Relax? I've got out of the habit

16th February 2007 at 00:00

when teaching goes well, it's demanding. When it goes badly, it's torture.

So who would not welcome a day off, when you can do nothing but concentrate on your own well-being?

For Christmas, a generous friend presented me with a wellness package: a day at a spa, enjoying the facilities, joining the classes and getting a massage. But one woman's meat is another woman's poison. I'm not girly - I don't even like shopping - and a spa day is one of the last ways I'd have spent my own money. Relax? Don't do it!

The package includes time in the pool complex, but I already swim twice a week at my sports centre, in a full-size pool. Saunas are definitely out: at my age, the trick is not to overheat.

There is a gym, but three minutes on the cross lateral trainer and I'm halfway to a heart attack. There are exercise classes. I once tried Pilates, but I kept falling over. There are rackets courts, but I can't hit a ball to save my life.

After lunch comes the bit I really dread: the full body massage. I hate strangers in my personal space and it doesn't come much more personal than this. It's bound to be administered by some beautiful young woman, who will regard my crumpled body with disdain.

Last of all, there's a facial. I hope there are no mirrors. I never use any cosmetics on my skin, because I've never found a brand that doesn't bring me up in spots. But I don't want the gift to be wasted, so I ring up and book in.

At the last minute, I realise I haven't got a thing to wear. Should I buy some Lycra shorts? A track suit? Fancy trainers? I pull out some holiday shorts and flip flops. Not a pretty sight, but they will have to do.

I realise that I'm beginning to sound like Grumpy Old Women, so I'll do my best to enjoy it.

I drive up to the spa. The grounds are impressive. A nice receptionist helps me plan my day. The pool looks inviting. The water is warm and it's not chlorinated and - Oh joy! - there are no kids.

After a while I start to go wrinkly, so I wrap up in the fluffy dressing gown they've given me for the day and flop on to a lounger with a book.

Through the plate glass windows I see the cold wind shivering the trees.

After I've finished my coffee, I decide to risk the hot tub and the steam room. For the exercise class, I opt for yoga and end up asleep on the mat.

The masseuse is charming. If she doesn't approve of my cellulite, she doesn't show it, and she doesn't make small talk. In fact, the only accompaniment is a tape of Tibetan bells and a scent of pine forests. It's quite a pummelling, but it feels good afterwards.

I emerge from the spa glowing, clutching my free gift of cosmetics, which I think I might use after all.

There's a pile of college paperwork waiting for me at home, but will I do it? Not tonight, certainly. Not ever, perhaps. Relax? I'd forgotten how.

Gill Moore is a basic skills lecturer

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