Blame my short attention span if you like but my search has been negelcted for a few days. My friend and I decided to put our life planning on hold whilst we rested in the nurturing arms of the nearest health farm. Well that is not exactly true, the hand-on-the- heart truth is that the sight of the Two for One special late offer on the internet combined with our adolescent and self indulgent spontaneity has us chugging down the M3 in the old Corolla, (which incidentally now has a broken side mirror but that’s another story) along the leafy roads to Hampshire.
I have never been known for having any sense of elegance even when I am stationary. I have to admit that travelling exacerbates this neglect and the “Looking gorgeous” factor has never entered the packing strategy This "strategy" has, up until now, consisted of grabbing those things that happened to be at the top of the clean washing pile and putting together a combination of clothes that would cover all temperatures. For over 40 years this has worked with never more than a slight hiccup which has been easily sorted by a quick trip to the local store to buy whatever was needed. However, as my little car wound its way along the “driveway” I did question my strategy of not including a gorgeous element in the travel kit. Health Farm, health spa conjured up images of well manicured image focused women. I put the niggle aside thinking I would hide out in the pool or room just lazing around unseen.
Now I think that if you ask most people they will have some sort of understanding that England is known for its “understatement”. If, for example, a health farm such as this was in Australia or America there would be flashing signs and whiz-bang-tom-foolery along the way letting you know that it is ahead. As you got closer there might even be imposing security gates with speaker phones or signs reassuring the guest that they were indeed important, safe and very lucky to be admitted to such a place. Not so in the UK.
Back and forth we drove along the road looking for some sort of indication that we were on the right road or at least in the vicinity, not that we were late, but there was some urgency to take advantage of every second of our "two for one" priced few days. It was only on the 4th passing that my friend spotted a small sign hidden in the trees. We then twigged we had found an entrance. But what entrance, was the question? We decided that even the English couldn’t be this obscure… maybe we had found the service entrance. Whatever road we had found we were desperate to get there and together we reasoned that there was more than one road into Rome and we could somehow get ourselves to the right place one we got to the staff car park. The "unsealed" road (actually I checked later and it was actually sealed it just felt unsealed) wound itself across a golf course and down through a rhododendron lined wood of freshly-leaved beech trees. We rattled down the road for what seemed a long time, crossing over small bridges and halting for bridleways all the time still quite sure this was the “staff's" driveway. Then the view changed. The bower of leaves stopped and I was reminded of Dante’s “in the middle of the road of my life I found myself in a dark wood where even the road had disappeared……” but instead of darkness as the dark wood stopped we found ourselves confronted by a wonderful sight.
I understood then that there is something elegant about the decision to keep the entrance road the way it is. As you leave the wood the impact of the view is astounding. The trees suddenly stopped and there, smack bang in front of us was a mirrored lake complete with gliding swans and geese ushering their new goslings along the banks. And overseeing all this stood “Forest Mere”, a gracious red brick rural home that now housed the health spa.
The British “understatement” ended there. As the automatic doors opened you entered a sanctuary that seemed devoted to you. Now forgive me if this is sounding like an advertisement but every person we met who worked there seemed trying their hardest to make me feel special and nurtured. I loved it. For three days, I was fed great food, massaged from head to toe, I swam, steamed and sauna-ed, I was wrapped in strange mixtures of algae and bundled like a marinating chicken. I was immersed in minerals waters and painted and preened and I loved every single minute of it. I want to live in a health spa. There was one glitch though which had me pondering life’s big questions……
My friend had, by chance, a better room than me. Now “better” does not mean it was huge with larger beds and a private spa bath and unlimited supplies of fruit and alcohol. No! For the uninitiated “better” means this, she had a flat screen television and bottles of water in her room. I only know this because I called the reception to let them know that the maid had forgotten to leave me any bottles of water. There was a silence on the phone until I was told that I only had a “premium” room whilst my friend had a “premier” room and I would have to buy my water. How strange I thought, here I am in a health spa where the whole message is “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate” but you can only have bottled water if you are paying for the more expensive room. I was relaxed. Fair enough I thought.
Now don’t want you to imagine that I was too concerned about this. I was so relaxed by now after all the treatments I could have accepted anything. But it did start me niggling over another of the big life questions that I tend to get into. Was this incident just a “homeopathic” dose of a world where only those who can afford water will be able to have it? Is this just a precursor of yet another case where the wealthy have the right to water where the poor of the world will have to continue to walk miles? I tossed the thought around for a while but then dosed off.
It was difficult to leave to drive back to London. The drive way seemed so much shorter on the way back too. The three days had slowed me down enough to stop long enough to wonder where to now?