A discounted voucher for The Club and Spa Birmingham at the Cube was too good a chance to miss, especially as it was a great chance to catch up with a couple of old friends and have a good girly chat. However there are several reasons why the thought of a spa day brought me out in a cold sweat (although there’s probably a spa treatment for that…):
- People will have to see me in a swimming cossie. These are people that I may bump into in real life, and not just in a cocktail-fuelled blur around a sun-drenched pool
- I have hair which does not react well to water. Or steam. Both are likely to be prevalent in any spa experience
- Glasses also do not react well to hot, humid conditions. But without glasses, I have a squinty Mr Magoo look and a tendency to talk to strangers as if they are my oldest friends (just because they look about the same size and have similar hair colour)
- Boredom. Even when I’m doing nothing, I’m usually doing something.
So I approach the day with a strange combination of excitement at being a sophisticated woman that goes to spas (rather than an unsophisticated woman who shops at Spar), and trepidation of how my hair, glasses and not-prepped-for-bikini-wearing body will work out.
Turns out I quite enjoyed myself 🙂
Of course, we’re running late. Our chief organiser – let’s call her Ann (because that’s her name) – is not entirely sure where our meeting point at Tesco Express is. Or where the Cube is. Or where the Mailbox is. However we manage to get ourselves into the spa just before my treatment at 10am… I throw on a robe and trot off to where my therapist is tapping her watch and tutting at my lack of punctuality.
I’m not up on the latest trends in spa treatments, so I’m glad our voucher entitles us to a particular massage/wrap/dry flotation combo and I don’t end up having my skin stripped in some sort of torture device or hung upside down with hot stones on my nether regions. (Is that a thing?). The therapist leaves me to “get myself prepared”. Getting myself prepared means stripping off my robe and then standing there in my swimming cossie awaiting further instruction. Do I lay face down? Face-up? Under the towel? On top of the towel? I am a spa virgin and require strict, explicit guidance. Face-up, under towel it turns out.
My arms and legs get a good basting with a delicious smelling oil, my scalp is massaged so vigorously I think all my wrinkles have been ironed out and then I am wrapped very tightly like a mummy in several towels. I know I am grinning and hope my therapist doesn’t think I am some sort of simpleton. Then I’m blindfolded, a beanbag popped over my eyes and the big inflatable bed I’m lying on starts to deflate. I’m reliably informed that this is meant to happen. Except it doesn’t seem to deflate evenly, leaving me feeling at times like I’m in a V shape with my head and legs much higher than my torso. Or like I’m going to roll off sideways. But then I’m flat again, cocooned in an inflatable blanket and my therapist pops off for a 35 minute break (I’m sure she doesn’t but I imagine her sitting in a room with a cup of coffee and a cupcake, watching me grinning like a loon on CCTV).
What the hell am I going to do for 35 minutes? These are some of the thoughts that go through my head:
“I bet I look really stupid”
“Am I still smiling?”
“Yep, I am”
“Now am I grimacing?”
“Do I look like I might be in distress?”
“She’s covered my eyes”
“She could have wheeled me out into the middle of Birmingham for all I know”
“Is everyone looking at me?”
“Maybe I’ll have a peek”
“I can’t move my arms”
“AAAARRGGHHHHH, I can’t move my arms!!!!”
“Oh it’s ok. They’re just wrapped up really tightly in this towel”
“Bit of fidgeting…and yes, my arm’s free!”
“Oh, I’m still in the therapy room”
“This music’s annoying”
“How long have I been in here anyway?”
At some point I may have dozed off. Luckily I didn’t snore, dribble or try to sleep-walk (as far as I know). My therapist disturbs my blissful floating time and I start to re-inflate… the contortions of my body continue in reverse this time. I don’t struggle for fear that I may be swallowed alive by this big inflatable blanket. My therapist kindly doesn’t mention that the scalp massage has left my hair looking like I’ve stuck my finger in an electric socket.
So it’s back to find my friends. Our designated meeting point is “by the pool”. I enter the pool area (having done a slight fix to my Einstein hairstyle first). I forget that I wear glasses and wonder why the pool is so foggy. I concentrate on not toppling headfirst into the pool and find Ann and Julie (that is what I shall call my other friend. Because that too is her name). I babble on to them for a while about floating and sinking, and mad hair. And then the fog clears, and the two complete strangers I’m chatting to are nodding and trying to get away from me in the most polite manner possible. I pretend I am simply the most chatty person in the room, say hello to everyone else and eventually locate my real friends. Who luckily have not witnessed my display of totally uncharacteristic sociable behaviour.
I hadn’t paid much attention during the whirlwind tour, so each of the jets in the pool was something of a surprise. Some of them almost propelled me across the pool. Some of them made my shoulders hurt. One of them made me feel as if my bikini bottoms were falling down. (They weren’t but they were billowed out like a parachute….) And some of them were just plain nice. I avoided the room which was 90 degrees (the sauna it turns out) but did boil for a while in some sort of salt air room (good for asthmatics apparently; I’m not asthmatic so can’t comment but it did make my nose and lips tingle the way I can imagine they would if I was a fire-eater) and steamed for a while in the steam room (my hair was beyond redemption at this stage so I thought I may as well see how big it could go).
And then Julie disappeared to check out the hanging, swinging relaxation pods. When we track her down, she is curled up like a kitten in a hammock. I want a bit of this hanging, swinging action too, and very unladylike flop myself into a pod which immediately launches into a 360 spin at a rate that gives me whiplash. I also bounce off the wall like a pinball, which at least slows down the spinning. Once I stabilise, and I am rocking gently, I decide this is definitely the place for me. There’s a bit too much noise going on for me to relax completely – although I do take the opportunity to Facebook and Tweet about how relaxed I am – and I’m getting a bit cold in my damp robe, which at least motivates me to move.
And its lunchtime! Usually spa lunches are taken in the canalside lounge, where you can relax in your robes and slippers with all of the other relaxed and robed spa goers. But as an unexpected treat, the lounge is closed so our lunch is taken up on the 25th floor. Yes – at Marco Pierre White’s. So, no robes and slippers for us as we reluctantly put our real clothes back on. Except I’m not quite dressed for fine dining, and my casual “slip-on-over-my-swimming-cossie” dress and grubby pumps don’t quite cut the mustard. At least I was wearing underwear, unlike one of my dining companions. Who will remain nameless. But it’s either Ann or Julie.
The staff are less fazed by this array of ragtag diners than we are, although we are carefully put on a table where we are not overlooked by our fellow diners – you know, the ones who have put on proper clothes and are paying considerably more than a tenner for their lunch. And for a tenner, we get a proper sandwich, salad and mini-saucepan of chips for lunch. And a drink. Despite the fact I have hair akin to Crystal Tipps (minus Alistair), pores that are the size of the Grand Canyon thanks to the steam room and a slight whiff of frangipani oil, I am enjoying being a “lady that lunches” at MPW.
We could go back to the spa and I could snooze for another couple of hours in that swinging pod. But it means wrestling myself back into a damp swimming cossie and I’m not sure I can face that battle after a slightly heavier lunch than anticipated. So I declare my spa day done and dusted. We have lift issues on our way back down, and see more of the inside of the lift ascending and descending between the 25th floor and ground floor than we should. We then have to avoid the torrential downpour inside The Cube (who builds buildings with no roof?) and explain to the bemused spa receptionists why we are re-entering through the main door rather than the special spa guest lift access (“we had lift issues…”)
All in all, I enjoyed my spa day and would definitely return. The pool is a little small, but there was never enough people that it seemed crowded. The treatment was all too brief, and the voucher had made it sound like we were getting three treatments rather than a three-in-one massage/wrap/float, but for half price I can’t really complain. Even though I wasn’t really listening during the tour (“my treatment was due five minutes ago and I’m still in my outdoor clothes!”) I don’t think there was any mention of the gym or the exercise classes? Not as though I intended to do anything that energetic but I did pack my trainers and gym clothes as a gesture of intent.
Thank you Club and Spa Birmingham for a great experience, thank you Ann and Julie for putting up with me and my spa naivety, and thank you to the two nice ladies who looked a bit like Ann and Julie for not calling security and having me evicted…