Health & Grooming | Chronicles of a Spa Junkie

Spa Junkie at… Porchester Spa in London

The search for a cure for ‘Sunday night syndrome’ could be over

Spa Junkie at… Porchester Spa in London

Image: Jay Yeo

December 20 2011
Spa Junkie

Part: 1 | 2

An employment appeal tribunal in the US recently ruled that “Sunday night syndrome”, which it defined as “a dread of having to return to work – typically experienced at the end of the weekend”, is not a legal impairment – an interesting judgment for those of us who usually feel inexorably impaired during the less-than-magic hours experienced after 4pm on any given Sunday.

It’s that Bermuda triangle time of the week which typically follows obligatory lunches with ageing relatives or, in my case, the end of a Bloody Mary marathon. It’s too late to start anything new, and yet one is not willing to accept defeat to the inevitable start of the working week and the anxiety it encapsulates.

Forget death and taxes; what universally unites us is the gloom that descends with the darkness. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student who has procrastinated over an overdue essay through a weekend of cheap debauchery or the CEO of a Footsie in rapid decline – 4pm on a Sunday seems to hit us all.

There are few things I can do to distract myself from this state of mild despair that don’t involve the absent-minded grazing of Sunday lunch leftovers or polishing off the bottle of red left from the dinner party the night before.

Enter the Porchester Centre Spa, a gem in London’s Bayswater where couples can while away the hours normally reserved for excessive analysis of the state of their careers, relationships and, well, just about anything bad they’ve read in the Sunday papers that may give them cancer.

Located in a perfectly preserved 1929 art deco building, the Porchester Spa is normally reserved for women until 4pm on a Sunday, when it throws open its doors to both genders in a gesture of feelgood equality – as if the spa gods knew that this was the hour, of all hours, to give our men a break.

Authenticity is the keyword here. I know never to expect to be overwhelmed by a fog of incense or be lulled by a soundtrack of dolphins mating. I enter the large, airy relaxation hall, resplendent with art nouveau lamps and original tiles, and have to search for two spare white plastic loungers reminiscent of summer holiday rituals. But the atmosphere is hushed and the warmth generated from the steam rooms below always make me feel a bit like I’m wrapped in a fluffy robe – which is handy, as no actual fluffy robes are on offer (so don’t ask).

Adjacent to the relaxation room is a municipal pool, which makes this place perfect for myself and The Italian, as I’m usually keen to thrash out some laps while he prefers to flop dreamily in the steam beneath. A grand spiral staircase leads to a beautiful kidney-shaped ice plunge pool – location of The Italian’s favourite masochistic display of masculinity – and, a level below that, to a warren of interconnected Turkish hot rooms and Russian steam rooms, where I test my mettle in the gradual increase of temperature. There is a fabulous sauna to sweat out the Saturday-night excess and private rooms where face and body treatments are on offer.

I start with a long swim, followed by a protracted session in the sauna, before a pang of hunger sends me to the main hall – via a heart-stopping dip in the cold plunge pool to tighten my lazy pores. There I have a healthy snack of soup and salad served to me at my lounger, while I browse through the menu of treatments.

I opt for a body scrub, which turns out to be heavenly – deeply invigorating and incredibly good value at just £15 for a blissful 45 minutes. Afterwards my body tingles with cleanliness. I then while away an hour in the Turkish steam room, dozing in the warmth, utterly detached mentally and physically from the grey London skies outside. Three-odd hours after entering, we emerge into the chilled air and bright buzz of Bayswater feeling as if we’ve been in a cocoon of warmth, and glowing with health.


The Porchester Spa is the perfect antidote to end-of-weekend gloom. Don’t expect warm towels, coddling service, and lots of bells and whistles; this is part of a municipal fitness and recreation centre, and as such is more democratic than five-star. But a few hours spent here in contemplation – even if it’s not always 100 per cent hushed – can do wonders to cleanse your body and spirit and prepare you for the onslaught of the working week. And at £24 per visit (plus the additional treatment costs, all of which are very reasonable), it won’t add to the weekend over-spend – giving you at least one less thing to be anxious about on Monday morning.

Spa Junkie pays for all her own travel, treatments and accommodation.