19 July My sister Rachel is treating me to a spa day. It’s at Clarice House in Bury St Edmunds and bursting at the seams with excited ladies of a certain age as we arrive. It’s almost scarily efficient, with registration forms, medical forms, itineraries and guided tours; we are told that our massages will be at 11.30, and lunch at 1, followed by mini manicures and pedicures at 3 and 3.30. Rachel and I synchronise watches and march off to the pool area.
We venture into the steam room and have to run out almost immediately; it’s too hot for Rachel. She has no stamina. So we squeeze into the jacuzzi with six other women and talk until the water makes my fingers so prune-like, I fear my skin will fall off. Then we swim up and down in the pool, sedately rather than athletically because we are talking all the time. We do aqua-aerobics (i.e. kicking our legs about half-heartedly) while we carry on talking. We are just in time for our massages; our masseuses discreetly retire while we strip off and arrange ourselves under towels, lying side by side, our heads resting on our forearms on our leather benches; it’s all very sophisticated, and we're just like Joan Collins and Stephanie Beacham in Dynasty as we lie there, chatting, the lights dim and soft music in the background. Then the girls come in and tell us off for resting on our forearms. So we put our arms by our sides instead and keep quiet. I stop feeling like Joan Collins and just feel disobedient. After our massages and our athleticism in the pool, we are ready for a surprisingly huge lunch; three courses with wine. I had no idea that a spa day would be so hedonistic; it’s a good job that we burned off so many calories during our vigorous exercise session, because the pudding is Six Textures of Chocolate – no, that’s actually its name, not my description. I complain to the waiter because we actually find seven textures of chocolate. It’s meant to be a joke, but he gets very flustered and we have to spend a good five minutes reassuring him that it’s actually a plus to find an extra texture of chocolate. In fact, I point out to him, I don’t think it’s possible to have too many textures of chocolate. Then we have our relaxing mini pedicure and manicure, and I go home on the train; I spend the whole journey admiring my shiny nail polish and making elaborate and unnecessary hand gestures that my fellow passengers cannot fail to notice. I'm sure they also enjoy the full effect of my shiny nail polish. I think they should create an extra day of the week for women; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Spaday. I’m think it would catch on.
20 July I am preparing a Mexican dinner, nay feast, nay extravaganza, nay banquet for Tom’s birthday (that’s already been) and his girlfriend Julia’s birthday (that’s still to come). You might think this is a self-serving menu choice because it’s my favourite, but you’d be wrong because they chose it all by themselves. With only the slightest bit of encouragement from me. A wafer-thin, nay taco-thin slice of encouragement. Honestly. This fabulous assortment of food includes chilli, guacamole, sour cream, spicy Mexican corn, salsa, refried beans, rice, grated cheese and lettuce, tacos, fajitas and tortillas. It’s the sort of food that makes you put weight on just by looking at it, nay just by writing about it. (Can I just say that all these nays have made me a little hoarse? No? Seriously? So I've used them all for nothing? Pffft.) Tom and Julia also chose a Bakewell Tart for pudding which (completely coincidentally again, who’d have thought?) is my absolute favourite pudding in all the world. I am confident that I have now discovered the perfect recipe for this; it has taken months of dedicated pastry-making and experimenting with different amounts of almond essence and jam fillings, but I believe I have reached the zenith, nay the apogee, of pastry-almond-jam combinations.
(How about a pony then? No? Really??)
21 July I try to decipher some of the cryptic notes I make for myself on my iPhone; sometimes they are aide memoirs, sometimes reminders for writing this diary, sometimes just shopping lists. Unfortunately, the combination of predictive text and my poor memory has made this exercise completely pointless. What, for example, could bleak seashore handles mean? Or malevolent crouching keyfob? Jazz hands sardines? I have no idea. Even my shopping lists are puzzling; why have I written cream cheese three times? Am I so worried that I might forget cream cheese (which I don’t eat anyway) that I thought I’d better remind myself three times on the same list? And if anyone has any idea what Laughing Hamster refers to, I’d really love to know. Answers on a postcard, please.
22 July The landline at home has rung twice today, both times from people trying to either sell me something I don’t want, or trying to get me to reveal my bank account number. They are almost the only people who call on this number nowadays.
I’ve actually grown quite fond of them; I’m now on first name terms with James and Sandeep and Karen. I always ask them the same thing; “Are you trying to sell me something? I only ask because I really don’t want to buy anything today.” No, they insist, they’re not…they just want to tell me about a very exciting competition I’ve won. All I have to do is give them my bank account details. “Do you really, James/Sandeep/Karen?” I ask. “What have I actually won? Is it the timeshare holiday again? “I just have to take you through these few preliminary questions,” they tell me. (I would have a lot more confidence in them if they could correctly pronounce preliminary.) By the time we’ve both repeated ourselves a few times, James/Sandeep/Karen are clearly getting frazzled. “Let’s put our cards on the table – I haven’t really won anything, have I, James/Sandeep/Karen?” I say. “You’re just trying to get my bank account details, aren’t you?” I say this kindly, because they’re really quite sweet. James/Sandeep/Karen always hang up at this point. Which is a shame, because I feel that we were really starting to bond.
24 July Mr Young tells me he’s heard on the news they’ve managed to isolate the angry gene. “About bloody time too!” I shout. I win the best joke of the day competition.
Lunch with Ms L and Ms A; I drink too much white wine and eat all the things that I’d been determined not to before I’d started drinking the white wine. I am very fond of Ms A and Ms L anyway; by the end of our lunch and all the white wine, I absolutely adore them both. I have to lie down and have a little sleep when I get home. Sadly, I don’t think it can be called a power nap; I believe that power naps make you feel lively and invigorated when you wake up, whereas I just feel tired and sorry for myself, with a bit of a headache. Never mind. I’m bound to be prime minister soon and will thus be able to implement my new Spaday policy.
25 July I’ve bought a joint of pork for supper, and Mr Young plans to roast it with fennel seeds and garlic. As soon as we come back from taking Archie out for a walk (three minutes of Archie leaping about to show off, followed by thirty minutes of Archie exhaustedly trailing behind us; he peaks far too early), Mr Young says: “Right, I’m off to marinade my pork.” He definitely wins the best double entendre of the day competition. Even though it’s unintentionally. Nay, unwittingly.