Fine rain continued to fall like sand in a perpetual egg timer but we felt locked away in the Manor House. Surrounded by honey coloured Bath Stone walls and a bolt-on modern squared glass atrium we sat there, cosy, in boil-washed white robes and slippers, eating thick clotted cream stuffed scones and sipping on a delicate flute of champagne, looking across the green fields surrounded by old oaks.
The thing is — a spa day feels like one of those typical expressions of being female and yet, at the moment at least, it’s a catch twenty-two, of half and half. It might seem a sweeping generalisation to say a Spa Day is a female activity, it certainly is not, but at times you can visit a place and everything is slanted towards women. The magazines in the relaxation room that supposedly catered for women, Wedding Planner magazine, the slippers that are barely a size 7, the spa day deal names, Celebration Spa Day, Mum To Be Spa Day, and of course the other groups of women in the wellness building doing the same thing. That all said, it’s not a female only pursuit, but it does feel a bit like it in some places.
The catch twenty-two is the fact that I’m not in that out-out situation where I can feel like one of the girls. It doesn’t matter how long my hair stretches behind me in the pool as my hair ribbon tie falls out, I’m still going to be addressed as “Sir” while in my bathers.
It was different to the last time Maddie and I went on a spa day. This time we were given our back massages in different rooms. We compared notes after our sessions as we sat back on comfortable chaise longues when we returned to the relaxation room that was dimly lit to keep that mood. “Did she ask you what pressure you wanted?” I’d been asked if I wanted soft, medium or hard and whether I had any problem areas that needed attention. I’d chosen medium given it was only the second time I’d ever had it done and that was perfect.
“I asked for hard.” She said. Maddie doesn’t mess around with this sort of thing. She wants it done properly with effort to sort out her back. The proper fingers between the ribs — hard. “I got to select the scent of the oil as well.”
“I didn’t get that option. It was nice anyway.” I wondered why I didn’t get the option to choose, whether it was just an oversight or whether it was a thing of catering for a male compared to women. I had noticed the days before that there was a male menu for the treatments separate from the rest of the menu. I thought for a moment that may be they don’t get as many men as women in for treatments and so don’t have a selection of oils. I did wonder whether it would have been different if it was Hannah that they were aware of. It didn’t really matter of course but it makes me wonder how things really would be different from half way to all the way?
The gym is a different matter to some extent. The swimming pool is a dead give away to where I am in my journey but in the gym I can wear the shorts I want to wear, a running t-shirt that is neither one or the other and the swishing ponytail does make some other gym users look out of curiosity. It’s a complex time being in that fifty-fifty place. In some ways content and in other ways feeling that the contentment is, to some extent, only temporary and timely.
We made our way through the tiers of small, pinkie-out eat, sandwiches, scones and deserts finished with a pot of tea. Our voices echoed in the atrium and the rain lightly crackled on the glass. Maddie seemed distracted. “What’s up?”
“Shhh, I’m nosing in on the conversation.” A group of women on the other table continued to chat energetically that would probably be more accurately called nattering. “What are they talking about?” I asked covertly as I took a bite from one of the mini cakes.
“She’s had a coil fitted.”
“There’s one girly chat I don’t think we’ll be having. At least not until I’ve finished the cakes.” Not that it put me off my dessert. I think we quietly chuckled every time the one women mentioned something incredibly personal, not so much by the subject but the loudness that she may not have been aware of.
Still in our robes and the slippers, which had now expanded enough for my toe nails to poke through the open-ends, even if it meant my feet did look a touch purple, we felt like we could stay there forever. Outside the trees were statue-still as if time itself had stopped. The tea pot was so big on our small square ice white cloth covered table that it felt bottomless. This mini-mansion house hotel felt like it was saying, “don’t go, you don’t need anything else.” That’s the thing with mini-breaks, they hold you for just enough time to take you away from things.
Until next time.