Executive Stress Recovery

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Time taken: Four hours

Cost: pounds 150.

Why have it: You've just lost pounds 2 million on the pork-bellies market.

When to have it done: Best on a Saturday morning, when you have nothing important to do for the weekend.

Harrods' Hair & Beauty Salon opens an hour before the main shop, so that its well-coiffed customers can waft through the scented halls without being accosted by Stetson-wearers from Little Rock or run over by Japanese tourists.

An express lift takes you straight up to the salon - a pastel symphony in peach and eau de nil - where an army of receptionists checks your appointment.

Executive Stress Recovery is aimed at overwrought people with loads of money and four hours to kill. People who are just plain overwrought need not apply - the pounds 150 price tag alone is enough to raise your blood pressure. ESR treatments take place in private suites with names like 'Florentine' and 'Venetian'. Here, wrapped in a 'beauty duvet', you lie staring at the Rossetti reproductions on the wall, trying not to squirm as reflexologist Geraldine starts feeling your feet.

Reflexology is an ancient Chinese holistic treatment based on the idea that each area of the foot corresponds to a part of the body - the big toe to the pituitary gland, the heel to the intestines and so on - and that stimulating the foot cures problems by unblocking your 'energy channels'. Sounds weird? Well, yes. But it can be spookily accurate. And it's almost as relaxing as the aromatherapy massage that comes next: an all-over feel-good session with essential oils said to treat everything from sinusitis to flatulence.

Two hours into the treatment, muscles relaxing, brain unwinding, bliss approaching, you begin to understand why people equate ESR with a week's holiday. So when the next therapist promises to give you 'the Rolls-Royce of facials', you are positively excited. But, believe me, facials can be tiring - and after 40 minutes of cleansing, exfoliating, massaging and toning, you're feeling rather strained. This becomes full-blown paranoia as the therapist daubs your face with 'tan', tinted moisturiser, bronzing powder and a dangerously orange lipstick ('to give you a touch of colour').

Looking like an extra from Eldorado, you are inevitably led to the hair salon for a shampoo and blow-dry with Frank, who tells you your hair is all wrong and your fringe is like a jungle.

Just what you wanted to hear. You want to go home. Stressed, overwrought, your hair all wrong,you catch a taxi to the nearest travel agency and book two weeks in Barbados, a place where tans are achieved naturally.

Harrods Hair & Beauty Salon, 5th Floor, Harrods, Knightsbridge SW1 (071 584 8881).

(Photograph omitted)

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