In my quest to renew myself after two years of cancer treatment I signed up for four days at a fancy heath spa outside of London. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. When I last visited it had been going through a Japanese period, but this had all changed in favor of commerce. Now hen parties were accommodated, and business groups attended week-long wellness courses and fitness training .
An elderly nanny checked me in and a retainer took me to my superior room. It was lovely, overlooking the garden, and I decided that bed would be my first choice for activities. I tried the TV and it had twenty channels; ten were in Arabic. The ten in English looked promising, but within five minutes I broke the TV and could get no channels. Then I tried the bath that had amazing water pressure, unknown in the UK, but I couldn’t empty it. When I finally left the room and returned, the key no longer worked. Superior rooms need superior minds.
I had arrived too late (by five minutes) for lunch and I was directed to the busy new snack bar. I found that whoever dreamt up the menu thought coping with stress, not trying to diet, was foremost in the residents’ minds. I tried to find something healthy and ended up with a carrot and hummus wrap, followed by an oatmeal cookie. I decided not to worry about health if it was going to be tasteless.
Chemotherapy had left me in need of a facial. So I signed up with the nanny receptionist and I waited and waited for the therapist while lots of twenty somethings in white uniforms who looked like spaced out aliens walked past me. Naughty me, I was in the wrong place. Finally, my very own twenty something showed up. I made the mistake of telling her I was just finished with Chemotherapy. I thought she might run out of the room, but I could see her mentally reviewing her instruction book. She said that if I had cancer I could not have massages BUT IF IT WAS TERMINAL, I could do anything I wanted. I hadn’t considered this as a ‘final exit’ possibility.
That evening I decided to brave the group table and I was treated to a long discourse on how to cure my laryngitis. (A paralyzed vocal cord caused by cancer.) At the end of dinner, I must have got tired and cranky and after telling the waitress that the cod was cold and had bones in it, I confessed to my companions that I had cancer and that I didn’t think lemon tea and ginger, whiskey or lemsip would help my voice.
When I found out the next day that my dinner companion, who I assumed was a wealthy client, was a blind diabetic who was illiterate, I felt badly. She had been brought up south of Naples in one room with an abusive father, a goat and a sheep. She was kept at home to work on the farm and never sent to school. At eighteen she was sent to London as a maid and worked for Clement Attlee’s family before he became prime minister. Now she comes to the spa twice a year and is treated like royalty. I believe the owners have a charity, which provides for this. It made me feel more positive.
I decided to keep quiet about cancer and try the Thalassotherapy pool. I had a swim in my warm dream pool and my ‘spaced out therapist’ turned on the strong jets and started chatting with another therapist. I tried to climb up to the jets and started to slip on the steps. I didn’t fancy drowning, so I kept safely near the edges. By the time I got used to the pool, the therapist paused in her chat long enough to say it was over. It was an expensive 20 minute swim; I think the therapists take their revenge for what must be low paid rather boring work.
Next I met the chiropodist where I was able to relax and almost fall asleep. I woke suddenly when the point of her scissors stabbed my big toe.
I thought my Pilates workshop had gone well, but I was gently told that I wasn’t ready to exercise yet and I needed to do some walks first. Since I had trouble walking to class this seemed wise.
Having nothing to do on the last day I went to a clairvoyant. That was as surreal as it comes. My father’s spirit came into the room and after he told me how terrific I was gave me a trophy. When I was back home I was reminded that my father had died on this day eleven years ago. I have no belief in the spiritual world but that was about as strange as it gets.
I spent the last few hours in the drawing room reading an Agatha Christie mystery and I left just in time before Miss Marple found a corpse and had to call the nannies in for questioning.