Did some­one say spa?

When it comes to pam­per­ing treat­ments, it’s full steam ahead for au­thor So­phie Han­nah, even if they don’t al­ways live up to ex­pec­ta­tions

Prima (UK) - - Welcome -

Au­thor So­phie Han­nah re­veals why she is par­tial to a bit of pam­per­ing

Ihave a con­fes­sion to make: I’m a spa ad­dict. The more time I spend in a white fluffy robe and tow­elling slip­pers, with skin so in­fused with aro­mather­apy oil I smell like a laven­der field, the hap­pier I am. No mat­ter that the robes are un­com­fort­able, I al­ways lose the belts and the mas­sage oils give me a headache – noth­ing will stop me wor­ship­ping at the al­tar of the spa.

Like mem­bers of a re­li­gious cult, us ad­dicts can­not go long with­out a day spent in the scented steam, where the si­lence is in­ter­rupted only by tin­kly in­stru­men­tal mu­sic. We hope for spa vouch­ers ev­ery birth­day, Christ­mas and Mother’s Day, and cling to them as if they were rosary beads. Af­ter my visit, I leave re­stored: there is new space in my head, I breathe more deeply, I have per­spec­tive once more.

When you’re a devout fol­lower of the spa re­li­gion, you give thanks for the good times. Ob­vi­ously, a spa that’s at­tached to a posh ho­tel is the Holy Grail, but you also know that the bad ex­pe­ri­ences are as im­por­tant as the good ones in your spir­i­tual jour­ney. And for ev­ery luxe ex­pe­ri­ence, there are oth­ers that are de­cid­edly less so. There was the dingy city cen­tre ho­tel where the ‘spa’ in­cluded a fizzing pud­dle of tepid wa­ter in a cramped closet, of­fi­cially called ‘the Jacuzzi’. Worse still, the pud­dle was right in front of a win­dow that over­looked a busy shop­ping street. The re­cep­tion­ist as­sured me that it was one-way glass. I started to sus­pect oth­er­wise when some­one pointed right at me and mouthed, ‘Why’s that an­gry woman sit­ting in a bucket of wa­ter?’

How could I for­get the deep-tis­sue mas­sage that was so deep, it made my two C-sec­tions seem like hands-off Reiki heal­ing ses­sions by com­par­i­son? Then there was the ‘chocolate treat­ment’ a friend bought me that was, quite frankly, too ridicu­lous to be re­lax­ing. I was dunked in chocolate, which was then smeared around a lit­tle, af­ter which I spent four-and-a-half hours scrub­bing the damn stuff off. For weeks af­ter­wards, how­ever dili­gently I washed, tiny choco­latey crus­ta­tions fell from my hair and the backs of my knees.

Of course, if you’re not feel­ing all that tran­quil, even a spa can’t save you. I once wept all the way through a 90-minute mas­sage be­cause some­one had made a bitchy com­ment to me just be­fore I went in.

How­ever, th­ese flawed ex­pe­ri­ences didn’t put me off. Nor did the mas­sage from a beau­ti­cian who stank of cig­a­rettes; nor the woman who ad­ver­tised her­self as a ‘spa’ when all she had was just a few bot­tles of oil in her con­ser­va­tory and a pen­chant for loud rock mu­sic…

In fact, af­ter many years of ‘re­search’, I de­cided to set my lat­est novel in a fives­tar spa re­sort. To me, it’s the per­fect set­ting for a crime novel: a peace­ful place where peo­ple walk around in white robes, which can be seen as in­cred­i­bly calm­ing but, maybe, also sin­is­ter. In my novel Did You See Melody?, an ex­hausted mother of two es­capes to a spa, where she comes face to face with the most fa­mous mur­der vic­tim in the coun­try – ex­cept the girl’s not dead, and no­body be­lieves her.

I gave the spa in my new book a crys­tal grotto very much like the one at the En­chant­ment Spa in Se­dona, Ari­zona – a cool, dark cave with benches all around it and a sil­ver pot with pen­cils and strips of pa­per be­side it. You’re sup­posed to drop your wor­ries into it and, in do­ing so, make them dis­ap­pear. I wrote, ‘My name is So­phie and I am a spa ad­dict.’ Like magic, my worry dis­ap­peared. Now I wear my ad­dic­tion with pride. So­phie’s novel, Did You

See Melody? (Hod­der & Stoughton, £12.99), is out now.

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