Well dear reader you will be pleased to know that I am actually typing this to you whilst I am supposedly ‘having fun’. As if the enforced jollity of the ‘Festive Season’ wasn’t enough for me to bear, Mrs Grumpy Man decided that we should also have ‘fun’ over the New Years period as well. My response was the standard issue response of ‘Yes Dear’ through gritted teeth with the associated clenched bowels.
So you may ask – what did Mrs Grumpy Man have in mind? Was it another cruise of the undead? Was it some 5 star POW camp with maniacal camp guards? Oh dear reader…. lets just say that Mrs Grumpy Man actually managed to not only exceed my wildest nightmares but also combine the worst elements of both. She managed to find a 5 star hotel in the Cotswolds that offered not only the joys of programmed and enforced jollity (You vill enjoy yourself prisoner 42601) … but also managed to take me to a hotel where i was the youngest occupant by about 25 years….. several times i went to check the pulse of fellow guests, but decided against it unless they then attacked me and I joined them in the realm of the undead.
So what happened I hear you mumble… oh do speak up will you! It is tedious enough having to decipher the ramblings of the Great Unwashed at the best of times, without having to decide whether your lips have been glued together.
Well lets start with the hotel. It was situated in the middle of nowhere. Worse than that .. one had to drive dangerously close to the teen single mother capital of the UK….Swindon… or as I like to call it … the Essex of West Country. Fortunately the M4 is securely fenced off from any wandering Sharon’s and Kevins trying to escape and we made it to the hotel without serious incident or cultural contamination.
Shortly after we arrived I realised that not only was this hotel a bastion of enforced luxury but it was Swiss owned. Let’s be honest even the Germans are irritated by the Swiss and avoid them at all costs… that’s why Switzerland was never invaded by the Nazis in the Second World War, they just couldn’t put up with the locals. This meant that there were various Swiss nationals strategically located throughout the staff to ensure loyalty, obedience and that they treated the guests with a condescending attitude as if we were lucky to be allowed through the gates … Just like the Motherland I assume…. never been .. never will. My first indication of such an attitude was when my car was valet parked and the staff complained that it was too low, to uncomfortable and that a manual gearbox really wasn’t the done thing these days… ‘wouldn’t an automatic be more appropriate sir’.
Anyway, Mrs Grumpy Man made a beeline for the spa. Now I appreciate and good pool and hot tub like the next (grumpy) man….. but firstly one actually had to traverse an underground passage to get the the spa, negotiate your way past the reception staffed but rather stern looking Aryan females who looked on disapprovingly as you can imagine, to then be confronted by a facility that can only be described as a sado-masochists wet dream.
In the name of ‘wellness’ I was subjected to dry heat that could flay an man alive, wet heat that could boil you alive, and a steamy heat that turned me into a oversize Gyozo. As if this wasn’t enough enough Mrs Grumpy Man under the supervision of the Swiss version of Frau Gunther… I was liberally scrubbed down with what can only be described as grit… yes the same stuff that is spread on the roads during winter as supposedly it makes my skin ‘soft’. It wasn’t the skin that was soft .. there was no skin left and the ‘softness’ was the remaining tissue and layers of fat that are normally hidden from sight !
So now looking like something that has escaped from an anatomy class or B rate zombie movie we progressed to the rest of the ‘relaxing’ sojourn. I will admit that the food served in the Swiss ‘wellness’ camp was actually rather tasty but it seemed to come in small portions at high speed.. supposedly this is something called a taster menu… which is apt as you barely get a taste before your plate is whisked away and another microscopic serving is pushed under your nose with great delight, relish and with a feeling that you are really not quite worthy of such culinary delights! Add to this the overly theatrical delivery of the wine from the positively ‘sparkling’ sommelier – you are left looking for the cameras in case you are actually taking part in a surreal reality TV show!
Anyway , all this surreal and enforced theatre culminated in New Years Eve ‘celebrations’ where the great, the good and the Grumpy Man are booted and suited (yes I do own a DJ and no its not from Burtons!). It was apparent from the outset that fun was to be had by all … and that was an order. Funny hats and party favours were laid out at dining tables… a jazz band muttered along in the background and the clientele, who really were old enough to know better were quaffing wine and over priced champagne as if their lives depended upon it. Having said that seeing the age of some and the rather intense supervision from the ‘staff’ … maybe that was the case for some.
I started to get a feeling that not every one was going to see the New Year in and that maybe, given the average age of the guests, that one or more may not be breathing by 2018. Several times I had the urge to check the pulse of an inebriated and immobile fellow guest. But happily the evening didn’t turn into a murder mystery event and the night was capped off by a rather spectacular fireworks display that was almost military grade in its firepower. This started Grumpy Man to thinking:
- Isolated country location
- Heavily accented staff
- Uniformed staff without name badges, with a lot in well fitting suits
- Very observant and disapproving staff who seemed to be everywhere.
- Heavy weight fireworks
- Not one but two helicopter landing pads.
- A spa that could double as a resistance to interrogation training centre or torture chamber
- Fortified inner courtyard with electric gates. (Seriously heavy weight wooden reinforced gates in a gatehouse)
- Owned by a Swiss family that no one had ever seen ……
Oh crap … we have decided to spend our New Years Eve in a low grade Bond villains lair! Fortunately for Mr Grumpy Man this became apparent even to Mrs Grumpy Man. Being German she is attuned to such things and even she had noticed the slightly ‘evil super villain’ vibe the hotel was giving off, either that or the fact the Swiss staff were annoying her! We came to the mutual decision that discretion was the better part of valour and we kept our discovery to ourselves seeing as we were leaving the next day.
We made good our escape wondering what would have happened if we had stayed longer…. or announced our discovery to others. Would we have been allowed to leave ? Would we have ‘disappeared’ … or worse … replaced? What dastardly scheme was afoot in the Cotswolds? Were all the guests even guests ? Was it some gathering of elderly super villains and secret agents? Had we had a close call? Who knows .. All I know is that we may have dodged a bullet (or ‘fricking’ laser) and that the hotel manager bore more than a passing resemblance to a certain KGB agent from ‘From Russia With Love’ (Rosa Klebb for the hard of thinking)