A Birthday in Barking – 23/02/16


I have a habit of going to slightly random places on my birthday. There was Bethnal Green in 2012 – not so random now but a bit out of the way when you consider we were living in South London at the time – followed by the Zoo in 2013. Then two years of unfun-quarantine-birthdays and so this year, a birthday jaunt was well overdue.

I met Bob over my glamorous birthday dinner at McDonalds, London Wall (“The Happy Meal makes it fancy” according to Reuben) and from there, we ditched the kids and made our way through some confusing backstreets and Victorian markets to Fenchurch Street station. Don’t worry, Nathan turned up some time between the Happy Meal and the station, to usher the kids away. And to buy a Happy Meal for himself, bizarrely.

From Fenchurch Street, trains to Barking go every three minutes or so and that’s where we were headed – for another relaxing spa session at the Abbey Spa, where I’d previously been with the HP mothers’ collective. I’d spent most of my birthday doing payroll, so I deserved a good soak in the jacuzzi. And Bob has a toddler, so she always deserves a soak in the jacuzzi.

Once again, I will not be posting any pictures of me in swimwear. You’ll have to make do with the birthday card Bob got me, which was pretty accurate:


Last time I’d been it was an exclusive hire, which meant it was just people I knew. This time, it was a public and mixed session, which had a slightly different feel to it..but could also be entertaining when men started trying to out-macho each other by doing martial arts in the sauna.

I felt almost an old hand at this spa thing this time round. I knew which steam room was the hottest – the vapour room -and it was there that we started, sweating out all the McImpurities we’d just consumed. It takes a little while to acclimatise in there but the shorter you are, the easier it is. Heat rises yknow…physics, right there. So what feels unbearable when you walk in is actually bearable when you’re sitting down.

Still, it was pretty toasty and we well appreciated a cool down and relax in the jacuzzi afterwards. We spent ages in there, enjoying the bubbles and reminiscing about some of the dodgier swimming pools we’d been to. Then we went into the salt inhalation room, where I was amazed to discover that Bob didn’t remember this “Friends” moment. Surely everyone of our generation knows every episode of “Friends” off by heart?

Then , jacuzzi, sauna, jacuzzi, relaxation room. It’s a hard life hanging out at the spa. We had the relaxation room all to ourselves and it was lovely to just lie down and not have to deal with piles of laundry or washing up or any of the other things that appear in my peripheral vision when I’m trying to relax at home. Like the “Magic Trick” Eva is currently performing with four chairs and her duvet. I’m trying not to look.

So, it was a very relaxing and calming two hours and perfect for an end-of-birthday treat. Back in the real world, everything seemed a bit harsh and loud compared to the surreal serenity of the spa but we retreated the The Chequers in Walthamstow for a comforting post-spa cider. I could get used to this lifestyle…in fact, I’m going back in a week or so with the HP Ladies. Bring it on!

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