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My Grand Hotel spa experience

Posted by Simon Parke, 01 December 2017, 6.02am

It was a Christmas present from last year: a spa day at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, with a therapy of my choice.

And now, before it expires, it’s my moment!

They call Eastbourne ‘The sunshine coast’ (they call it other things as well, mind) and it’s certainly shining today, the sea cold and blue.

And the Grand Hotel - Oh my goodness! - is a magnificent white edifice, with proper doormen, tall Ionian columns inside and a high-ceilinged tea room with roaring fire.

The phrase ‘bygone era’ comes to mind.

So it isn’t a Premier Inn.

And after a lovely granary bread salmon and cream cheese sandwich, (all inclusive), we’re ready to sample the delights of the GH ‘Wellness’ spa area, boasting a swimming pool, saunas, steam room and gym.

The gym is perhaps their weak hand. It feels tired, not through over-use ...just the passing millennia.

There have been at least two Ice Ages since these machines were renewed; and to be honest, maybe the very elderly clientele who ghost past me in the spa foyer aren’t that bothered.

Who craves a working rowing machine at eighty five? The desire to pound a running machine must fade.

There are a group sat in the Jacuzzi, discussing the Italian campaign in the war.

They have been there a long time among the bubbles. They may not be able to get out.

For once I feel young…

The saunas are separated by gender, and this proves a mercy.

I step inside the dry heat box to discover a man lying on his back stark bollock naked, and the phrase is pertinent.

There’s nothing left to the imagination…absolutely nothing.

He’s probably a bank manager.

I love saunas, though. They are focused, like a radio studio.

As I sit, I ponder a retreat I am to lead in the New Year. Intense heat and strong thoughts…despite the bank manager and his dipping interest rates.

Though the steam room – after a swim - really ups the endurance game.

Steam rooms are sometimes a soft option in spas, for the wimps who can’t cope with the dry heat.

I find this.

But my goodness, the steam room in The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne…be scared.

It takes me to the limit. Suddenly, I’m in a punishment hut during the building of the bridge over the River Kwai.

Scalding heat and both fearful and wonderful, because when I can take no more, I can choose to leave…unlike the punishment hut.

Pleasure and pain, it’s all about choice; and choice denied.

I step out of the steam and my partner is helping a very frail woman out of the pool.

There is nothing to this lady, no fat and bird-boned; and she settles like a feather on a chair.

‘What do you think of the royal engagement announcement?’ she asks.

‘I think it’s great,’ says my partner. The bird-boned woman’s face curdles. ‘You don’t agree?’

‘With all those English girls available, why choose an American?’

‘I suppose Queen Victoria chose a German,’ I say, aware of the multitude of royal multi-ethnic marriages down the years.

‘And what if they have some Piccaninny children?’ 

I haven’t heard that word for a while.

‘My daughter is married to a man of African descent,’ says my partner, gently. ‘I have lovely grandchildren.’

Bird-Bone’s frail frame chokes a little. She is at least embarrassed.

‘I’m too old for all these changes,’ she says, but misses the point. She’s not too old; age has nothing to do with it.

She’s just a racist.

I take myself back to the steam room, which is almost a metaphor.

My partner speaks more with her, and discovers she used to be a dancer.

But a recent (misapplied) injection for her arthritis in her care home has left her paralysed in her left leg.

By this time, I’m sitting with Julian of Norwich (not literally) in the peaceful spa foyer, writing up my sauna.

It’s quiet, so beautifully quiet… because in the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, there’s no speaker pumpin’ up da volume.

The young receptionist finds the silence difficult.

‘It’s weirdly quiet,’ she says to her companion on desk /towel/zimmer frame duties. ‘It’s like, creepy.’

‘Totally,’ comes the reply.

It may be that they need to work in Brighton, where it isn’t weirdly quiet anywhere.

I enjoy a lovely strong cup of coffee and shortcake biscuit.

This is extra – but after my near-death experience in the steam room, I’m thinking: ‘C’mon, live dangerously, Simon - spend, spend, spend like there’s no tomorrow!’

And then the treatment.

Yes, I am led away for my treatment. It has somehow all been building to this.

I have signed up for a Turkish salt massage – with no idea what it is.

But it’s great, absolutely wonderful.

Wearing just my swimming trunks – me, not her - a firm-handed young woman rubs rough and scratchy salt grains into me – arms, legs and back.

(And by the way, those thoughts do you no credit.)

She then removes them with a warm flannel from a microwave

After this, I am anointed with Lavender oil on my still body, like one on a mortuary slab; so I’m glad it’s not myrhh.

I may be in Eastbourne for the day, among rusting gym equipment and yes, not as young as I was – but I want to live a while, I’m not ready to die.

This oiled body possesses adventures inside it that I know nothing of…

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