PC 116 A Health Spa Break

A part of me always wanted to know what happens inside a health spa – in the summer months you get glimpses of guests in white towelling robes drifting about inside or out, in some imagined state of euphoria ….. or that’s how it seems. Give it a go, huh!

So we looked at the website of a well-known UK brand, booked an overnight stay, essentially 26 hours …… and went earlier this month. As we neared our destination, the glare from the low, late afternoon sun meant that trying to find the right road at the crossroads in the nearest village, through the dirt smeared windscreen, was a bit of pot luck. We eventually got there, to find Car Park A full, as was B and C but eventually we found a space in D; a good thing, otherwise we would have had to park under the rhododendron bushes! “Must be popular” we thought as we made our way to reception.

There were so many staff of obvious Eastern European background we wondered whether the whole venture was really some guise for money laundering. You do think like this, particularly after reading Misha Glenny’s McMafia about international criminals in the C21st!

Having checked in, been given our ‘towelling robes and flipflops’, the former a loan, the latter a gift, and dumped our bags in our room, we got the Guided Tour. Subsequently we realized it hadn’t included the restaurant, maybe as it was fully booked, and the ice room, where you can stand and shiver – probably good for closing the skin’s pores.

We go to the activities station; it’s 4 o’clock.

Can we book for the ‘Wake Up Workout’ tomorrow morning at 0830?’

“Oh! No! Sir that’s already full as are most of the sessions.”

“Well! How about the Da Vinci BodyBoard class?”

“You can have the last two places; I’ll put your names down.”

“So is there anything else on offer today?”

“There’s a talk this evening by Ms Cynthia Welbeloved on Emptiheadedness and the Spirit of Greed.”

I almost said ‘Perfect’ but thought better of it; we could probably turn up if so moved.

Around the large pool with its glass roof were special little places for people to relax and sleep/read/chat. There was a hydro pool that was so special you had to pay extra to use it! There were saunas for men, saunas for women, saunas for both sexes ….. if you have ever been to a mixed sauna, in Germany for instance, and found nudity the norm maybe you will reflect on the reserved nature of the Anglo Saxon?

Champneys Pool

There were hot Jacuzzi-type tubs inside and out. In fact everything you needed to relax and unwind; fortunately there was no background mood music from overhead speakers, just the low murmur of people talking quietly, reverentially, respecting the whole reason why people come. We tried the pool where the water was cool and the sauna which was crowded …… and then we thought about dinner.

Despite the fact that the dining area looked like a British Rail Cafeteria, with bright lights and hard furnishings, what was on offer was good. I often judge a restaurant by how many of the options I could eat. Here I could have easily have eaten the whole menu …… although at a health spa this might have been against the whole raison d’être, irrespective of how healthy each option was!


And what of the treatments on offer?  …..  ‘Elemis pro-collagen age defy’ facials …… ‘lava shell’ massages ……. ‘Dry Body’ flotation (?)  …… etc etc. Doing hot yoga daily ensures our skin is in great shape so the only thing that tempts us is a massage. But it’s £50 for 25 minutes! Twenty five minutes? You would hardly get relaxed before it would be over …… our local people charge £40 for an hour so we thought ‘no! no! no!’. Other treatments seemed equally pricey. Just wonder whether, if they reduced the prices, they would make more money. I came away questioning  how much they are used. Maybe if we were stressed out, lived chaotically busy lives, had serious health issues, then maybe ……

At breakfast we find a good range of healthy options laid out on the buffet table and, if you wanted to pay extra, you could have Eggs Benedict, Full English etc. I tried the kedgeree with some extra mackerel; the mackerel was warm but the kedgeree cold; disgusting! The delightful waiter from Hungary asked whether we wanted coffee or tea ….. coffee please! I was suspicious as soon as I saw that the coffee came in an old-fashioned Kona glass container that had probably been sitting on the ‘keep warm’ plate for ages. You could see through the brown liquid and it tasted of nothing. Fortunately we were able to get a decent Cappuccino and double Espresso from a different machine.

After breakfast it’s apparent that Day Guests and members arrive. I overheard a BA Stewardess loudly talking into her phone to Jermima; “’course, dahlin, anytime. Oh! And I’ve booked you the ‘Decléor Ultimate Wrinkle Eraser Facial’ as I think you need it. Must dash, I am seeing Matt for a personal session at 1000.” Some presumably come every week and why not if you live close enough and you have the money? Ah! Yes! If you have the money!

We vacate our room by 1030 but can stay until 1600. After a brief discussion about where to put our stuff, we eventually decided it was best in the car boot, decanting some ‘essentials’ into a changing room locker. We do one 55 minute exercise class on a ‘Da Vinci Board’. You can recall Da Vinci’s figure with spread arms and feet? Well, here you stand on a long board, with bungees running its length, and two at each end. Lifting one set exercises one bit and another another; lots of repetitions and encouragement from Vicki from Vladivostok – ‘very gooood, very gooood; that’s it’ repeated regularly throughout the whole class. Actually quite challenging and enjoyable!

Afterwards we shower and return to the sauna. By the time we think about lunch we could both be rung out. Having had a leisurely meal we decide that we should leave, after all, how many times do I want to swim in 24 hours, how many saunas do I want to endure?

Maybe this is just the place to come and write a postcard about those health spas  ………. but actually an expensive option; think my local café would be better, as would the coffee!

Richard 27th January 2018



PC 115 Modern Times

Around this time of year here in the northern hemisphere’s winter, most of us will suffer some of the normal round of colds and flu. Specifically, in the UK one reads that the hospital Accident & Emergency departments are overstretched and the wards often full of elderly patients who could go home but can’t because ‘home’ does not provide a good enough environment in which to recover. They have even developed a name – bed blockers; modern times, life in the C21st!

The health conscious (aka The Worried Well) accept the government advice and have a ‘flu jab’, an injection that should prevent the recipient from getting 99% of the viruses around; they are free to the oldies! I overheard someone the other day saying it seems this year that those who have had the flu jab have all got the irritating dry cough that lingers and lingers. Maybe this is just one of the 1% viruses? (See note below)

Some weeks ago I started coughing (predictable huh!!)…… and it just developed into a dry hacking cough that resisted all removal attempts ….. and in case you’re thinking I should have tried that remedy that your grandmother always swore by, I tried gargling with cider vinegar & water (and swallowing … a bit yuk!), I tried Vicks chest rub, I tried Strepsils, I tried using an inhaler – I remember as a young boy bending forward over a steaming bowl of Friar’s Balsam, my step-grandmother’s potion, my head wrapped in a tea towel – I tried ‘Chesty Cough’ syrup …… but nothing worked.

At some point I thought I should just check in with the Doctors’ Practice nurse; not wanting to trouble a doctor, not wanting the general antibiotics, simply to make sure nothing sinister was developing. In PC 95 I wrote about the difficulties of getting an appointment with a doctor in Britain …… but I just wanted to see a nurse!! Even she was booked up …… but then the receptionist said I could have an appointment with a doctor in another practice that evening. OK, I thought, why not!

So one Monday three weeks before Christmas I arrived at The Charter Practice 15 minutes before my 8:15 pm appointment, a little early as I hadn’t been there before and I anticipated some form filling. Implanted in the DNA of us ex-military types is a need to be somewhere in plenty of time. It probably stems from the ‘5 minutes before 5 minutes before 5 minutes before’ regime we observed during our training. For example, if the College had a parade of the Officer Cadets at 10.00, the College Sergeant Major wanted everyone there in perfect order at 0945; so the individual Company Sergeant Majors wanted their own company there in perfect order at 0930; so the individual Platoon Sergeants wanted everyone there in perfect order at 0915 …… you get the drift …….it became important ….. and remains so. (15 minutes got contracted to 5!)

Having settled into the empty waiting room, with its antiseptic coloured plastic chairs and posters advertising everything from ‘Have you booked your Flu Vaccination?’ to ‘Need to talk in confidence about domestic abuse? Call 01273 590276’, I checked my messages/emails on my iPhone. The alternative was to look at either an April 2009 copy of National Geographic or a more up-to-date Readers’ Digest circa 2015.

iPhone 1

At 8:10 pm I switched my phone to ‘silent ring’, in anticipation of the doctor’s call; sure enough:

Mr Yates?”

I walked into the doctor’s consulting room to find him standing expectantly in the centre of his room; we shook hands.

Now, tell me about this cough.”

Two minutes into a little ‘question and answer’ session, he suddenly stopped talking and stared at me. I seriously didn’t know how to react (!) so did nothing, simply looked back.

Aren’t you going to answer it?” he asked, a sense of irritation noticeable in his voice.

Answer what?” I asked, hearing various background noises but none I recognised.

Your phone. It’s ringing!”

No it’s not!” I replied, trying not to cough, but knowing full well the ring tone of my own phone; I had assumed it must have been his.

“Yes it is!” he snorted; by this time steam was beginning to appear from his ears.

Sure enough, in my jean’s pocket my phone was ‘ringing’ but with a strange ring tone!! I switched it off and apologised:

Not sure what happened here: sorry!”

By then he must have thought I was showing early signs of dementia rather than exhibiting a cough, wished me luck and ushered me out. I muttered my thanks. Back in the Waiting Room, before driving home, I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and switched it on.

iPhone 2

Then I realised what had happened ……. whilst I had switched it to ‘silent’, I hadn’t locked the screen and random pressure in my pocket had somehow, unbelievably, initiated a sequence of ‘settings’ …. ‘sounds’…… ‘ringtone’ …….. and was offering me ‘ripples’ as opposed to my normal ‘crickets’ ringing tone. No wonder I didn’t recognise it!!

We live in funny times huh!

Richard 13th January 2018

PS Just in case you’re wondering, the doctor reckoned the cough would clear itself in another 3 weeks, irrespective of what I did. And you know what? It’s gone. And to concur with the GP’s thoughts, yesterday’s Times agreed ….. “ ….. there is no treatment.”!!

Friday 12th

PPS   Two types of vaccines are available to doctors this winter, Quadrivalent vaccines offer protection against two types of influenza A and two types of B. Trivalent vaccines, cheaper and more often used by GP surgeries, offer protection against only one type of A and two types of B. Of 25 cases of influenza in the south west, Public Health England say 21 are of the B/Yamagata type not covered by the Trivalent vaccines. Bit of a bummer!