A day at the spa - why would anyone do this to themselves? - Mo Fanning Author
Detoxifying Dandelion

A day at the spa – why would anyone do this to themselves?

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Husbands by Mo FanningWhen my best friend Sarah suggested we spend a day at La Petite Mort Spa, I was sceptical. Sarah has a knack for these sorts of places—the kind where they serve you water with cucumber slices and tell you it’s a detox elixir.

“You deserve a break after working on your last book (Husbands) and guess what … it’s exclusive,” she said, which I figured meant it would be full of people who are used to having people whose sole mission in life is to do things for them.

But she had that look, the one that made me think, “Why not? This could be material for the next book.” So, I put on my best jogging bottoms (the ones without the hole in the knee) and let Sarah whisk me away in her slightly battered but ever-reliable Fiat 500, towards the rolling Malvern Hills.

Happy ending

Briefly I looked the place up online and read glowing reviews. My eyes were then drawn to a Wikipedia entry, defining La Petite Mort as ‘a brief loss or weakening of consciousness’ – sort of like everyone gets when confronted by a forgotten Mars Bar on a high pantry shelf.

In modern usage, it refers specifically to a post-orgasm sensation as likened to death. Had Sarah booked us into a knocking shop with a happy endings sideline?

My fears abated as we approached the spa itself, nestled in a secluded nook, at the end of a patchy gravel driveway that played havoc with Sarah’s suspension.

The entrance was so understated it was almost non-existent. A single glass door with the spa name etched in a spidery font.

A reception area opened up like a sterile womb. Everything was slightly off-white—the walls, the furniture, the receptionist. She was the kind of pale that only comes from spending way too much time indoors, reading Goop and denying the existence of carbohydrates.

“Welcome to La Petite Mort,” she said, her voice a soothing lullaby for the dead. “May I have your names?”

Staring at framed artsy black and white shots of slender torsos, I was overcome with that feeling you get after eating too much cheese.

Detoxifying Dandelion

Sarah, ever the enthusiast, stepped forward and handled the formalities. I, on the other hand, found myself scrutinising the herbal tea selection, which ranged from “Detoxifying Dandelion” to “Serenity Now.” All I knew about dandelions was that they make you wet the bed. And this place didn’t give off a forgiving aura, so I opted for “Serenity Now.”

We were shown to the changing rooms by a man who could have doubled as a Roman statue. He had the kind of muscles that made you question your own skeletal structure. The spa robe provided was the softest thing I’d ever touched—like wrapping myself in a hug from a very wealthy cloud.

Free copy of The Armchair Bride by Mo Fanning


Our first treatment was something called “The Rebirth Ritual.” I imagined a lot of wailing and possibly a giant symbolic egg. Instead, it involved warm oil massages that left me feeling like a well-basted turkey. My therapist, a lovely woman named Amelia, had magic hands that found knots I didn’t even know existed and I emerged a new man. Someone whose shoulders weren’t permanently hunched around his ears.

Next up was the “Forest Immersion Ritual,” which involved a guided meditation and some sort of herbal concoction – not ayahuasca, I checked. We were led into a room that felt like a forest, with the sound of rustling leaves and a faint earthy smell. Like someone left the window open and the nearest farm had been spraying manure. Our guide, Declan, personified deep calm and instructed us to close our eyes and breathe deeply. For once, my mind didn’t immediately wander to my to-do list or a forgotten email.

Snail mucus

I was blissed out and keen for more tea. Sarah opted for “The Elixir of Youth” – a facial treatment that, from what I could gather, involved smearing a variety of expensive creams and snail mucus (no seriously, it’s a thing in Korea) on her face. And a buffer that removed what seemed to be quite a lot of skin. Perhaps too much. When we reconvened in the relaxation room, she looked like a ready-to-roast joint of pork.

“How was it?” I asked, trying not to flinch.

Sarah replied with a sharp nod, like talking might be painful.

“Did it hurt?”

Again, no actual words, just a glare that told me it was up there with childbirth.


The relaxation room was another study in Farrow & Ball off-white, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a view of the surrounding forest. Birds chirped serenely outside, as if hired for our visit. We lounged on chaise longues, sipping cucumber water and pretending we were not regular people with regular problems, but ethereal beings of pure relaxation.

pink GermoleneBy now, Sarah’s face wasn’t so much shining as red and weeping. The kind of thing old-school mums would smear with pink Germolene. She refused to let me distract one of the lab-coated women with big black-framed glasses and clipboards.

“It’s meant to go like this. My guru said,” she snapped.

My cue to shut the hell up.

Wheelie bin

Our final treatment of the day was “The Ascension.” This, I assumed, would involve levitating or perhaps being anointed with unicorn tears. Instead, we were shown into what the lab-coated lovely called a flotation chamber, to spend time in what looked suspiciously like green wheelie bins filled with tepid salty water.

“Just relax and let go,” said a disembodied voice as Enya sailed away, sailed away, sailed away.

As I slipped into the water, a strange sense of weightlessness took hold, and for a moment, I imagined myself floating in space, free from the constraints of gravity and social awkwardness. This must be like the Dead Sea, I thought. And then my mind was taken up with thoughts of the Gaza conflict and the real world. Mission so not accomplished.

We dressed in silence, each lost in our own thoughts. Sarah’s face looked to be calming down. I, on the other hand, was on edge, my mind already online, trying to control the news, determined not to let one thing happen in the world without me knowing.


As we drove back through the Malvern Hills, the setting sun painting the sky in pale pink hues that would make even the spa’s colour palette seem garish, I found myself in a peculiar state of mind. My brain was already racing, eager to reconnect with chaos.

Sarah, her face now merely pink instead of angry lobster red, turned to me with a serene smile. “So, what did you think?”

“Well,” I began, “I’m not sure I’ve been reborn, ascended, or achieved nirvana. More like I’ve been gently marinated in essential oils.”

She laughed, wincing as the movement tugged at freshly buffed skin. “We should make this a regular thing.”

My wallet flinched. But I had material for my next book.

By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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