Sunday, 24 January 2010

My 30th Birthday

I went to Babington House for my 30th Birthday.
Babington House, located in Somerset is a boutiquey type hotel run by the owners of Soho House and the like. It was an extremely frivolous decision to go but I managed to convince myself and my fiance we had no choice. Also I had seen an offer in Glamour magazine which made the deal seem almost reasonable (if I halved the price).

I turned 30 on Sunday 16th January and travelled to Bath by train that morning. My husband to be and I were feeling a little ropey because we'd been out the night before celebrating with my parents and some of my friends. We had dinner at Hakkasan which I used to go to a lot on work lunches, but never, you know, for fun. At Hakkasan I drank a lot of gin and then had a cocktail for afters. My parents caught the train back to Essex so my pals, holding me gently by the elbow, guided me to Soho House. Hang on... Soho House... Aren't I off to Babington House tomorrow? I told as many people as I could that I was off to the other house the next day. What a coincidence? Ha! Ha... ha... ha? No? Righto.
One of my very good friends is a member.
It was preplanned.
You cretin
A bit later I falsely accused my friends of drinking my drinks (I had been drinking super fast).
Then was sick.
All that was a dim and blurry memory as we travelled 1st class and watched a DVD on the way there.
We may have had a spot of something boozy on the train but can't be sure.
I am sure of the snacks though: plenty.
As instructed, on arrival at Bath Spa we waited for Gordon to collect us from the station. He was the dedicated driver, a one man taxi firm for Babington House who made us feel very welcome when he picked us up.
I should explain a bit more here about my expectations for the visit.

I assumed we would be surrounded by the super rich/fit/glam. By that I mean hot celebrities who would be very keen to make friends with us and then lavish us with gifts and their Hollywood stardom.
The place would be really cool yet despite this I would fit in, no problemo!
I imagined the room we'd be staying in for 2 nights would actually be a suite that they'd comp us cos it was my birthday. (Look at me saying comp like I say it every day!)
I was looking forward to smothering myself with the lush Cowshed products (home made by Babington House).
I would get a couple of beauty treatments 'done' to me while I was there and that combined with the gym and pool meant I would return home in my thirties, yes, but looking a lot more like Elisabeth Shue than before.
I hadn't said any of this out loud of course. I'm not mental.

Gordon dropped us off just before 2. Would you believe it, our room (they meant suite I was sure) wasn't ready. Could we go to the bar please and wait there? Maybe grab lunch?
We were not hungry because of the snacks but didn't want to be awkward so retreated to The House Bar as casually as we could to try to spot slebs without actually looking at anyone.
In we trotted. We found ourselves in a room full of folk we assumed were called Tarquin and Terence or Hermione or Hortensia. There were men in expensive looking tailored jeans and women with impossibly shiny hair.
With my hangover forgotten, my fella and I grabbed the Sunday papers from the huge selection available and climbed on to the stools by the bar. Casually. Like we go there all the time. We wanted to look unimpressed, not touristy or unaccustomed to hanging out there.
Obviously I was having to stifle a fit of giggles.
We ordered drinks and some food and proceeded to get comfy, on the stools perched at the bar.
I spread out my Times Review (not the Style section that I really wanted) and without thinking gently pushed a huge fruit bowl a couple of centimetres away from my seat to allow the newspaper to lie flat.
What followed was possibly the most embarrassing moment of life.
When I nudged the fruit bowl the fruit bowl pushed against some glasses and those glasses fell to the floor.
About 40 of them.
Not all in one go either.
It seemed to take forever for the crashing and smashing noise to cease.
Long enough for me to look around the room and get a good look at my fellow guests who didn't notice I was staring cos they were watching the indoor glassy fireworks.
(Not one celebrity!)
No sooner had the first glass hit the floor I was apologising, of course.
It was at this point the bar men assumed the good cop/bad cop roles.
Good cop assured me it happened all the time and that it didn't matter at all.
Bad cop looked at me, and continued to do so for the duration of our stay, like I had shaved off his eyebrows while he slept.
I recall making it worse by saying I hadn't touched anything, like I was a twelve year old accused of something that's, like, really unfair.
If I'd have had my way we'd been out of there before you can say clumsy.
No such luck though.
As we'd ordered food we had to remain sat at the bar and wait for it to arrive.
Reception told us our luggage had been put in our room which was now ready so as soon as we'd scoffed we skulked off.
Yes, room. Not suite. The comp (there I go again!) had probably been revoked after the incident.

Once in the room we ran around for a while shouting 'gahh! did that happen?'
And there was plenty of space to do that.
The room was great, it had a mezzanine which felt all lofty and the best bathroom I have ever been in (before or since).
There was a huge walk through shower, giant bottles of Cowshed products and his and hers sinks.
It really was quite special.
At about 5ish I went off for a treatment, all done out in my huge towelling robe. I still have a worse sense of direction than Mark Thatcher so I was genuinely nervous about finding my way to and from the super chic Spa.
With all my nerves and anxiety going on I forgot to remember my room number and take a key out with me so when I got back from my pedicure I had no idea where my room was.
And, worse than that, I couldn't remember which of the doors I had come out of.
It was cold, dark and I was outside in my dressing gown with my toes nails all tacky in January.
I hovered for a bit.
Then did the only rational thing - I started trying all the doors.
Hang on, someone is coming out of that door, that must be the entrance!
I dashed to where the nice chap, also in a dressing gown was coming from and paused to let him out before trying to push myself in.
Only it wasn't the entrance to the main hotel.
It was just a door o his room. Oh.
My blushes aren't so obvious in the dark and thankfully I had to wait only a short while longer before bad cop came strutting out of the correct door (trust him to know!) and I was back in my room.
Blimey, I said! How embarrassing! What are the chances of being made to feel like a total wally twice in the space of a few hours? All downhill from now I reckoned.
Dinner that night was delicious. And I managed to behave/not pour soup down my arm/break anything.
After good night's sleep I woke up on the Monday morning well into my thirties, hoping to feel wiser at some point soon.
Whist I waited for that to happen we got on with breakfast and reading and watching films and then it was time for another treatment.
I was very much looking forward to this one.
A seaweed wrap, I would be scrubbed, covered in a smelly paste and then wrapped in bandages from head to toe and pop out smooth, toned and more like Ms Shue.
My beauty therapist met me in the spa reception to lead me to the room (actual sheds would you believe?) outside for the treatment. I could tell she wasn't having a brilliant day, she seemed irritated by something and to be honest was a grumpy old bat.
I tried not to take it personally as I skipped along behind her.
We got to her little shed and she immediately began setting things up - the scrubbing and pasting equipment, I assumed - leaving me to stand awkwardly, not knowing what to do next.
With her prep complete she started writing notes on her schedule.
I remained standing feeling like a proper (ignored) idiot now.
Hang on a sec!
I'm 30, I thought.
I am a grown up!
If she's not going to volunteer any information on treatment procedure I'll ask her.
So I said:
'Do I take all my clothes off or should I keep my knickers on?"
The grumpy old bat froze, then slowly looked at me with total horror before saying: 'For a manicure?!?"
Oh no. More blushing. There had been an awful mix up. I tried to make light of it. "Ha!" I said. The therapist failed to see the funny side which was odd because usually people fall about laughing when I try to take off my pants.
I got my seaweed wrap eventually and felt very smooth.
Suddenly it was our last night.
Dinner was good because the food at Babington House is excellent and a waitress happily stepped in to settle an argument about a Sesame Street character. (I was right)
The rest of our stay was uneventful I am delighted to report. Until the lying started.
As we checked out the receptionist asked if we had packed any of the Cowshed products from our bathroom, deciding to take them home?
This was a very easy question to answer because we had pinched ALL of the Cowshed products and stuffed them in my bag.
Most of the bottles were half empty because I'd been applying vast quantities of everything as soon as we got there.
But I had a feeling they would charge us. So, I fibbed.
No, we hadn't taken any thanks. Not one.
Then I panicked.
My lightening quick criminal mind was thinking:
"Ok, they want to charge us for some. We'll fess up to a couple, pay for those, they'll shove them on the bill now and hopefully they'll ignore the other things we nabbed, as a gesture of goodwill cos it was my birthday. And that"
"Um. Well, we have taken a couple. A shampoo and a bath oil"
"Oh. Right. I'll amend your bill, that'll be an extra £24"
The bill was already obscene, the additional £24 was a drop in the ocean really.
As our revised statement of account was printed again I calculated just how much Cowshed gear we had on us.
Stuff that in actual fact we didn't really want - if we had to pay for it, that is. I shuddered.
I mean, these were half used bottles of shower gel we're talking about! Hardly worth worrying about. Was it?
Gordon dropped us back at Bath Spa and my boyfriend and I felt a bit flat. The bill had been enormous and we'd had to lie about taking our already part used toiletries home with us.
But we snapped out of it, caught the train and went back to London.
We had a few days grace before the Babington branch of CID caught up with us.
The letter was polite. It assumed we'd forgotten to mention the other 7 Cowshed products we'd taken home with us. But not to worry, they'd found us now. That'll be £84 please. ASAP.
What could we do?
Fight? Make a fuss?
No Of course not! I paid up quick smart. and said sorry a lot.
My 30th birthday was really very memorable. And very expensive.
Babington House is a wonderful retreat.
One day, when I have plenty of money I will return. Unless they decide to comp me, of course.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Me and the Hoff

Writing gift tags can get dull.
There is little space.
The fancy texture of some tags means you can't actually write on them.
Personally, I find it annoying having to credit babies (and my husband) for buying gifts when more often than not I did all the work.
The ink always smudges.
Blah blah blah.
Honest, it's dull.
The important and only essential info you need to write on a tag is who the gift is for.
As long as the gift's recipient is named you can, I think, fill the rest of the tag with anything else you like.
Song lyrics.
And big fat lies.
Let's go back a few days.
It's 25th December.
My adorable Dad is handed a wrapped present.
It is CD shaped and, at 62 he's been around long enough to put 2 and 2 together.
He's seconds away from discovering he has been given Revolver.
Brilliant! What could be better than that?
I know, Daddy-o!
How about a personal message from a Beatle on the tag?
'What would Ringo say?' I thought (as I often do) while I was wrapping the album. Then it came to me:

"Happy Christmas Rod. Peace and Love. Ringo.
PS. Do not send a thank you card."

Embellishing gift tags is, in my family, almost as traditional at Christmas as misery on soap operas.
It started innocently enough.
One birthday my Mum had asked for Pearls by Elkie Brooks on cassette. (You know, for the car.)
As an only child tagging gifts wasn't crucial really: presents on birthday mornings were usually from me or my Dad.
Or my pet rabbit, Chubby.
The vampire bunny, who made sure Dad needed regular tetanus jabs, had gone against form and nipped to Woolies to get Mum her tape.
Bless her little cotton tail.
Since then my nearest and dearest have be on the receiving end of birthday and Christmas gifts from celebrities such as the man from Delmonte, wildlife such as Lassie and many years ago, the milkman.
I mean, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas if my Mum didn't get her annual bundle of premium white dishcloths from David Hasselhoff. I think Dave was off his game a bit this year cos the brand of cloth wasn't up to the usual standard.
Mum, generous and forgiving for tis the season, said "I'm just glad he remembered, I mean, he's such a pisshead."
Happy New Year!