A few people I know choose to spend retreat time at spas, so I thought I would give it go and combine something I need with something I love. However, for me, it did not really work, but it did give me my third business idea.
I think, what we really need here in Birmingham is a spa, just like the one at The Malvern which is after all situated on a retail park. It needs to have indoor and outdoor space, serve a range of foods suitable for people of different faiths and be prepared to run single-sex sessions for the bulk of their opening hours.
Because what I discovered by trying to go on retreat at the Spa was that it was not a place of solitude and rest but a place of conviviality and stimulation. In some ways the day had a bit of a liturgy although the congregation is never gathered but left to explore stations of relaxation, de-tox and refreshment either alone or with friends. However the design of the place certainly means that gatherings do happen in jacuzzis and steam rooms and saunas and massage racks (far more pleasant than it sounds.).
I even managed to find a spa-evangelist on the sunbed next to mine who nearly persuaded me to become a member! (Not that it is hard to sell me something.) She told me about group socials, training in mediation and special classes I could go to – so for members of the spa I was merely visiting it was a lot like church.
And there was a deacon! Most of the staff were very polished and seemed to be employed for purely decorative purposes. But amongst all this slightly cold perfection was Linda, whose lovely face was not plastered in make-up and whose uniform was a pair of trousers and a polo shirt. Her badge said ‘spa assistant’ – the least glamourous title assigned throughout the building. But it was Linda who rescued me when I didn’t have the money to leave as a deposit for flip-flops, it was Linda who offered to fetch me a glass of water when the bar said they didn’t serve it and it was Linda who noticed I was leaving and asked me if I had enjoyed my day – and then waited for the answer. I really wanted to recruit Linda.
Its odd that as local pubs close, High Street gyms open. Corner shops are replaced by coffee shops and delis where people can gather and find company. But I think a Birmingham Spa could add something special to the mix. I could imagine amazing conversations unfolding in the soothing bubbles of the whirlpool, honest struggling for truth in the heat of the crystal steam room and perhaps time for contemplation in the new subtly-lit relaxation room. So, once again, I am looking for investors and once it’s built I’d be more than happy to be a deacon/chaplain there – but sadly I don’t think I’d be as good as Linda.