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Visit The World’s Greatest Health Farms

Some are little more than residential beauty parlors taking half a dozen guests while others are stately homes of baronial elegance.

Unashamed hedonists wallow in Jacuzzis and guzzle home-made cakes while such occasional extras as seaweed baths and salt rubs sound almost naughty.

The rich, sleeping in pampered luxury, can easily pay as much for a single night (over pounds 200) as a more budget-conscious client would expect to be charged for an entire week.

The British health farm of 1985 is all things to all men – and women. And just about the only thing it is not is that shrine to weight-watching self-deprivation which exemplified its origins in the 1960s.

Today a typical batch of visitors would certainly include business men trying to avoid their first or second coronary, younger executives worried about the first signs of business lunch belly, women of all ages fighting the effects of advancing years and a fair sprinkling of celebrities recuperating from the strain of public exposure.

For most, the shedding of a pound or two is a welcome bonus but not to be confused with the principal purpose of switching off from the tension of routine daily life. Others readily admit to seeking nothing more than good company and a pleasant chat.

One regular visitor, describing his motives, said: ‘The benefit lies as much in eliminating the negatives – in my case smoking, drinking and business entertaining – as in any positive approach to health through diet or exercise.’

Many others, however, are attracted by the wide range of sporting facilities that are available at most health farms and the prospect of a spell of intensive physical activity.

If the hopes and aims of any two visitors differ, they cannot do so nearly so much as the facilities, degree of comfort and life-style of the establishments themselves. The health farm has become an almost indefinable institution.

New arrivals are usually given a consultation with a nurse, doctor or dietician who, after checking blood pressure, pulse rate and medical history, might recommend a particular diet of course of treatment. There the similarity ends.

While one forbids alcohol but serves home-made cakes, another allows alcohol in moderation but issues biscuits on prescription only. Some impose strict rules – ‘a certain amount of self-denial and self-discipline is essential’ says one – and at others almost anything goes.

Standards vary considerably and, falling neither within the compass of the private health sector nor, directly, the hotel and catering industry, there are few statutory regulations governing the way health farms are run.

Rules and regimes aside, however, the real fun lies in what they do to you – a panoply of steaming, soaking, kneading, and pummeling that exudes deliciously pampered relaxation.

The cost is high but the price can often be justified. Health farms are heavy on skilled staff and equipment and light on other sources of profit like bar sales, cigarettes and a la carte menus. And, whatever the price, they can easily become addictive. Most who go once return.
But Dr. Alan Maryon-Davis, chief medical officer with the Health Education Council, warns that health farms might lull some into a false sense of security about their physical well-being.

‘The fitness tests carried out in some establishments might show no abnormality and encourage people to think that they can carry on high-pressure lives with no ill effect.

‘It would be foolish to think one could undo the damage caused by an unhealthy lifestyle during an annual two-week spell in a health farm’, he said.

‘Psychologically it could be of great therapeutic value, more so than a usual holiday with the hassle that sometimes entails. But, physically, the treatments offered in some health farms are on more controversial territory.’

Inadequate supervision of exercise classes and the unknown long-term effects of artificial sun-tanning treatments particularly concerned him.

The British Dietetic Association advised against the very low calorie diets and short-term fasts recommended by some health farms.

‘Diets of less than 800 calories a day should be extremely carefully supervised’, said a spokesman. ‘If protein intake is reduced below this level the body can no longer perform the function of maintaining and protecting lean muscle tissue, which can then be easily damaged.

‘Most weight lost over a short period of time is caused by a reduction in the body’s water content and is quickly put back on.’

More beneficial than a temporary diet, he said, would be professional instruction on long-term healthy eating.

CHAMPNEYS

This one won’t disappoint those for whom health farms conjure a Club Mediterranean image. It has the air of a lively international house party. The outdoor Jacuzzi, open all year round, is the social hub, where I was approached within hours of arriving and asked by one middle-aged business man if I wanted ‘company – just for one night’.

Not only for the gregarious, Champneys is ideal for those who enjoy their food with excellent and interesting meals. Snacks, however are not allowed. When I asked for afternoon biscuits, I was told they were issued on prescription only.

Appropriately for an establishment taken over recently by Guinness, it is one of the few to allow alcohol – half a bottle of wine per person of an evening.

Throughout the day a non-alcoholic bar (installed three years ago according to barman Christopher to ‘break up the boredom between meals’) serves fruit juice mixes.

Founded 60 years ago, Champneys was Britain’s first health farm and occupies a former Rothschild mansion. The clientele includes many Arabs during the summer months and, in recent years, Lulu, Gary Glitter, Bianca Jagger, John Cleese and Lesley-Anne Down.

VIPs are provided with a private treatment room. There is a craft center (‘to satisfy suppressed artistic longings’) and a packed activities program sensibly warning guests not to attempt to try everything.

Evening talks included a rather tedious one on Positive Thinking, accompanied by the sounds of rumbling stomachs. Treatments include seaweed baths and salt rubs. Accommodation varies from the style of an Arabian palace to rather rundown and cramped budget cabins with peeling wallpaper and broken fixtures.

Champneys at Tring, Tring, Herts (04427 3351) Capacity: approx 100. Prices: from pounds 53 to pounds 213 per person per night.

FOREST MERE

Here, the atmosphere of a nursing home pervades. Quietly spoken staff in white clinical uniforms ushered me, rather unnervingly, into a ‘treatment area’. Then, after an initial sauna, I was wrapped in a white linen sheet and laid down to rest before a vigorous massage.

The medical consultation, physiotherapy, heat treatment and osteopathy included in the price is a big attraction for the elderly and infirm who patronize the place in large numbers. Clientele includes Prince Rainier and Princess Stephanie of Monaco, the Duchess of Kent, Lord Olivier, Maggie Smith and Sir Robin Day.

This comfortable house, now owned by the Savoy Hotel, is set in a beautiful forest and parkland overlooking a small boating lake. Bedrooms are simply but comfortably furnished.

Slimmers are relegated to a ‘light diet room’ and fed on soup, fruit and an occasional treat of yoghurt with wheat germ and honey. Meanwhile non-slimmers tuck into a daily salad banquet at lunchtime and home-made cakes at high tea, which is followed by a set three-course dinner.

The regime is considered disciplined. ‘Patients are expected to avoid business ties and social engagements as far as possible’, warns the brochure, ‘to limit car driving, stop or reduce smoking and refrain from alcohol altogether.’

The clinical atmosphere can, depending on your own condition, have a comforting or disquieting effect. It was certainly rather unnerving to hear patients talking about when they were to be ‘released’.

Forest Mere Liphook, Hants (0428 722051). Capacity: approx 80. Prices: from pounds 47.14 to pounds 114.28 per person per night.

GRAYSHOTT HALL

While elsewhere people turn up for their evening meal in track suits, the guests at this ivy-clad mansion house change for dinner.

It was the most formal and sophisticated of the five. The boutique is full of expensive clothes. Accommodation ranges from spacious, elegant suites overlooking the gardens to smaller and simply furnished but comfortable rooms. Most have wall safes – perhaps so women don’t have to wear their diamonds in the Jacuzzi.

The clientele is predominantly business people – the sound of their bleepers occasionally being heard over the conversation in the dining room. Guests have included Felicity Kendall, Frankie Howard, and Anthony Hopkins.

Dallas and Dynasty devotees who are worried about missing their favorite soap operas because of the rigors of exercise and treatment are reassured to find that episodes are recorded and played back on their respective evenings when organized activities are over. Subject to a dietician’s recommendation, slimmers are offered high protein (500 calories) or low carbohydrate (1000 calories) diets. Non-slimmers have a salad lunch and a three-course dinner. No alcohol is available and fruit cocktails are served in the drawing room before dinner.

The 47 acres of grounds include a nine-hole golf course. Grayshott offers an extensive range of beauty treatments and alternative-medicine therapies in a restful, spacious and private environment.

Grayshott Hall, Grayshott, near Hindhead, Surrey (042873 4331). Capacity: approx 100. Price: from pounds 65 to pounds 152.50 per night.

INGLEWOOD

A car was waiting for me at the station piloted by an enthusiastic Chelsea FC supporter with a gold stud earring. He engagingly informed me that Inglewood looked ‘just like Colditz’. Indeed the impressive grey stone stately home set in magnificent formal gardens still has the slightly daunting air of the boys’ public school it once was.

Some guests rattle around in spacious, high-ceilinged rooms and suites in the main building, while others are crammed into budget rooms in which they can reach the basin and open the door while sitting on the bed.

‘Diet is fundamental to the Inglewood way of life’, according to its manifesto. ‘We aim to coax you away from the bad eating habits of modern life.’

Slimmers can, if they wish, be put on a lemon and water fast for 48 hours on arrival, followed by a light diet of fruit, soup, salad and cottage cheese.

The cost of accommodation includes medical consultations and treatments. I tried a peat bath which is recommended as a skin softener. It is a bit like thrashing around in a large and extremely soggy window box.

Amenities include an indoor pool. Nearby nursery facilities are available.

Inglewood, Kintbury, Berks (0488 82022). Capacity: 80 guests. Prices: from budget accommodation at pounds 235 per week to pounds 125 a night for a suite.

RAGDALE HALL

Porters in red and gold uniforms and white gloves whisk new arrivals from their cars into this turreted edifice. Once inside, extravagant formality gives way to a pleasant country house party atmosphere.

Whereas in the other four places guests are shown to separate tables, here we all sat together at long tables in the oak paneled dining room.

There is no apartheid for slimmers and everyone is treated to an appetizing set menu. The a la carte menu featured delicious home reared trout and crepes suzette. Alcohol is unlimited and chosen from a list which features ‘organically grown wines.’ Ragdale doesn’t hold with strict fasting, which it considers ‘unnecessary and undesirable.’

Room service proved to be rather forgetful (my early morning call was overlooked and my breakfast forgotten). And it wasn’t pleasant to be given a facial by beauty staff who leant over me with heavy colds.

That there were more married couples and fewer single men than in the other four farms made for a pleasant atmosphere and meant it was easier for someone on their own, like me.

The indoor swimming pool with its tiled arches and tropical plants is exotic, but activities are limited. There is a nightly video but most guests disappear to bed by nine o’clock.

Waging War on the Winter Blues; Health & Beauty

Winter is often a time of discontent. With the seasonal festivities behind us, warm weather a mirage and summer holidays too far off to plan, stress can start playing havoc with our physical and mental states. But there are plenty of ways to beat stress, whether you have pounds to splash out or just a few pence.

British health farms are no longer the Spartan spas they once were. Instead of puritan regimes, they offer pampering of the highest order at a price. Inglewood Health Hydro at Kintbury in Berkshire (0488 82022) offers an unintimidating introduction for anyone new to the experience, with many treatments included in the starting price of Pounds 210 for three nights.

Healthy hedonism can also be enjoyed at Ragdale Hall, near Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire (0664 434831), where typical treatments include massage, aromatherapy and reflexology. Prices per night range from Pounds 71 to Pounds 105. A wide choice of therapies is available at Cedar Falls in Taunton, Somerset (0823 433338), including iridology and acupuncture.

Prices per night at this comfortable center can be as low as Pounds 43 or as high as Pounds 115. Equally relaxed is the sociable country-house atmosphere of Grayshott Hall in Surrey
(042 8734331), where a night costs from Pounds 76 to Pounds 120.

With an increasing number of people turning to alternative medicine in a bid to beat stress, it is important to pinpoint a good practitioner. As anyone can set up as an osteopath or herbalist without organized training, consult the principle bodies representing the various therapies (listed at end) for a recommendation, or write (sending sae) to the Institute of Complementary Medicine at 21 Portland Place, London W1N 3AF, which has a directory of registered practitioners throughout Britain.

Stress reducers make excellent presents for anyone who lives life in the fast lane. High-flying executives may find an hour’s flotation in a tank more relaxing than a share flotation. Flotation involves an hour lying quietly in the dark, suspended in a warm solution of Epsom salts. Fans say they emerge from the experience with a sense of well-being and for those who cannot bear the thought of an hour’s silence, in-tank tapes are available, ranging from baroque music to self-help for cigarette quitters. Gift vouchers cost Pounds 20 for an hour’s float from Flotation Tank Association, 3a Elms Crescent, London SW4 8QE (01-350 1001).

Equally good gifts are the vouchers for tailor-made treatments at Natureworks, London’s newest clinic for complementary medicine, which offers sessions of acupuncture, herbalism, homoeopathy, massage therapy, shiatsu and stress management. Vouchers start at Pounds 5 (sessions cost from Pounds 12 to Pounds 30, depending on the length and type of therapy) and are also available from Danceworks. Membership gives entitlement to dance and exercise classes, from classical ballet to salsa. Most classes cost Pounds 3.50, including use of sauna and sunbed. Membership is Pounds 75 annually (students Pounds 40); Pounds 22 monthly; Pounds 3 daily.

Natureworks/Danceworks, 16 Balderton Street, London W1 (01-629 6183).

But it is not only during leisure time that a relaxing ambience can help relieve stress, according to Lisa Quine, director of London’s Back Store. “In an office environment, stress is often caused just by sitting badly. To counter this common problem, we have a range of ergonomically designed chairs,” she says. Prices range from Pounds 175 to Pounds 665, with most around the Pounds 250 mark. The shop also stocks adjustable desk systems to ensure correct posture and writing slopes, computer lecterns and foot rests. The Back Store, 330 King Street, London W6 0RR (01-741 5022).

Anti-stress devices are personal, so what one person may find soothing another will find irritating. Some swear by Shog-Xing balls, Chinese hand-held massage balls with a chime inside which are rolled in the palm to relax muscles and joints and improve blood circulation. These come in a brocade box, priced Pounds 24, at Neal Street East, 5 Neal Street, London WC2 (01-240 0135). They are also available in the form of 24 carat gold walnuts a Chinese symbol of unity and long life at Pounds 24.50 (including p&p) per pair by mail order from Adelai Ltd, Freepost, PO Box 18, Camberley, Surrey GU16 5BR (0276 683133).

Neal Street East also stocks tubs of six Guatemalan worry dolls (Pounds 1.50), which you pop under a pillow at night. It is said that they do all your worrying for you.

To help you drop off to sleep, camomile teabags (Pounds 1.25 for 25) or camomile dried flowers for herbal infusions (Pounds 1.40 for 100g) are available from The Tea House, 15a Neal Street, London WC2 (01-240 7539 for mail-order details).

At nationwide branches of The Body Shop, there are wooden back massagers (Pounds 6) and Footsie rollers (from Pounds 3.65), said to relieve tired feet while activating those zones in the foot which can stimulate natural healing of the body.

There are reductions on several anti-stress devices at Harrods this week. The Thumper comprehensive vibrating massager is reduced from Pounds 299 to Pounds 239, while a small, hand-held massager is down from Pounds 6.95 to Pounds 5.

Relaxing tapes are available from New World Aurora at 16a Neal’s Yard, London WC2 (01-379 0818). Orders also by mail order. For catalogues, contact New World, Paradise Farm, Westhall, Halesworth, Suffolk IP19 8RH (050279 279). The shop offers a wide range of crystals and crystal jewelry, said to promote feelings of harmony.

But the place where even the busiest high flier can relax is the bathroom, so it is worth splashing out on Czech & Speake’s aromatic bath oils which combine herbs with essential oils to produce a calming effect.

These are available from 39c Jermyn Street, London SW1 (01-439 0216). Verde also has a stress-relieving selection of pure plant preparations, available by mail order from 4a, at 11 Long Street, London E2 8HJ (01-739 3612), while De-stress Bath Oil, Pounds 9.50, and De-stress Massage Oil, Pounds 6.50, from Elemis, are on sale at selected Debenhams stores.

For anyone trying to conquer the ageing effects of stress, Secret Garden offers an Anti-Stress Hydrating Gel Masque, Pounds 6.50, and Anti-Stress day and night creams, available from shops at 153 Regent’s Street, London W1 (01-439 3101), Bath, Kingston, and by mail from the London address.

So You Want to Be a Beauty Therapist?

French and Italian women have long considered visits to beauty salons as important as those to hairdressers. Their British cousins, who used to think these the prerogative of the rich are now more accustomed to making appointments whether on a regular basis or before a special occasion. This trend means that prospects for beauty therapists look good.

There is a bewildering number of job titles in the beauty field – beautician, consultant, therapist, aestheticienne – titles often used to denote the range of treatments their holders offer. Generally speaking, beauticians concentrate on facial and skin care while consultants advise on, and primarily sell, cosmetics on behalf of companies. A beauty therapist or aestheticienne, by contrast, is qualified to give a range of treatments to face and body, from facials, manicures and pedicures to massage, waxing and electrology; from make-up advice to treatments designed to correct bad skin conditions, improve muscle tone or lose weight.

Unfortunately, anyone may set up in business as a beauty therapist. The title is not protected, and there are some unscrupulous operators around. Discerning clients however, will expect evidence of qualifications, usually in the form of a framed diploma, and anyone wishing to train is strongly advised to attend a reputable course. Equally unfortunately, diplomas can be quite easily come by. If there are some less than reputable practitioners, there are some schools whose certificates are not worth the paper they are printed on. All this may change soon. There are moves in the profession to press for a national registration system, with only therapists who have followed a rigorous course of training permitted to practice.

In the meantime, it is important for prospective students to shop around carefully when choosing a school, asking questions about the careers of former students (no good school will object), and ensuring that the course leads, in addition to its own diploma, to the qualifications of a recognized examining body.

There are at least five of these: it does not appear to matter which the school is linked with, since all are recognized nationally or internationally. Elisabeth Jones, a qualified physiotherapist, beauty therapist and immediate past chairman of the British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology, who now runs her own college near Andover in Hampshire says: ‘Look for a school which if not state-run, has its name nailed against a reputable organization. ‘ Liz, naturally enough, has chosen BABTAC, but even with her experience and links with that organization, was not allowed to have her school included on their approved list until she had shown a year’s satisfactory examination results.

Training can be expensive, with fees of pounds 2,500 to pounds 4,500; therefore choice of school is important. Courses are offered in the state sector, and are free to younger students, but usually of two years’ duration, whereas private schools train students in a much shorter period – 10 months, usually leading to the award of a full beauty therapist’s diploma.

Why the time difference, given that courses in both sectors lead to similar qualifications? This is because the technical colleges, with a larger number of younger students, also have an educational role. Students attend general studies classes, may be taking supplementary O-levels, and have college holidays.

The cost of training must be finely calculated. Fees of several thousand pounds sound daunting, but those who can manage it do benefit by entering the employment market a year earlier.

Ellie de Melo, for instance, who has given up a job in finance and is financing her training at the Elisabeth Jones School, from savings, says: ‘I couldn’t afford to keep myself for two years, but the money I am spending now should be more than offset by the income I hope to have next year. ‘Those who cannot afford private tuition – and who have family support for two years – will probably gravitate to the colleges of further education.

No school, state or private, can afford not to select students carefully, since their long-term reputation depends on the caliber of their output, but formal entrance requirements vary widely. State colleges ask for O-levels, and in some cases, A-levels. ‘We expect charismatic personality, outstanding personal presentation, management potential and five O-levels and a science A-level’, says Chichester College of Technology’s Linda Heald, who annually receives 700 applications for 32 Higher Diploma course places.

Lis Jones, while normally requiring two O-levels, will waive this requirement for a highly-motivated student (particularly an older person) if her background suggests that she is able to cope with the theory (BABTAC courses are two-thirds practical in content and one-third theory; the amount of theory being generally regarded as equivalent to that in nurses’ training). In common with all schools, she looks for the right personal qualities: common sense, warmth, sympathy and the ability to relate well to people, putting them at their ease.

Not all clients are confident and may feel uncomfortable discussing personal problems with a well-groomed therapist. The work is also physically tiring and demands stamina: thus good health is important.

Qualified beauty therapists have a range of employment opportunities, but which vary in different parts of the country. Some work in beauty salons, others in health farms, a few in hospitals; and there is a small number of openings in film and TV make-up work. Prospects for self-employment are good. While renting premises is costly, it is possible to start in a small way, using a spare room in one’s home. An outlay of around pounds 500 should buy a good couch, a supply of creams and other equipment, with a further sum required for insurance and advertising.

Tina Prowting has been a mobile beauty therapist since leaving the state sector London College of Fashion with a Higher Diploma and BABTAC qualifications. Finding no jobs available in Winchester, where she lives with her parents, she decided to go it alone. Business is going well.

She visits clients, offering day, evening and weekend appointments, and is popular with working women and young mothers. All the equipment necessary for facials, massage, waxing and depilatory treatments were bought for pounds 300. Moreover, it is compact enough to carry on a bicycle. She is very fit!

She advertises in the local free paper (for which she now writes a column) and initially pushed leaflets through doors herself. Having passed her driving test, she hopes to acquire a car, followed by a folding treatment couch, and expand her services to surrounding villages.

Health and Beauty: Who Do You See in the Mirror?

Ever yearned for a new you after the ravages of a long winter? Screw up your courage, as Philippa Toomey did, and surrender to those who have ways of making you look and feel in the pink.

Who likes January and February? Finding myself, like Edward Lear’s Aged Uncle Arly, ‘sometimes silent, sometimes yelling’, I headed down the A3 in filthy driving weather to Liphook and Forest Mere in Hampshire for four days of rest, relaxation, and a light diet.

Up the long drive to an elegant country house, shortly before 3pm on a Wednesday, I arrived for my consultation which would govern the time until Sunday lunch. Breakfast was in bed, followed by a couple of treatments – 8 am for a massage, a startling time of day in my life, followed by a steam bath. One sits and sweats with one’s head sticking out in the equivalent of a personal kettle – there is a handle inside for those with claustrophobia, and also someone on hand with a timer. Try not to remember the scene in Goldfinger.

I was accommodated in a chalet (it must be lovely in summer), only a five-yard dash with an umbrella to the main building, in which all the treatments take place; the sauna, the hydrotherapy, the massage and the dining-room.

Health farms have given up the grim restrictions that people used to find such fun breaking. Food is delicious, with salads at lunch, then cooked food in the evening, or yoghurt, honey, wheat germ and fruit in the light diet room. No alcohol is allowed, no coffee, or tea at teatime, and no cigarettes, though human frailty is allowed for in a few smoking areas.

Every day there are classes: ‘I don’t mind if you fall asleep,’ said the instructor at the relaxation class. Several did. The Yoga class I found incredibly difficult – I was, as the masseuse pointed out, very, very stiff indeed, and fell over several times. Exercise I should have taken (there are some alarming machines in the gym); swimming I could have done inside or outside.

You can exercise, you can jog. In the evenings you can watch a video, or retire to your TV screen. In the intervals, I had a facial and a pedicure – beauty treatments and hair dressing are extra. After four days I felt very much refreshed and relaxed and had lost 2 1/2lbs, though pining for bright lights and city streets. Like the evacuees from wartime London, I don’t really like all that silence.

How about repairing the facade? As a house needs repainting every now and then, so does the face we bravely put on for the outside world every day. ‘I’m going to curl your eyelashes. ‘said Stephen Glass, in warning as he advanced with a nasty-looking little instrument. Up on the third floor in his light white salon, confronting a cruel glass, with March sunlight streaming in, eyebrows were plucked, eyelashes curled, the face and neck cleaned, and treated with a number of delicious smelling preparations.

Eucalyptus tingled, a little phial was wonderfully cool. When Stephen Glass worked for Miss Elizabeth Arden in New York (former employees still call her Miss Arden), he often wanted to use other brands of cosmetics. He is now free to use what he thinks will suit an individual face, and has invented Light Fantastic, a priming base which is an astonishing pale lilac color, but which lightens the face, removes dark shadows, and is spread over with a little damp sponge.

It doesn’t suit all complexions, but it worked with me. He offers good and sensible advice, and his firm, Face Facts, has been going for 11 years. The middle-aged have to work hard to look good, and the result, at the end of my session, was quite spectacular. I looked like me, but I was a work of art. The following day, my attempts to copy the artist resulted in a forgery. But for a special occasion like an appearance on television, an invitation to the wedding of a former love or a spirit raiser and object lesson, I recommended it.

For some years I have been to Joan Price’s Face Place in Connaught Street, W2, for a series of facials and neck and shoulders massages, lasting an hour in a dark little womb in the basement. Relaxing it is, even during a lunch hour. Twice I have had a make-up lesson – useful and helpful, and a reminder that make up changes, and new things can look good. They sell the whole range of the cosmetics they use (Stephen Glass does not) and it’s convenient that they are open two evenings a week.

A very large range of cosmetics is available from the newly refurbished Dickins and Jones, which has widened and extended the area where Norman Clare, who has just retired, used to reign. It looks beautiful, and there are a couple of small treatment rooms on the ground floor where people can be made up out of the full public glare.

Some of the more exclusive ranges are stocked (Lazlo, for example, is like a club – you either join or forget the whole thing) and they have consultants trained by each cosmetic house in the use of their beauty products. Not everything is for the fair-skinned English complexion. There are two cosmetic houses, Fashion Fair and Flori Roberts, for black skin, and Maya, for the Arab or Asian complexion. New developments in the selling of perfume (80 per cent of all perfume sales are in November) will try to persuade the Englishwoman that she can’t exist without it, all year round.

Taking the Waters – Where Holidays Spell Health

Czechoslavakia has 37 spas visited by about 300,000 people a year, of whom more than 10 per cent come from outside the country. CEDOK (the Czechoslovakian tourist organization) at 17/18 Old Bond Street, London W1X 4RB – 01-629 6058 for independent travelers and general inquiries, 01-491 2666 for package bookings – has detailed information on individual spas.

Marianske Lazne, the country’s second largest spa after karlovy Vary, specializes in the treatment of ‘painful vertebral syndrome, obesity, gout, diseases of the respiratory tract, urinary tract and kidneys’ using carbonic, alkaline, saline and ferrous waters, and mineral gas. Allow about Pounds 40 a night for full board and treatments, Pounds 135 for a return APEX flight with British Airways (01-897 4000) or Czechoslovak Airlines. Taxi transfers from Prague to the spa are expensive at Pounds 74.50 each way but there are buses. Cedok’s tour operating arm offers packaged holidays at three spas, Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), Jachymov, andd Plestany. Prices for 14 days (the minimum), inclusive of flights, accommodation in a ‘first class sanatorium’, full board, medical examination and all treatments and medicines prescribed, is from Pounds 789. The price drops by Pounds 100 for escorts not taking the waters, and rises Pounds 109 for single room supplements.

The Austrians are less coy than their neighbors in describing therapies – ‘bog baths and local treatment with curative bog’ says one entry for numerous resorts will tell tale names like Alpenmoorbad, and Moorbad St. Felix. Their English language brochure Nature the Healer pictures patient/holidaymakers of a certain age and girth, too regular teeth and lots of laugh lines.

The Austrian National Tourist Office, 30 St. George Street, London W1R 9FA. (01-692 0461) offers information. In Austria treatment, sports facilities and accommodation are separately priced. Rooms in private houses and treatments booked separately in the big spa hotels offer opportunities for cutting costs.

The list of French spas reads like a tasting for bottled waters – Vichy, Vittel, Evian, and their literature is peopled with the youthful models the mineral water people use to advertise their wares – lissom girls who are plainly too perfect to need the mudpacks. French spas, of which there are more than 100 scattered all over the country, include Brides-les-Bains (echoes of those notorious murders which scandalized Victorian England). They are less brazen in their theraputic claims than those of other European countries.

The French Government Tourist Office, 178 Piccadilly, London W1 (01-491 7622) has a variety of useful literature including a pamphlet France Pays de la Sante which lists the treatments offered by all the spas. Beauty and stress treatments are popular and some of the resorts will sell forfaits for treatments on the ski-pass and sports package principle.

As an example, a two star hotel in Vichy charges from Pounds 880 for a 10 day stay on half board with three individual treatments a day, resort transport, and access to sports facilities.

Italian spas outnumber the French by at least two to one, and include another name of mineral water fame, San Pellegrino. Their powers and attractions are generously covered in Atlante delle Terme Italiane from the Italian State Tourist Office, 1 Princes Street, London W1R 8AY (01-408 1254). Treatments are sold separately and also on season tickets and are in addition to accommodation.

Germany has a whole alphabet of spas from Bad Abbach to Bad Zwischenahn, and the German National Tourist office, 61 Conduit Street, London W1. (01-734 2600) has information of many of them. Treatments are individually priced and not generally packaged with accommodation. Typical treatment prices at Bad Reichenhall start with inhalations from Pounds 1.50, rising to Pounds 10 per day.

Waltzing around Matilda Bay

There are 39 steps up to the cup. It was 10 minutes to knocking-off time for Harry Harris, one of the Royal Perth Yacht Club’s three part-time America’s Cup attendants, and his day had been an average one.

He had guided a routine 300 visitors upstairs to the committee room where the cup – as lavish a silver overstatement as a Victorian ball-gown – stands behind plate glass against a background of red suedette. Harry Harris’s feet had counted those stairs and if I did not mind going up there without him he would stay in his chair by the door.

In color on the wall. Alan Bond, the man whose triumph over the New York Yacht Club and with it the rest of the world was celebrated by the whole of Australia, beams with victorious triumph. The teeth, the smile, the tan, all badges of a 1980s winner. Flanking the ebullient Bond, formal in fading black and white, elegant hulls with flannelled crews clip through the waves of long forgotten summers.

Out on the late afternoon sparkle of Matilda Bay, boats tugged at their weekday moorings, metal shrouds and halyards shrilling in the breeze. A truant few puffed up their spinnakers and raced for a distant marker. There are always sails to be seen here on the protected waters of the Swan River.

This is the view from the office towers of Perth’s business district, a litter-free city idyll of high-rise new and low-rise old, reprieved and restored and partially pedestrianized. The girls toss curls that might have been cut in Rome, wear frocks that would be fine in Bond Street, and order designer salads for lunch. The men look, well, Australian and drink good beer. No one stops to listen to the haunting, throaty pipe of a didgeridoo played by a skinny aboriginal boy.

Innovative is the knee jerk word in cooking circles. The verb to ensuite refers to bathroom alterations, the de facto relationships of social statistics refer to shack-ups, and lifestyle refers to everything from kitchens to aspirations.

People pursue their dreams more energetically, or perhaps more openly in Western Australia than in other places. They change their houses often, creating a property market that is large for the state’s one and a half million population – two thirds of it in Perth. They change partners often too. Of every five children in primary schools, three are said to go home to a single parent. Another often repeated assertion is that Perth’s rape rate is the highest in Australia, quite in contradiction to the feel of the place, which is safe, not to say dull.

As often as not Western Australians turn out to be Jerseymen or South Africans, Londoners, or from Yorkshire or Weybridge. And whether they had arrived two or 20 years or more ago, the idea of moving on is a cherished possibility. They are slow to trade in their nationality.

Despite all the affordable dream homes with pools and entertaining areas, jarra wood luxury kitchens, turbo spas, games rooms, and gardens plumbed to water themselves, despite high employment levels and one of the most agreeable climates in the world, there is a grudging case of mind which casts long shadows over human relationships and any but the most universal of material dreams.

Success is acceptable as long as the successful ones do not overstem an invisible boundary of ordinariness. Making money is very OK. Moving on socially, culturally or intellectually is suspect. They call it cutting down the tall poppies.

Between Perth and its port Fremantle at the mouth of the Swan, the river is flanked all the way by bungalowed suburbs. On the north shore are Claremont which has the best out-of-town shopping. Subiaco, a place to buy books or antiques. Cottesloe, a good address. The south shore road runs through Applecross, Alfred Cove, Bicton and Palmyra.

Fremantle is where the sailing action is. The America’s Cup races begin in October with the Australian 12-metre yachts racing each other for the honor of defending the cup. Simultaneously, the rest of the world will be competing to put up a challenger. The final races between a single Australian defender and the best of the rest will be held from February 5 to 27, 1987.

When Alan Bond brought the cup back to an incredulous West Australia three years ago, Fremantle was dozing in the sun. In the docks the sheep ships which look like skeleton multi-story car parks were doing regular business in live meat for the Middle East. Freo Markets, held every weekend in a turn-of-the-century market building behind terraced cottages for pensioner warders from the prison, were already offering salt-free sausages, hand-painted T-shirts, bric-a-brac and fancy boomerangs.

Across the street the Sail and Anchor was keeping up with demand for its famous beers: Dogbolter, Brass Monkey stout and Matilda Bay lager.

Since the win, money has poured into the town. Six-figure sums are the only ones – rock lobsters from up the coast, dhufish, gummy shark anyone notices. The town has changed and of course not everybody thinks for the better. If there is a single Victorian building that is not being given a face-lift I did not spot it. There is so much fresh paint about you can hardly smell the sea.

The weekend crowd on the waterfront has come to spot yachts and sample the seafood and chips. Across the harbor from the terrace of Lombardo’, a multi-million dollar restaurant complex, the hull of the Yacht Club Italiano’s boat is laced secretively into scarlet covers. The prow of South Australia, the boat next door, peeps over blue canvas screens.

Out on the water these wind- powered racing machines hold pacing trials round offshore markets – sleek fast yachts followed everywhere by their tenders, minder boats that carry extra sails, lunch boxes and provide the power to get safely in and out of harbor.

Turning the boats, training their crews and learning to make the most of local conditions takes months of solid work. It cannot all be fun but hearing Harold Cudmore, skipper of England’s Crusader Challenger, propose a particular run to his pacing partner with the words ‘it might make good sport’ brought the point of the exercise back into focus.

While cement mixers churn out the developments that the money men hope will put Western Australia on the international map, the yachtsmen are laboring to ensure that they will still be in town for the final races next year.