Thursday, 5 March 2009

Spa, Blar & Spar

To finish off our little trip into Northumberland, which was very relaxing and much needed, we went to a hotel with Pro and Koi. The hotel of choice was Cameron House, on Loch Lomond, which promised luxury such as you'd never seen. We were much looking forward to it, and sped into Edinburgh on Saturday morning to pick up an excited Koi. I was ashamed of the state of Helga, Fisher's clapped out old VW golf, as she was particularly filthy thanks to mucky dogs, and had also developed an alarming roaring/whining sound in her engine. Koi's only comment was that it was rather like riding next to a Jumbo Jet engine at full throttle - but luckily it was a short (ish) journey to Loch Lomond from Edinburgh and we arrived before Koi became a rocking, drooling mental patient.

My first impression of the hotel was disappointing. I'd expected a country house hotel. In fact, Cameron House is one of those hotels who very obviously cater for opulence and therefore lose 99% of their charm. It's like a small version of Gleneagles, complete with prominent helicopter on the lawn and sprawling accommodation park filled with luxury chalets. I, being uncomfortable with opulence (frankly, I think it's tasteless and crass) immediately tensed up and worried Koi would hate it.

We left Helga with the valet, who probably caught cholera from her interior as I never saw him again, and went to check in. Our rooms were pleasant, but no better than any better-than-average hotel's, and we spent very little time there before setting off in search of some lunch. We didn't want to overdo it because, thanks to a windfall from the gods, Martin Wishart's had had a canellation the previous day and we were bumped up from waiting list to guest list. Huzzah! So we went to the boathouse. While it was pleasant enough, they'd gone a little crazy with the New England country-club theme, making it all a little self-conscious. The food was good, though, as you'd expect from paying £12.50 for a salad. Delightfully, Fisher picked up the lunch tab - and I was much appeased by the enormous vat of very good coffee they placed in front of me. We also had very delicious puddings - me a bannoffee pie, Koi a praline terrine, Fisher ... something else. Can't remember, but she was very pleased with it. (Not wanting to overdo it at lunch went rather out the window when we saw the pudding menu).

As we finished our puddings, Koi got a call from Pro saying he'd arrived and would meet us in the lobby. We finished up and went to greet him. We grabbed a quick dram at the bar, then he and I decided to head off for a spot of golf, while Koi and Fisher walked the dogs and yammered contentedly.

The golf was, as always, mildly hilarious. We both managed to hit a few good shots, but being winter greens it was more like playing 'bog golf'. We squelched our way round 7 of the 9 holes in an hour and a half, during which time I managed to bag a birdie, sink a 30 foot putt, lose one ball, find one ball, fail to hit a single decent shot off the fairway, and collect an enormous quantity of goose shit on the wheels of my trolley. Pro hit some good shots off the fairway, was consistently good on the green, lost several balls, and managed not to kill a goose. I cracked up when Pro, irate at having a poor run of drives off the tee, decide to welly one with a wood - on a 193 metre hole. Naturally he hit it clean and true, at which it flew about 150metres beyond the flag, practically making it to the next hole. The moment he gets his swing right, he's just going to walk all over everyone. He can hit it further than anyone I've ever seen. He's bagged a 350m drive at the range - and he's a total beginner. Frightening stuff.

After bog golf, Pro and I headed back to the hotel to meet Fisher & Koi, who'd been for a swim in the leisure centre. Time was knocking on, but I noticed in passing that the centre had squash courts - so Pro and I raced down for a game. We managed to bag 80 mins of court time and had a great time exhausting ourselves racing up and down. We were due at Wishart's at 7.30. We finished our game (last one 9-8) at 7.10, changed into finery in the leisure centre changing rooms (I forgot a hairbrush, which could have been interesting but luckily my hair decided not to play silly buggers) and raced off to meet Fisher and Koi.

Now, I'd like to make mention of a small fact here. I was wearing sweaty squash clothes. I took a shower. I washed my hair. I then changed into a dress. I put on high heels. I even donned make-up. I don't think much of myself visually at the best of times, but I think I looked pretty good. Pro was complimentary, which was very gentlemanly of him. It took both of us just under 20 minutes to get ready and look sharp. We went across to the main hotel lobby to meet our 'Others' - only to discover neither of them were there. I went to my room, Pro to his. I found Fisher putting the finishing touches on her pampering, and we went down together - now a couple of minutes late. Pro then emerged and told us to head on through to the restaurant, as Koi was still doing her hair and would be late. So we three went to Martin Wishart's without her and enjoyed a G&T. She was 10 minutes behind us.


That is all.

Except that I should also, for fairness, add that she lost her necklace and was hunting for it like a maniac, so might not have been quite so late had that not occurred. Anyway, it didn't matter a jot, except to make me ponder the selfishness of vanity. I'm not talking about Koi here - she lost her necklace, which can happen to anyone and is a perfectly valid excuse for lateness, and it really didn't matter as we were only a short walk from the rooms and could enjoy a comfortable drink while waiting - but there does seem to be an acceptability to people - mostly women - thinking it's more important to go through the ritual of primping than be on time. So, because the mascara has to go on just so, and the hair has to be curled la, people are kept kicking their heels. Women - it's about time you got over yourselves. Know what? Nobody cares if you're wearing eye shadow or not. Nobody cares if your nails are varnished, and they certainly don't care if your toes are painted. Mascara, lippy, good hair - those are the staples. Maybe foundation if you're having a bad skin day. Everything else is superfluous and, if you're running late, should be ditched. Make up can be applied and look good in under 2 minutes.

Ok, enough. Let me emphasise again that the above wee rant only came into my head because Koi's lateness set off a train of thought - not because I think she was late through selfishness and vanity. I didn't care that she was late at the time, I don't care now, I never cared. Clear? Bon.

Wishart's was incredible. We spent over 3 hours at dinner, and every moment was a pleasure. We spent a great deal of time discussing whether to have the taster menu or not, and decided that yes, we would. It meant everyone having the same thing, but the advantage of this was that we got to discuss each course from the same page, as it were, and nobody got food envy. There were several courses - a starter, an intermediary, a fish course, a main course, a cheese course, and pudding. There were also amuse bouches and petit fours. Laughably, Koi admitted defeat over a teeny tiny pistachio macaroon. It was one of the amuse bouches. In fact, it was the very last amuse bouche. She groaningly complained that, had she not had pudding at lunch, the macaroon wouldn't have defeated her. I refrained from pointing out that she could have had all but one tiny mouthful of the lunchtime pudding in order to fit in the teeny tiny macaroon, as she was suffering at the time and I didn't want to make things worse.

Anyway, we had a truly wonderful time. Chat flowed, booze flowed, laughter flowed, and we revelled - revelled - in the food. It wasn't quite Devonshire Gardens but it was a bloody close second. And afterwards we retired to the bar for a whisky, Koi fell asleep on the sofa, then woke after her catnap raring to go, just as the rest of us became bleary eyed. An exciteable young man at the bar asked for a taxi, then came bouncing through the lounge squealing:

"I'm going by helicopter! Can you believe it?"

His thrill was quite endearing. Less endearing was his earlier decision to peer down my cleavage as I stood next to him at the bar. Forgive me but it's not like my cleavage is easy to miss. You don't need to stare directly down it to appreciate its canyonesque qualities. Still, he was pretty drunk. Maybe he was astonished at the sight of a 4 breasted woman ordering 8 drinks.

We retired, well content. But the treat was only half complete! Next day we'd booked ourselves into the spa for the afternoon.

Ah, the spa! Truly lovely - even for one such as me, who finds spas only moderate entertainment. We rose, had a tolerable breakfast at the Cameron Grill, and whiled away the morning playing a game of snooker. Koi and Pro kicked my and Fisher's butts, partly because of their superior skill, partly because we are so unutterably awful we kept giving them 4 point penalties. I have to say, Koi's a bit of a ringer at snooker - even when distracted by Pro, who loathes being outshone by Koi and attempted to sabotage her, even at the expense of his own team. Anyway, they won - and then it was time for the spa.

We headed off, having to drive there, and soon found ourselves decked in dressing gowns and swimming costumes, awaiting marvels.

Our first stop was the rooftop hot pool, which was delicious, delightful, de-lovely. We sat in the warm, warm water with steam rising all around us, letting the bubbly bubbles drift, with cold rain on our shoulders and faces. The view was obscured by mist and rain, but we could see just enough of Loch Lomond and the surrounding mountains to be enchanted. We could feel our muscles relaxing by the second. Wonderful.

Over the course of the afternoon we visited saunas, the swimming pool, steam rooms, the hydro pool, and the bistro. We'd thought we couldn't possibly fit in yet more food, but come 3pm we'd discovered a wee hole into which we could plug a club sandwich and a spot of pudding. It was fabulously decadent to sit eating elegantly presented food in our dressing gowns and swimsuits.

We finished it all off with another trip to the outdoor rooftop pool, which had filled with quite a few people but was no less delightful for all that. The view had cleared considerably, and there was now a little rainbow dancing over the hills. Suitably enchanted, we were able to end the trip on a real high.

Last but by no means least, I must mention that we'd arranged to split the Wishart's bill with Pro & Koi getting the food and Fisher & me getting the booze - but in a fit of fabulous generosity, Koi and Pro insisted on buying dinner themselves and would hear nothing against the plan. We are therefore slavishly grateful for their thoughtfulness, and for the experience of Wishart's on Loch Lomond, which will surely live long in my memory.

We bade farewell to a noticeably more chilled Koi & Pro and headed home, at long last - and here we've been for a whole week!

Now, I should mention yesterday's joys. I know - how much longer can I rabbit on? Not much, is the answer, but I do have some news.

You see, 2 days ago we sent Helga off to and got thruppence ha'penny for her. Put it this way - we then went into Edinburgh and bought a mattress. Helga didn't cover the cost. But pooh, I say! She was a clapped out old bucket, and getting any money at all for her was a miracle. Then, yesterday, we picked up our replacement.

This, my friends, is Baby.
Nobody puts her in a corner.

We took her for her first trip last night, down to Edinburgh to see Spar and Blar. They'd kindly recorded the Oscars for me, as I wanted to see just how appalling they were. I heard Hugh Jackman was doing song and dance numbers! I was so looking forward to mocking, jeering and laughing - but the highlight programme didn't show any of the cheese, only the winners. I was pleased Kate Winslet didn't cry - it would have been most un-British of her had she done so - and even more pleased by the whistle 'n' whoop communication between her and her Dad - which was, again, suitably British in its lack of reverence. I wonder why actors and film makers think anyone really gives much of a crap about their awards ceremonies? They think falling audiences is due to the manner in which they're presented? Like getting rid of the comedians as hosts will bring the audience flooding back? And Hugh Jackman performing song 'n' dance routines will have bums so firmly on seats you'll be prising soft furnishings from colons for weeks to come?

I think not.

Anway, the Oscars was a sad disappointment - very dull, no remarkable moments, no Michael Moore getting booed or Italian actors walking over seat backs - but the evening was great fun. Spar, in honour of the American theme, cooked American cuisine. God help us. This basically took the form of vast quantities of meat - hot dogs, steaks, Cajun chicken - and fried stuff. Naturally we therefore consumed vast amounts and felt sick. We also talked houses, as they're on the search for the perfect family home for Wee Baba and generally had a good yatter.

It was past 11 when we headed home, so I hope they're not both pie-eyed today. It was much appreciated as a pleasant mid-week interlude. Tomorrow I'm off to meet up with Pro, Badger, Janus and the Doctor for pizza and a movie. The movie is The Watchmen, which I'm thrilled to be getting to see in film form. I only read the graphic novel a few months ago, and I think it's genius - so here's hoping the film doesn't screw it to the wall.

Thanks for sticking with me, if you did - and if you gave up half way through, I don't blame you.

Until next time.