The Great Escape….

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A couple of weeks ago, I mimicked a bad actor in a getaway scene in a B movie, as I hastily threw a few belongings in a bag, followed by a few more directly into the boot of an awaiting car. I issued the driver with the terse instruction to drive the hell away as quickly as possibly.  Which she did admirably well given the muddy nature of our driveway and the inconveniently placed boulders that we like to deter visitors with. So began our annual weekend spa trip away.

Having spent a significant amount of the previous night in A&E, and the remainder on the sofa, there was still a vein of fear running through my tired brain and body that the callous & selfish side of my being would be revealed. I did not want to have to face any evidence that would force me to make an obvious, explicit choice between nursing a sick husband or going away with seven gorgeous women. In fairness his pulse rate was fine (read; he had a pulse) and he sent me off with his blessing, if only to have another few nights with the bed to himself. It was half term and he had five children at home to monitor his well being and yes I wished they were all younger!!

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If only I had looked as organised.

I began to decompress about 30 minutes into the journey and by this I mean I drew breath and stopped blowing the head off  the car’s other occupants. I brought verbal diarrhea to a whole new level in that half hour. You name it, I traversed topics from our broken health service to my urgent need to buy some eyebrow shapers, like a bungee jumper who realises the bungee rope is fraying and is desperately seeking another means of survival. By the time we made our stop for coffee in Middleton, I realised it was safe to turn my mobile phone back on and ease myself into the mental delights of the forthcoming weekend. Mobile phone call contact with home is kept to a minimum over the weekend and I have always embraced the idea of  maintaining as much radio silence as possible when away. I keep my streak going with no. 1 daughter and she berates me for abandoning her as “ DAD is making chilli”.

This annual weekend away has been happening probably for more years than any of us care to remember. It is a sacred space in our calendar year. Although, not every woman makes it every year, sleeps are counted, bags are packed and room allocation is  negotiated  increasingly on the basis of who can tolerate snoring. So we swapped our hallways full of shoes,  runners, abandoned school bags and sports kit for …

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The foyer @ The Imperial Hotel Cork

This year our group comprised of two sets of sisters, one set of three sister in laws and a soul sister to us all. Although we all live in relatively close proximity to each other, this was for some, going to be the first time since the last spa break to have a good catch up. The joy of these weekends is that nothing is sacred and nothing is expected of you whatsoever. There is a camaraderie amongst women that is rarely acknowledged but often in evidence. Over the years there has been plenty mad moments and much much laughter.

There is such pleasure to be got from having some sumptuous spa treatment, and this year I got to try a dry floatation treatment after my hot oil detox massage. I obviously wore my stress well or I’m not as memorable as I like to think  and they forgot about me as I got about double my allotted time on the floatation bed. This was the nearest thing that might replicate being back in the womb, just warm ooziness all around.  By the end of my time in the bed I was getting brave and undulating like a dolphin to maximise contact with the warmth. Even the malojan piped music (couldn’t spoil my relaxation).

Normally in the week prior to spa weekend, I do an emergency overhaul of my beauty routine, so as to turn up in some vaguely acceptable shape. It’s a bit akin to me making the children tidy the house when I was pregnant with the last Small and couldn’t let the lovely lady who was coming to help clean, see the state of the house. This year I was lucky to manage a dry towel rub as a stop gap exfoliation treatment before I handed my body over to the therapist.  Just as well too, as if the poor girl had any kind of respiratory problems I could have triggered an asthma attack.  The realisation dawned this year, that I can no longer afford to run the risk of allowing ‘the guess my age’ game be played, because I’ll be doing well if they actually guess my age and not go older.  My ego is too fragile to handle this at the  moment. The therapists are not getting younger either, it’s just that therapists in their 30’s, now look like children to me. Fresh faced, firm bodies with the full complement of hormone levels.  This year when they asked for any other information on the spa form I  just stopped short of writing “aging decrepit body, that is not defying gravity, please handle with much care and no derision.”  Yes I was overwhelmed with tiredness, previous low grade sickness and feeling just a tad sorry for my perimenopausal state of being.

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We have this point sampled our fair share of thermal suites, hot tubs and saunas over the years and in many settings.Tropical showers have been sung in, jets have been turned to maximum force and treatments and therapists have been compared and scored. Given that we have enough lotions, potions and creams  between us to open our own chemist, robes are brought back to bedrooms and treatments are continued.  We breathe, we talk, we laugh, we sometimes end up crying with laughter. We have deep and meaningful conversations, we challenge each other viewpoints. We can be leery, silly ,whimsical or profound often within the same ten minutes. We are brought up to date with the exploits of each other’s children, their triumphs and disasters. We compare notes on the different shapes our motherhood’s are taking with each passing year. Next spa break we will have a first grandchild to catch up on. Energy levels can be variable as our lives have a sneaky means of  stowing away in our luggage with us but we are present and the world is put to rights over a glass of prosecco, savage blanc or the faithful cup of tea.

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Over the years, we have made many memories, lost(but then found) wedding rings, guest appearances by a rather fruity chap called Gideon, dancing to  a band called UV5 and not AV8’s as some of our Mammy minds insisted upon calling them.  Absolutely Fabulous Moments, karaoke taxi rides and then there was the likes of Dave. Dave who was  prone to a spot of overheating and afflicted with a man’s reluctance to admit to be being  lost. This resulted in him wandering up and down the corridor stark naked, knocking on doors until the more maternal amongst us , invited him in, gave him some towels which he did wear with a touch of Grecian flamboyance. There were some amongst us who wanted to give him more drink just for our amusement but no, good sense prevailed and we got him back to his sleeping girlfriend and back into his room with the assistance of the night porter. Needless to say he didn’t recognise any of us at breakfast.

We have on occasion, when we don’t adjacent rooms and can’t use the middle room as the go to party room, been those annoying guests that reception have to ring up about, as we laugh and dance and sing along with today’s equivalent of MTV. Some of us have attended the afters of weddings if memory serves me right.

To top it all off, we do not have to plan , shop or prepare one morsel of food for ourselves or anyone else for one entire weekend.  Oh the freedom, please do not under estimate how liberating this is. All of us Mammy’s only have to choose food for ourselves, no second guessing of the best fit for all. No pots or pans not even a spoon has to be accounted for. It is why we are giddy with excitement at the breakfast buffet, delirious with joy at the prospect of lunch and to be honest it’s why having a three course evening meal can be as pleasurable and as satisfying as sex, well maybe not but it definite lasts longer.

Inevitably it’s time to pack up and check out, we try squeeze a couple of more hours out of our freedom by heading to a shopping emporium to spend the last few euros. We are already planning our next spa break not with any great detail or precision but with the comfort that it will come around again.

I try stop my head running off with the to do lists that face me upon my return. I promise myself I will not let any chaos that awaits me upset my recently regained equilibrium. I will practise gratitude for my weekend away. I invariable begin to hum “Back to life, Back to reality”. I am greeted by my two smallest with hugs and joyous exclamations when I arrive home earlier than what they expected, it is lovely to be missed. A quick surreptitious surveillance during hugs and the verdict of the downstairs of the house is quite good really, better than a lot of years.

They let me settle.  Tea is made. ” I promised him you wouldn’t lose the head” or words to that effect are uttered by husband, as No 2 son stands sheepishly and tallishly towering above me avoiding all eye contact……………………yes the weekend is over.

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