Four words I hate: detox, spa and paper pants


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If I’m honest, I rather overdid things over the holidays. Three weeks in Hong Kong and Thailand living as though the British empire was still afloat had done me in. So I was packed off for 10 days to detox in Italy.

The very idea of doing any detox in Italy is absurd, as you are surrounded by some of the finest food and wine known to man. I suppose in some ways, it’s payback time. A couple of years ago, Stacey and I went for a three-day break in a very nice hotel near Siena. We were there to spoil ourselves. I was unaware that half the clientele was there on a fasting week.

To make things worse, the  Gordon Ramsay restaurant was separated from the fasting room by a wall that only went half-way up to the roof. The screams of despair when my Tuscan steak was delivered to the table is something I will never forget.

Fortunately, in my current institution … sorry spa, things are kept very separate. Supposedly there are normal people staying here and enjoying fabulous food somewhere, but they have been well hidden.

My relaxation break didn’t start well, as the M4 was at a standstill because a car had cut a horse in half. Although clearly far more stressful for the horse, it meant that I arrived at the airport with seconds to spare. I hate being late. It’s the thing that stresses me out the most in life after … spas.

What am I doing? I do genuinely not enjoy the world of spa. Stacey loves massages and treatments and padding around in a dressing gown drinking apple vinegar water. It seems to give her Scottish Presbyterian soul succour. It makes her feel good. I have a more Mediterranean outlook on life – eat, drink and be merry. It’s a remarkably happy marriage, considering.

The thing I feared happened in the second room I stepped into. A fearsome looking Italian lady in white clinical clothing handed me a tiny packet. “Put on,” she said and left the room. I hoped against hope that it wasn’t what I thought it was – paper pants. These are clearly the medical community’s idea of a joke. I’ve rarely been to any medical establishment where, even if I’m just suffering from a headache or blurred vision, I’m not ordered into paper pants. Someone, somewhere is making a lot of money out of tiny paper pants. I ripped the little package open as fast as I could.

Experience had taught me that there is only one thing worse than wearing paper pants in public and that is to be caught in the middle of getting said paper pants on.

As usual I stared at them for too long. Which way did they go on? They might make sense for women but for men they are a nightmare. I finally opted for the least embarrassing fit just as the Italian lady re-entered the room. I was ordered to lie down and she painted me in mud, wrapped me up in plastic sheets and laid me down on a waterbed that was getting progressively hotter.

“Twenty minutes,” she said, and exited. I had no idea what was going to happen in 20 minutes, but I felt pretty sure that it would  involve another pair of paper pants.

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