kitchens. When I was first elected to the city council I served on the now disbanded council of the Zoological Society.
I have always felt that the zoo, at its best, was principally a conservation body and the visitor attraction side of things helped bankroll their conservation work. Their work on education and scientific advancement has always been an important part of the zoo’s mission, as has been ensuring the best of care for the animals residing there.
I was very pleased to hear those values eloquently expressed and reinforced by the Royal Scottish Zoological Society’s chair Jeremy Peat at Monday’s centenary celebrations. So too was the message that the zoo can and does play a vital role in raising awareness of the impact pollution and climate change has on natural habitats and wildlife.
There have been many highlights over the last century; the acquisition of very rare Asiatic lions springs to mind, as do the ever-popular penguins. The arrival of the pandas and the possibility of them actually breeding has and will take the zoo’s conservation work on to new levels.
A couple of years ago, the zoo had all sorts of problems with criticism from other conservation groups, personnel issues and a serious drop in visitor numbers.
The new regime of chairman Mr Peat and chief executive Chris West seem to have put that problematic period well behind them and, with a little help from the two arrivals from China and some very welcome warm weather, the future is looking distinctly sunny for Scotland’s National Zoological Park.
British taste goes beyond a bitter
I was intrigued to read in the press last weekend that Nigel Farage’s press advisors are trying to stop him being photographed with his trademark pint of bitter.
The pint is as much a prop to Farage as the pipe was to Harold Wilson (though rumour has it that when he got into the Prime Ministerial Daimler Wilson would throw the pipe down and light up a big cigar).
For Farage the pint glass is an attempt to establish him as an everyman, in touch with the people, though there is the danger it may make him appear like the blazer clad, saloon bar bigot for which UKIP are notorious. I am sure the calculation is that you don’t get more British than a pint of warm brown beer but I am not so sure that adds up any more. We are now very much a nation that loves continental lagers and wine, with a taste for Brie and salami rather than Stilton and pork scratchings.
I’m sure Britain is not ready to become the cultural and culinary backwater envisaged by UKIP.
Famous Five statue would be fitting honour
I was very sad to hear of the death of Hibs legend Lawrie Reilly.
I was fortunate enough to meet him once at the National Portrait Gallery. The Glasgow Herald had commissioned a series of portraits of 11 Scottish footballers whom their readers felt would be Scotland’s “Dream Team”. Lawrie Reilly was rightly one of the 11 selected.
He was a true gentleman and a fantastic ambassador for his club. One of that rare breed, even in the 1950s, a one-club professional. There have been calls for a statue in memory of the Famous Five, the great Hibs forward line of which Lawrie was the last surviving member. I, for one, would give my wholehearted support to that.
Time to roll out Popemobile?
POPE Francis, hailing from Buenos Aries, is known for his love of Tango, San Lorenzo footie club (who presumably now have God on their side) and bus travel. He has a very humble and down-to-earth approach to things and has decided to do away with the bullet-proof Popemobile for his tour to Brazil. Pictures of his open-topped car being mobbed by crowds when they took a wrong turning must have given his Brazilian security team kittens.
Time will tell if we have seen the last of the Popemobile or if pressure from his minders and the demand for more people to see him driving past will see it reinstated.