How Do You Spa Alone?

Almost 9:45am Saturday, March 21st, 2020

I felt just a little verklempt yesterday morning when I looked at the clock and realized that my massage would have been happening just about then. Sigh.

But what could I do? I began to feel sorry for myself.

I know, I know. People are experiencing far, far worse than having to cancel a massage these days.

This apocalypse has wreaked havoc, and then some. I mean, when have we experienced anything like this in our lifetimes? It’s unprecedented.

But I digress. The spa.

Every year for the past 15 years, my friends and I have traveled up island to a little town named Parksville here on Vancouver Island to spend a weekend together. We bring food and wine (lots of wine) and we laugh and go to the outdoor hot tub, and then we have our spa appointments on the Saturday, and then we eat more food and drink more wine…

You get the picture. We’ve never missed a year until this year.

2020. The year of the rat.


As I allowed myself to soak in self pity, I suddenly had an idea. Instead of self pitying, what about self spa’ing? There’s an idea!! I bounded out of my chair (okay, bounding isn’t something I do anymore) and began to think about how I could replace each element of the weekend without actually going anywhere.

First, there’s the wine. And wine. And wine.

Usually, we all take turns posing with the wine. But since my friends would likely be horrified to be seen posing with so much alcohol, I’ve only posted a pic of me and the wine. It’s a lot of wine, no? To be honest, we often bring a bottle or two home at the end of it all. Or one.

This year:

Well, at least the liquor stores were still open when I went looking for something! Small blessings.

Then there’s the food. We will often go to a restaurant on one evening and then just bring our own food to the condo for the rest of the weekend. This year, we were going to make it all ourselves.

One of my favourite times, as far as the food goes, was our 10th anniversary at the spa, when we hired a chef. Yep. He came with the food, and the dishes and everything he/we needed, and cooked up a fabulous meal. He even took the dirty dishes away. All we had to do was eat and drink.

It was amazing.
This year I’d planned to bring Danish open-faced sandwiches. Something like this:

I couldn’t get to the store to buy all the trimmings. But I did get the rye bread! So…

      At least we have lots of butter….

The complex we stay in has a couple of outdoor hot tubs. It is our tradition, on each night (and usually after a certain amount of wine) to throw on our bathing suits and robes, and head off into the night out the hot tub. Sometimes there are other people there. They don’t last long. Five giddy, soused women is usually enough to drive them away. Here’s a pic from a long time ago. I don’t know who took it, probably someone we cajoled into doing so before they ran away:

I feel that we are hidden well enough by the steam to keep us anonymous. But the smiling Thrifty’s bag in the back is a bit creepy.

So what was I to do? I don’t have a hot tub.

But I have a tub! And it has hot water!

Not quite as fun as having my friends with me. But it set the mood.
And then there was the spa part. Okay, that was a bit more tricky. No one in my house was willing to give me a massage. Well, one was, but let’s not go there.
I do, however, have a back scratcher:
Don’t be fooled. I enjoyed that.
The very last element I had to reproduce was the pedicure. Now, that’s easy enough to do by myself, but if one has a man servant, well, why not try that? He was willing. It went well. At first.
Just slip on the toe separators and off you go.
Not bad for a start.
Okay, slipped a little…
You can only imagine a guy thinking of using tape to isolate the nail. I got lucky because he was actually looking for painter’s tape.
And, well. 
Okay, I did the rest.
The thing I really missed most? Okay, I missed all of it, but the thing I REALLY missed most was the toe shot at the end. We always line our feet up and take pictures. I can’t tell you how many toe shots I have. Well, I guess I have fourteen sets of them that look something like this:
Yeah, it was a bit lonely this year:
To be serious for a moment, even though I do really miss my friends and our weekend together, I am very happy that so far, at least, we are all healthy and safe at home. And when this pandemic passes, and it will one day, we will meet again. I’m betting that we are going to enjoy THAT spa weekend most of all!
Love, your pal,



The Last Of The Jackson Clan

Uncle Bob the Boy Scout
The Jackson Clan, little Uncle Bob in the middle.

He was the lucky one. Certainly lucky that he had been born at the end of the Great Depression instead of during it. Lucky that he survived that fire cracker exploding in his pocket, but not without a lot of scars as a result. And especially lucky that he walked away from that plane crash on Vancouver Island as a pilot in the Air Force, with barely a scratch.

He was also lucky that he found a wonderful, supportive partner in my Aunt Margie, who urged him to go on to higher education. I was a 4-year-old flower girl at their wedding. Aunt Margie’s persistence and Uncle Bob’s smarts eventually lead him to become an associate professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia and later at Boston University.

They lived in Nairobi, Kenya for a couple of years while he was getting his PhD, and where, in 1969, they had their only child, my cousin Jennifer. Then there were the adventures. Or misadventures, depending on your point of view.

The house they lived in outside of Nairobi was up on stilts for good reason, especially if you didn’t enjoy spiders and snakes. Aunt Margie told the story of one day,  upon hearing Jennifer crying upstairs, she got up and walked over to the staircase, when out of the corner of her eye she noticed a dark spot on the wall. As she turned to look at it, she realized she was face to face with a tarantula.

Although she was scared out of her wits and definitely not fond of spiders, Aunt Margie was first and foremost a mother, and realized she was going to have to kill the thing. But how do you kill a tarantula? Her first, albeit instinctual move, was to throw some of my Uncle Bob’s books at it. Every book missed, and as each one hit the wall, she swore that a leg of the tarantula would kick out at her in self defense.

Ultimately, it was a kettle full of boiling water that did the creature in. My Uncle Bob came home later that day to find a bunch of his water-soaked books strewn up and down the stairs, a dead tarantula, and my Aunt Margie sitting with little Jennifer, emotionally exhausted. Lucky HE didn’t have to fight the tarantula.

They came back to Canada with a boatload of stories, and gave me a lion made out of banana leaves, telling me to look out for bugs that might still be inside of it. I think they referred to them as “do do’s”. I kept my eye on it.

Africa seemed to set the tone for their lives, and they had many more memorable experiences, seeing the world whenever they could find the time, and finally settling down to retire in the U.K. in 2013.

In the late spring of 2017, my husband and I made the trip to Europe, our first one, where we visited London, Paris and Copenhagen. On our second-to-last day in London, we met up with Uncle Bob and Aunt Margie for lunch. The lunch lasted about three hours while we did a lot of laughing and sharing of stories, finding out what life was like for them living in the UK. It was a wonderful time and one I’ll never forget.

A visit in London.

The next morning, June the 3rd, we woke up to scores of messages and texts on our phones and found out that there had been an attack by a “lorry” on London Bridge. The three occupants crashed the van into scores of people, and then they ran into Borough Market where they proceeded to stab whoever they came into contact with. In the end, 8 people died and 48 were injured. Uncle Bob also sent us a message, hoping that we wouldn’t let that incident spoil the rest of our trip. We decided to Keep Calm and Carry On in the British tradition.

Early last year, Uncle Bob became ill, which many months later lead to a diagnosis of a particularly rare and deadly form of cancer. But he and Aunt Margie were still able to celebrate their 58th wedding anniversary, Jennifer’s birthday, Bob’s birthday and his grandson Ben’s birthday, all in the last couple of months. I think he would have considered that pretty lucky.

We were all hoping there would be more time, but isn’t that always the way? I find myself with tears saying goodbye to the luckiest, and the last, of the Jackson clan.

Skol, Uncle Bob,
Love, Irene

Robert H. Jackson
Feb.23 1938 – Mar 10 2020