Fasting. Who came up with that word? It’s anything but fast. Time stretches out very slowly indeed when your only nutritional intake is herbal tea and consomme vegetable soup. That is, literally, all I had between 12.30pm one day and 7.30pm the next evening. But, actually, the hunger wasn’t really the problem. You get used to that alarmingly quickly. The problem was how stupid not eating makes you. And, hey, I had a pretty big headstart on the stupid stakes – just ask the Merano Palace’s IT guy.
Without any food, I found I couldn’t perform the simplest task: I dropped things, I walked into things, I had to ask for clarification of everything about 100 times (usually, it’s only five or six). Where do I go now? What do I do here? How do I breathe again? Weirder still, I realised I was becoming institutionalised because I stopped questioning the one thing I originally had a lot of questions about – the daily detoxifying hydrotherapy session.
They start off nicely enough, with a delicious-smelling whirlpool bath for 20 minutes. After this, you have to shuffle (naked but for a pair of those awful paper panties and a crisp white cotton bedsheet) to another room to be painted with seaweedy mud, wrapped up in a blissfully comforting blanket and left to “float” on a water bed for a further 20 minutes. Then when you’re in a suitably embryonic and carefree state of relaxation, your white-suited therapist wraps you in another sheet and guides you to a white-tiled room. I swear, the first day I heard Mrs Rochester-style screams as we walked along the corridor. My therapist chuckled: “You hear that?” Me hear it? I imagine, in Rome, the state seismologists were getting excited.
My room has green plastic pool matting on the floor and on the far wall, steel hand rails. It’s very, very One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. You stand, holding the rails, and a water cannon is blasted at you… after four hours I glance at the clock and see one whole minute has passed. It is so painful. Your therapist hoses you down like you’re a particularly filthy farmyard. It would be one thing if this humiliating act were performed by a perky fireman but it’s usually a shotputter of a woman in a plastic poncho. Imagine saying What you do for a living? and hearing. “I hose down fat CEOs and thin supermodels – I had Uma Thurman on her knees the other day. You should have heard Princess Caroline of Monaco bleat.” Priceless. Oh and at the end, you get a quick blast of freezing cold water too. That bit really is just for fun. You know the image above? Either this woman was dropped on her head as a baby or the marketing people have taken some liberties…. Must be the former, poor thing. Apparently, the jets tone your body.
That to look forward to every day, imagine how you’d spring out of bed. Still, if it hurts, it must be doing you good, right? And it does make your skin feel incredibly soft. So why the movie image at the top? Well Henri Chenot is the godfather of detox – he really did pioneer the concept… but that’s not actually the reason for the image. I was lucky enough to granted an audience with the great man. When I entered his book-lined office, I thought he looked rather cute and cuddly. Then he started reading my notes. Apart from being tortured like a captured enemy combatant during my daily massage and treated like a student rioter with the daily hydrotherapy, I had also been having various medical tests.
Dr Chenot looked at various charts, frowned. “Did you have a cold recently?” he asked in Italian through his GM-cum-interpreter.
“No. I haven’t had a cold for 20 years,” I said, slightly concerned.
He raised an eyebrow. “Do you smoke heavily?”
“I’ve never had a cigarette in my life,” I said, increasingly alarmed.
He flicked through my file again. Lots of talk in Italian. I think I managed to catch She’s only got days to live but then I remembered I don’t speak a word of Italian so that was probably just paranoia mixed with hunger.
“Have you had a blood test yet?” asked the GM casually.
“Yes, this morning.”
More talk in Italian. “Dr Chenot will see you once our lab has sent back the results.”
I’m consumed with fear. “Am I ill?”
“No, no, nothing like that. Lets wait until tomorrow,” said the GM smoothly.
Dr Chenot said something. I swang round to my translator. “He says you look frightened.”
“That’s because I am frightened.”
Dr Chenot smiled and said soothingly that there was nothing to be worried about. That’s when I suddenly saw the likeness to Marlon Brando in The Godfather. That smile looked just a tad sinister to a starved spa writer.
So tomorrow, I find out what is wrong with me.