Mr P had a mad, final dash at work, meaning that he was unable to help me pack, load up the car, sort out the animals, wash-up or even make himself a cup of tea. It must be a nightmare replying to an email, mustn't it? #1, after a blazing row, wherein I threatened to stunt her growth for evermore, finally acquiesced to minding her sister and taking her to the cinema and so by midday, I was almost ready to leave the house. Bunnies fed? Check. Cat fed? Check. Doors and windows locked? Check. Handcuffs packed? What? What are they in your suitcase for, Mum?
I was sitting on the toilet at the time, reading a book, 'dropping off some timber', as my eldest so quaintly terms it and my brow furrowed in consternation wondering how I was going to get out of this one...
-They're to secure something in the car.
-Are you sure they're not for kinky stuff**?
-Positive. I swear to you. On my life. Really...
Bodysgallen Hall is an enormous country house hotel. Very snooty, very up-market and a bit better than the Holiday Inns I am used to. You even dress for dinner, which appeals to my vanity immensely - there is nothing better, for me, than putting on a slinky frock, 'boofing' up my hair, plastering on the make-up and getting out one of my hundreds of pairs of 6" stilettoes. Unfortunately, Mr P was unable to procure a room for us within the main body of the hall and so we were farmed out to the boondocks to stay in The Engine Room, a converted farm building in the form of a luxury cottage. It was fantastic, but the walk up the hillside to the Hall, in -6 degC temperatures, on ice and shale, in aforesaid 6" heels made the North Face of the Eiger look inviting. It was so bloody cold that over slinky frocks I had to wear a jumper, fleece, scarf, gloves and heavy overcoat. And I was still cold. And the hood from my fleece made me look like some dubious crack dealer.
The hotel is classed as a Spa: it has 'therapy and treatment rooms'; an indoor swimming pool; sauna; steam room; whirlpool and gymnasium. And it was for the gym I headed.
Many years ago, when living in Oman, I was a total gym-head. I couldn't get enough of the place, working out for two hours a day, almost every day, unless the ex took umbrage at the fact that I hadn't fed him fresh grapes for a few days. Since repatriation, I hadn't exercised in any way, shape or form and had become quite comfortably indolent and blasé about toning up or making my heart beat faster than at resting moment. So I packed my Nikes, my Bridget Jones knickers which look like gym shorts but are really my secret weapon, and a few skanky T-shirts to pong up.
I enjoyed it immensely, and I have to admit that the exercise bug has bitten me hard on the backside. I haven't been able to get to a gym since our return and I miss it like my right arm has been chopped off. I may just sneak off to LA Fitness tomorrow while Mr P is messing on his Photoshop, pretending to be busy...
On my third visit, I had arrived long before Mr P, who was only using the pool, and after our reunion in the steam room, and a big fat sweat in there, we were ready to clear off and head back home via TK Maxx, wherein I found the most fantastic pair of dirty designer shoes (at £10.00!), a pair of sunglasses (as mine have recently snapped and now make me look like Long John Silver with only one lens) and a box of crackers for Christmas.
Whilst doing some weight training, I had found a teeny-bopper CD and turned up the volume. It was all stuff that our girls love and force me to listen to on a regular basis. Artists like J-Zed, 50 percentage, Acorn...you know, those very trendy chappies. What happened to regular band names like The Grateful Dead, Ozric Tentacles and Black Lace? Unfortunately, after three songs in, and me pounding away like a mad woman, a sweet old dear limped in wearing her little black leotard, black tights, pumps and a horrified expression at the demonic sounds blurting from the sound system. Being the polite person I am, and always deferring to my elders, I asked her if she wanted to reduce the volume.
She switched channels to Classic FM wherein I then performed tricep dips to Vivaldi's 4 seasons in the 'A-Z of Composers'. I sort of lost my momentum.
Thankfully, her own work-out consisted of ten minutes of bouncing on the trampette and then stretching. She effusively thanked me for my consideration and then buggered off to the pool from where she waved at me before dipping her toe in the water. I cracked on until I saw the glint of Mr P's bald patch rising above the water during his breast stroke. I finished off, changed, and met him in the whirlpool.
After ten minutes of playing with his inflated swimming shorts, squeezing the air out of his herniated groin and cackling loudly, echoing around the building, we decided to remove ourselves and get ready to depart the hotel (boo, hiss!).
I retired to the ladies' and there found my 'Old Dear', stark naked, parading around as though she had the nubile body of a 16-year old. I was frankly quite startled at how the body sags in the late 60s. I averted my eyes as much as possible, but had it confirmed to me that,'Yes, it does go grey down there!'
As I padded around, grabbing my clothes and sorting out my changing room, she kept looking over at me and smiling. So when I emerged, fully dressed, and needing to dry off my hair, I suspected I now had a friend for life and would soon be learning a few things about this lady. Sure enough, she began with how 'utterly marvellous' Bodysgallen is and did I have membership?
-Er no. I am just here for the weekend.
-Ooooh. You're staying here. Well, how simply marvellous. We come here all the time. The food is marvellous (she did like that word) and do you know what I like about it?
-Err...it doesn't come in a bucket?
-The portion sizes. Nice and small. I cannot abide large portion sizes.
This was actually my only bugbear about the grub - portions were tiny. You can't get stuck in to a bit of nosebag if the meal is more about presentation than satiation.
-So where is your nearest Spa Hotel?
-We don't have any near us, really. There's a Spa up the road from where I live but it's not residential.
-Whitley Day Spa...(and I did feel a bit daft telling her this. Whenever we mention it in this house, it is always said with a broad Geordie accent.)
-No. Not heard of that one. My daughter is going to Hawkscross in the new year. Are you familiar with it?
Then she got chatting to me about her exercise plan which 'James' had devised for her. James is a veritable miracle man. He has reversed the stages of osteoporosis in one woman, reduced another man's hypertension and last week, he walked on the water of the swimming pool, chucking loaves and fishes to the visiting Germans. She proceeded to tell me all about her recent hip operation and how much better she now felt...
-I don't believe in operations, you know (why? I've seen them happen on 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Some Plastic Boobs'). No, I always tell people, If you don't need an operation, don't have it done.
Makes sense, I thought. I wouldn't book myself in for a spot of disembowelling if it wasn't necessary. I'd much prefer to visit the charity shops in Northwich and pick up a bargain.
-So, what I always say is, Beware!
Beware? Beware of what? Baddies? Spiders? Loan Sharks? Who? What?
She was obviously batty. I had been trying, for the past ten minutes, to leave and meet Mr P who would, by now, be on his tenth game of telephone Sudoku and wondering what the hell had happened to me. I took my leave and met him as arranged.
-Coo. Sorry. Couldn't get away from the old duck in the changing room. Do you know, she spent £35 to come here to watch eight minutes of fireworks. And I had to work-out to bloody Vivaldi...
-What? What's up?
Mr P was looking a bit green around the gills: The published room rate prices didn't include VAT.
I gulped. A further 17.5% to pay. And the muckiness of our weekend had pretty much extended to me almost slipping flat on my backside into a puddle. Now was not the time to ask for £400 to join LA Fitness in our local town.
-Ooh. Not nice. Are you OK? Do you want me to drive us home?
Mr P grimaced, gritted his teeth and said, with bitterness, Even the food allowance didn't cover the wine we ordered. You were right. (And I bet that hurt more than anything, having to admit that I was right for a change!).
-Ah well, at least we enjoyed it, eh?
-Yes. I think we should think about another break away, this time with the girls.
So we are camping at the bottom of our garden in a few weeks time, when the wood has dried out, we can have a bonfire and I can sling some jacket potatoes into the embers. Quality dining, quality accommodation. It'll even be en suite as I have a toilet in the outhouses and an outside tap. And I am not VAT registered...
**They never got used, honestly. Mr P crocked his back and the idea of tickling him with a feather around his armpits and being unable to fend me off just didn't cut the mustard, so we watched Schindler's List instead...