DERNIER MOT - Lamalou
"So what was it like," asked the SP lounging in his hammock. "Were there people walking the streets in their pyjamas?"
I'd just got back from a trip to Lamalou-les-Bains which is a spa town not so far from Moisson and I had to admit that contrary to rumour I hadn't actually seen anyone shopping in their pjs. "But that's how it felt!" I said. "Honestly! All decadent, crumbling, fading grandeur. They even have a casino!"
"Did you win anything?"
Hardly! I tell you, that SP hasn't got the faintest clue. My day at Lamalou was jolly hard work. I never got near the casino; me and Amandine went straight to the spa. First we had to get our clothes all piled into antique hangers-on-stalks-coming-out-of-oval-trays, which was practically impossible, and then we had to put silly hats on which made us laugh so hard we couldn't stand up straight; and finally the pair of us had to race around a series of tiled corridors getting to the various baths and treatment rooms on time so we don't miss our slots.
En plus, there was no talking. According to the large notices on every wall the treatments work better when taken in total silence, and there are solidly-built attendants on patrol to enforce the rules. So we sat speechless and wide-eyed in a Roman bath filled with brown water which smelt like Bovril.
Then we got pummelled with jets of water in another bath with handrails to stop you being washed away; we lounged in mud; we were showered with chalk; we got massaged by a terrifying teenager armed with a high powered hose and during the whole morning only managed to exchange a few whispered words.
Many of the other clients were there courtesy of the French Social Security system, which prescribes these treatments for people with chronic conditions and one of them was in fact a lovely English lady from the north of France who has MS.
"It doesn't do much good," she mouthed behind her hand. "But then nothing does and at least this is relaxing. My doctor sends me here every year for three weeks. It gets a bit boring but it's only mornings; after lunch I go to the cinema."
After an endless succession of baths and massages, I have to admit I was already floating I was so relaxed but the last treatment was the best; a wobbly rubber water bed with motorised jets of water moving all up and down your back from your neck to your calves - utter bliss. I had to be forcibly removed from it.
Back out in the fresh air, making my feet move again was incredibly hard work. I almost felt I couldn't walk at all after all those treatments. In fact, Amandine and I were in such a state of extremis that we were forced to take refuge in a nearby restaurant and recruit our forces with large steaks and an expensive bottle of red wine.
"It's all very well for you, spending all morning wallowing in a bang-de-boo," said the SP, shaking his head when I'd finished telling him all about it. "Lolling about swigging vino and winking at some waiter in pyjamas all afternoon. What about me? I've been out here in the sun all afternoon, watering the flowers, picking tomatoes, doing the crossword, barbecuing sausages for the kids, forcing myself to cool off with cold tins of beer: I've been slogging away living the dream all day! Where's my relaxing massage?"
He's just jealous.
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