Leisure Lady.  That’s me! At least, that’s what it says on the card I was given in exchange for my new membership card – at the gym!  That looks equally ridiculous on paper; well you know what I mean …

‘Encouraged’ – substitute nagged incessantly – by my daughter to accompany her to said establishment, it was a case of anything for an easy life. Part of a luxury hotel and spa, the facilities are inviting and, more so, as they appear to be empty!  The pool is all but private, as is the gym, and I can only assume this is because the hotel guests are only interested in the spa which happens to boast a rooftop jacuzzi.  That does sound inviting and the view must be superb but, in a word, unnecessary.  No?  I have sat in a jacuzzi, outside, on the edge of a lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains in Austria and there can be little to surpass the experience but it’s a holiday experience and should remain so. Thus, it’s nothing but hard work for us and the term ‘Leisure Lady’ seems entirely inappropriate!

While on the subject of spas, though, I do choose to avoid them like the plague.  This propensity for self-indulgent pampering wherever one goes has never appealed to me, nor those for whom it is a priority.  Over the years, the beautiful old, traditional hotels have been forced to build or incorporate spa facilities in order to survive.  Those with money seem to want nothing more than to get naked or lie about in a towel with a glass of bubbly seemingly oblivious to their surroundings.  Could be anywhere.  I remember being taken to Gleneagles – aged about 6 – with my little schoolfriend and her family. Dressed smartly in my pleated skirt (which came complete with braces!), I was slightly in awe as we drove up the long drive to this beautiful country house where we were greeted at the entrance by a gentleman with an umbrella to escort us into the hotel (it was raining!) while the car was parked.  We were there for afternoon tea.  Tables with pristine white table cloths in a room decorated appropriately in pastels and chintz, manners were a given as a band played classic tunes in the background and, from time-to-time, those who couldn’t resist got up to dance.  Genteel times; gentler days.

Gleneagles, eventually, fell victim to the demands of new money and a spa had been built onto the hotel by 1983 when my dear friends, Susan and Phil, had their wedding reception there.  It was the most perfect day in the most beautiful surroundings and the added spa wing did nothing to spoil it but it was early days in the invasion of the spas!

Cameron House was another one.  Attending a ‘do’ there many years later, one could appreciate how it must once have been.  The original grandeur still in evidence, news of the addition of the inevitable spa had reached the blacked-out-windows, black Range Rover brigade, however, thus ensuring a more modern guest.  I suppose the horse has now bolted.  Change is inevitable but sadly, too often today, money buys the degree – as it were – in lieu of, and with no regard for, the years of study.

I have no idea how I got here or why I am rambling on about my dislike for spas.  Perhaps, a better placed subject for my Seriously?! page, it does, however, lead me on to another bugbear of mine: the evisceration of old houses.  Somewhat graphic, it aptly captures the needless gutting of beautiful old properties until all but the shell remains.  Why?  Why buy an old house if one is far more suited to a modern box?  Old wooden panelling removed, original fireplaces and mantles torn from the walls, cornicing gone, wooden windows replaced with plastic UPVC ones, the list is endless and all at the hands of the must-have interior designer.  Couldn’t possibly make any decisions on the décor of one’s home oneself.  Interior designer/social climber …  almost interchangeable!

Whoops!  Slippery slope, here.  The trend is everywhere, though.  I recently caught the last episode of Scotland’s Home of the Year on BBC 1 which showcased homes in some amazing locations subjected to some hideous décor!  The inevitable palette of grey abounded interspersed with dollops of luminous green or pink in the cushions – often furry – lamps or throws and open-plan meant open-plan.  Grey or black leather couches – sorry, sofas – featured heavily with a distinct lack of artwork or photographs on the walls.  Minimalist all the way.  Character?  None whatsoever.  Now, each to one’s own, of course but my point is why take an old character house and strip it bare?  Build or buy a modern house; one which is in keeping with one’s taste from the get-go. There are too many old properties being defiled by monied individuals or builders who gut and clone seemingly devoid of any respect for the past.  That’s the thing.  We live in an era of ‘I can so I will, regardless’ and there are no rules or boundaries.

Back to Frankenstein’s monster.  What of the 73 year-old woman in India who made the news, this week, when she gave birth to twin girls courtesy of IVF?  The father is in his 80s.  Unable to have children, naturally, for 60 years, IVF made it possible and so they went ahead, regardless.  That’s exactly what I mean!  What of those poor little girls?  Now, of course, IVF is invaluable in the right circumstances but, as proven here, the genie is long out of the bottle with a life of its own.  These scientific breakthroughs which defy nature are, at once, brilliant and dangerously open to abuse.  What I would like to know is who carries the Equity Card inscribed with the name ‘God’?!

As Boris teeters on the brink and absolute mayhem unfolds, each day seems to bring new joy!  Ruth Davidson’s resignation has all but handed the ball to Nicola Sturgeon who is revelling in the gift which keeps on giving and, meanwhile, the country is in limbo. I, for one, now choose to ignore all but the headlines, one of which – this week – was the death of Mugabe.  A ruthless dictator finally removed from power in a bloodless coup in 2017, it was not always so.  He led colonial Southern Rhodesia to independence in April 1980 on a wave of optimism but he all but destroyed the latter-day Zimbabwe.  A beautiful country, I was privileged to visit in 1987 staying at the once world-renowned Meikles Hotel in Harare – formerly Salisbury – before travelling to Victoria Falls, seeing elephant in the wild for the first time in Hwange and then, from there, going on to Tiger Bay in Lake Kariba. The memories remain but there are pockets of greatness in life and it can change in an instant.  I travelled to Zimbabwe before the footprint of Rhodesia was completely eroded.  One of the lucky ones, I saw Victoria Falls as Livingstone must have seen them in 1855. Today, I believe, a modern town has built up around them offering bungee jumping, white water rafting and continuous ‘Flights of Angels’ overhead.  One could call it a metaphor for life – albeit a sad one.

Gosh, a tad depressing once more, I’m beginning to wish I had recorded ‘The Secret Lives of Midges’ on Channel 4 on Friday night!

‘Grooming a successor, is it an inheritance?  In a democratic party, you don’t want leaders appointed that way.  They have to be appointed properly by the people.’

Robert Mugabe, TV interview, 2016.

Politics and lies … age-old.

This is Trish, signing off.