Poked, plucked and pummelled

Well girls, I think I’ve done my bit of honesty for the week and so I’m going to tell you about how Marvellous-Mother-In-Law and I went on a long-awaited two day treat at a Hampshire spa instead. I call her MMIL because she is – she’s very attractive, easy going, has a ready laugh and a fund of fascinating stories. Sadly, my father in law passed away a few weeks ago and so this midweek break was organised to try and cheer her up a bit.  Interestingly her husband was nine years older than her and I married the son, who is nine years younger than me, so she and I are much closer in age than is usual for a mother and daughter in law. Anyhow her crappy sat nav took us, like a drunken bee, on a whirlwind tour of  Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire before we  finally we drew up at the entrance of the spa. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car because MMIL’s driving was a combo of gently accelerating and then gently braking, which rather reminded me of a lurching cross channel ferry in high winds and so I was feeling quite nauseous after our unnecessarily long  journey.

Our pleasure at arriving was quickly dispelled as we walked into reception to be greeted by dreary decor and a middle aged man slumped in a chair with his white (actually slightly grey) bathrobe thrown open to reveal the unprepossessing sight of his hairy chest and Speedos. The poorly trained young receptionist greeted us (a bit too) cheerily and continued in her strident voice to ask what size slippers I’d like. Eight I whispered, slightly embarrassed about my large feet, only for her to repeat it loud and clear to macho man and anyone else within earshot. My room key didn’t work and the duvet cover had a six inch tear in it, but the room was clean, a decent size and the toiletries looked great – watermint, yum! But after a cup of tea in the soul-less formica restaurant (had more in common with an airport cafe actually) and overhearing another guest complaining to staff about a ‘maintenance issue’, we decided we couldn’t stay there. This first spa shall remain nameless because although it claims to be ‘exclusive and glamorous’ and it patently isn’t, the manager released us from any obligation to stay and refunded our money in full without quibbling. Suffice it to say that they set themselves low standards which they fail to meet.

GrayshottGiggling like schoolgirls, MMIL and I threw our luggage in her car and escaped to Grayshott (having phoned ahead to check they had a couple of single rooms free) which, luckily was only eight miles away. We were relieved to find a refined and peaceful atmosphere, big squidgy traditional sofas, quietly-spoken staff and that we had been upgraded to junior suites. All this for £50 each less than the first spa! This was absolute bliss for MMIL in her fragile state and we later learned that quite a few recently bereaved people choose to stay at Grayshott because the staff are so empathetic and kind.

After a glass of low calorie champagne (well, we’d had a close shave spa-wise and thought a celebration was in order) we ate dinner in the beautiful dining room, plenty of white linen here and not a sign of any plastic wood (see pic above). Three tiny but perfectly executed courses (amazing flavours and obviously produced with great attention to detail by a very accomplished chef), their Best UK Spa Cuisine 2011 award is justly deserved. The treatments are renowned too, some of the therapists have been there an incredible 30 or 40 years, and so we indulged ourselves.

Our fellow guests were quiet, polite, smiled a lot and were respectful of each other’s privacy. Apart from two old dowagers – well there’s always someone isn’t there! – who wore huge t shirts tucked into grey jogging bottoms (elasticated at the ankle naturellement and finished off with clumpy chestnut brown Docksiders) who invariably arrived late for exercise classes, quite happily disrupting the dynamic; we’d see them in the restaurant hogging a table set for six while they stuffed huge portions of the buffet lunch; and, while I was enjoying my Vitamin C facial, the silence was shattered when I heard one of them bellow “Hello? Hello? Anyone about?”. The only other impolite behaviour I noticed was a guest returning for yet another melt in the mouth complimentary canape. OK. Hands up. That was me!

Two comfortable nights, several relaxing treatments, and two amazing dinners later a refreshed MMIL and I are now back in our own homes, happy to have enjoyed such a successful short break. Grayshott hasn’t been tempted to cut corners like so many other businesses, in fact it feels extraordinarily good value.  That is why we are saving up to go back in January – can’t wait.