Work had flown by this week and it was soon Thursday and time to meet Lil and Armando for Breakfast Club. I felt refreshed as I took the short walk to the café.
Lil’s mouth turned upwards in greeting as I entered. Armando was busy with other customers and gave a subtle nod.
‘Wow, what’s happened to you Boulevardier? You look different. How shall I put it? Less frazzled than normal,’ said Lil.
‘Ha. I wonder if it’s because I spent last weekend at a Health Spa in the country Lil.’
The cackle started low and built into a crescendo. Others in the café were looking round. Lil took a small white cotton handkerchief from the cuff of her green chunky jumper and wiped her face. She had laughed herself into a sweat.
‘Lil honestly, what is funny? Everyone is staring.’
‘You! You bloody na-na. Health Club for the weekend ha. You’ll be telling me next that you spent the entire trip swanning around in a fluffy robe.’
‘I don’t understand what’s so hilarious. And no, we tried the robes but decided to wear comfortable clothes instead.’
Lil started to vibrate with laughter again. I didn’t realise I had such comic qualities at 10am.
‘Do you want to hear about it or just take the… errrrrr, ridicule me?’ I was going to use a different word but stopped myself in time. Lil may use fruity language but I didn’t feel it right to swear in front of her.
‘I want to hear about it.’ Lil bit her lip and tucked her handkerchief back under her sleeve. Armando arrived with tea and took a seat.
I explained that as part of my birthday celebrations Michael and I had booked to go to Henlow Grange which is part of the Champney’s Group of spas. According to the website ‘Our resort spa is built around an opulent Georgian manor, with hand-painted walls and Venetian-style mirrors. A Cistercian monastery once stood on the site.’
‘I took the train from Finsbury Park after college. Michael would follow in his car after work. The station was deserted and I was glad I’d booked a taxi in advance. I patted myself, figuratively, on the back at my foresight.
The taxi circled the central fountain and scrunched on the gravel drive. The big wooden front doors of the Grange opened to reveal a buzzing reception hall. Patrons were checking in, checking out and arranging treatments in a flurry of activity. A few ladies walked by dressed in white fluffy robes.’
My story was momentarily interrupted, as a fresh pot of tea and steaming hot breakfasts arrived. I paused for a minute as we conducted the familiar dance of the salt and pepper pots around the table.
‘Once I’d checked in and validated the treatment times for both of us, I was directed to my room with the promise of a guided tour starting in ten minutes.
I took the tour and was slightly unnerved by the number of people, mostly women, walking around in white towelling robes and white flip flops. Was this a sect? Would I have to wear this uniform and if so how would I assert my individuality? How would I stay me?’
Lil hooted. ‘Lil.’ I said firmly and looked to Armando for support.
‘Bloody hell Boulevardier. Only you could be bothered by the robes. Now get on with it.’ Lil said.
‘The flip flops only seemed to go up to size 8. I heard another man complaining about it at reception. We were given larger fluffy slippers as an alternative which were fine. Michael arrived and after refreshing facials we went to dinner.
But I must tell you how amusing it was as we were waiting at the treatment reception for our facials. The reception area had several comfortable sofas with coffee tables spread with magazines. You wait there to be called forward by your appointed therapist. They appear from a side room armed with a clipboard.
After a few names had been called, and you know what it’s like, if it’s not your name you don’t pay much attention. We sat up when we heard the following name called:
I kid you not.
A guy got up and followed the therapist to her treatment boudoir. The room tittered. I wondered whether Harry Selfridge or Coco Chanel would be next.
Anyway once we arrived in the restaurant, which doubled as the breakfast and lunch venue, we were guided to a table decorated with a crisp white tablecloth and a tealight in a glass holder. We were given fresh spring water and A4 sized plastic padded menus. The waitress reappeared within a couple of minutes to take our drinks order.
‘I’d like a diet coke please,’ said Michael.
‘I’ll have a glass of red wine please,’ I said.
‘Do you have bottles of diet coke?’ Michael added.
The waitresses eyes opened wider and we looked round to see that Michael’s dangled menu was aflame having combusted (it had connected with the tealight). Staff appeared from everywhere and took the burning menu. Other patrons turned to look at the fuss as black smoke rose from our table.
The Manageress appeared to apologise and after settling the situation confirmed that she recognised me from earlier.
‘‘At least you’re not wearing bright red socks this evening,’’ she directed at me referencing her previous sighting when I gave Michael a tour of the facilities without shoes.
‘‘They are Falke,’’ I confirmed as if the brand of sock made it acceptable to wander through the facilities shoeless.’
‘Bloody hell Boulevardier,’ cackled Lil, ‘you never cease to amaze me.’
‘It gets worse Lil.’
Lil folded her cutlery on her plate and looked at me to continue.
I told Lil and Armando how the next morning the maid had walked into our room without knocking. Thankfully we were dressed and about to head to breakfast. It could have been quite the eyeful if she’d caught me en route to the shower after attending Wake-Up Workout.
After massages, a treatment in the Thalassotherapy pool (which was most incommodious in its quiff destruction abilities) and a walk to a pub in the local village it was time for dinner.
There were no candles in the restaurant.
We questioned our waitress regarding their absence. She confirmed that Michael’s antics had highlighted health and safety risks and candles were banned from the restaurant. There was nothing for it but to enjoy several glasses of wine. Michael’s spa legacy is setting the place on fire. He’s hardly the advocate for a healthy weekend.
It was all go on a relaxing spa weekend. There was hardly time to pause. However, this didn’t stop us from achieving a state of natural sedation.
‘That all sounds very nice Boulevardier. We didn’t have such treats in my day. An afternoon in the park provided us with sufficient relaxation.’
‘Anyway, don’t forget that it’s bingo next week, so we won’t have breakfast club. I’ll see you both at the community centre for charity bingo. Dress smart. Armando did you arrange cover?’
‘Yes the café is not so busy after lunch. But why don’t we go together?’
‘Yes Lil, surely you want to arrive with both escorts to show Mavis Bellamy who she’s messing with.’ I added.
‘Good plan. Let’s have another Assam to seal the deal.’ Lil looked rather pleased with herself.