The life of the rich and the famous

2012-05-11 00:00

OUR medicine professor imparted some very wise words many years ago.

“Should you go into equine practice or set up business in Sandton looking after the pooches of the rich and famous, then buy a BMW, slick your hair back, wear designer clothes and shirts with long sleeves, use underarm regularly and dine at restaurants with French names. If you don’t, they will think you are a loser and you won’t make a success of your business.”

“On the other hand, don’t try this trick with farmers. They will think you are ripping them off. Drive a clapped-out Isuzu, wear khakis from Protectowear — preferably with some subtle stains from last week’s retained afterbirth — gumboots showing some wear from dog bites and cow poo, smell wholesome not sweet (Lifebuoy not Lux), and if you need to go out then Wimpy down the road is good.”

I guess I gravitated naturally down the latter path.

It is not as if I don’t appreciate the finer things in life. I do. It’s just not a role that comes naturally to me. Suits are reserved for weddings and funerals. I can’t smell the difference between Ego and Christian Dior, I prefer the Beatles to Beethoven, and Tassies somehow tastes just like Meerlust.

So when we were treated to a five-star spa treatment at the famous Santé Hotel and Spa in the beautiful Franschoek valley, it was somewhat outside my comfort zone. I had never before been subjected to a full body massage and fancy hotels are generally beyond my means. Our privileged predicament was courtesy of Pippa, a very good family friend, comforter of the needy and champion of the down-trodden, who donated a night of decadent luxury when she heard that I was attending a congress at Stellenbosch and that my wife was accompanying me. A generous gift indeed.

I don’t know about you, but I am a spa virgin, so right from the beginning I was in new territory. For starters, one dons a robe — obligatory apparel as white as a dorper with wireworm, the name of the establishment embossed in subtle gold on the lapel. No pockets so nowhere to hide the rye stains on the hands from years of plying one’s trade with one’s left hand firmly embedded in the rectum of a multitude of cows. What one wears underneath the robe is limited only by the imagination of the wearer and his or her willingness to be embarrassed in public. My wife drew the line at my Teesav boxers and we finally agreed on my Jockeys. After a search, I managed to find a pair in reasonable nick, frayed edges but no holes. My favourite Jim Greens were also rejected because no matter how hard I tried, I could not get all of the farmyard debris from between the treads.

The result was that I finally looked like a Zebra crossing — grey hair, weather-beaten head and neck, white robe, tanned middle legs, virginal ankles and feet. A paler version of Mohammed Ali.

The next obstacle was getting to the spa, which entailed a trip through the hotel foyer. This we managed with the panache of a pair of monkeys at the Savoy and with about the same amount of finesse. By we, I actually mean me. I am not suggesting that my wife assumed an air of royalty. I certainly did not hear the drum rolls and see the guards snap to attention as she floated through. But she showed marginally more composure than I, as I stumbled from pillar to post, trying to avoid the glare of prying eyes.

The spa itself was grandiose. Massage apparatus, heated indoor pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and darkened rooms with funny names. We were met by a pair of masseuse and I was left alone with one. Her forearms would have made Hulk Hogan proud but her fingers, I am sure, had once belonged to Liberace. I know all this because for the next hour she lathered me with a pungent juice and then pinched, pushed, prodded, and pummelled my flab. For the first part I lay on my stomach staring down a hole in the padded massage bed at a flickering flame while soothing, soporific chants were piped into my subconscious. I was then rolled over like a pig on a spit, a lappie placed over my face, and the process repeated.

I can’t say I did not enjoy it. I did. It was blissfully decadent. But I must admit that I had the odd fleeting emotion of embarrassment that the cost could probably maintain a Darfurian family for a year.

And I hoped that I would be able to remove the smell before I went back to work. If my farmer mates got a whiff of it they would never let me live it down.

Please don’t tell them.

• The author is a practising vet with a passion for his profession and a giggle in his heart.

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