Quite a few years ago, when I lived in Johannesburg, I had bad sciatica, and my brother-in-law suggested I go to the Warmbaths Spa nearby to see if the healing waters would really heal. “Are you crazy?” I asked him. “Ever tried to find accommodation at a health spa? It costs an arm and a leg ….or possibly two legs.”
“Well, that would be one way to get rid of your sciatica,” he grinned. “Anyway, you can use my caravan. It’s parked on a friend’s farm nearby. Very basic, but there’s a TV in the cottage, and a generator for electricity.”
Well, if you’ve ever suffered from sciatica you’ll know that you are prepared to try anything, so I asked my friend, Bunny, to join me. “Count me in,” she said. “Mud baths and massages, here we come.”
Before I left, Roy said, “Don’t forget to lift the caravan’s ventilation panel so you have some air to breathe while you sleep, but if it’s windy, put it down, or the whole caravan could get blown over.” Then he added: “It’s not likely to storm though; they haven’t had rain for donkey’s years.” What do they say about ill-fated words?
So off we went in my little Mazda, and spent our days at the spa, trundling back along the sand road to the farm in the evening. After starting the generator, we’d eat, and watch television until the host of creepies that came to make a meal of us drove us to the caravan to sleep.
Then one evening the rain did come — just a few drops. The generator was outside the house, so we quickly built it a hut with bricks and corrugated iron. But later a wind came up, which threatened to blow us away house and all, whilst the roof of the generator flew off with a clatter.
“The caravan!” Bunny exclaimed, and she was out of the door. Before I could follow her the heavens opened and the motor faded with a whimper. In seconds it was pitch-black, the ground outside had turned into a swamp, and all I could do was curl up fetus-style on the battered couch, afraid this roof was also going to take off as thunder shook the walls, and my heart shook in my breast.
After the storm passed, I hurried to check on Bunny. She had made it to the caravan before the deluge, and struggled to put down the panel, with legs and arms stretched to their limit, whilst the van rocked like a ship in a hurricane, and the rain poured in. Finally closing it, she collapsed onto a damp bunk with the muscles in her arms and legs ready to fall off. Soon we were collapsing again, this time with laughter as we relived the events of the evening.
Next day the sky was azure blue again as the sun worked overtime to try and dry up the mud river that was once a road. But pump the clutch as I might, sciatica screaming ‘stop!’, my car slid in the oozy muck, until it came to a halt against a rock a few kilometers from another farm. Out we climbed to get some help, and I thought this holiday was going to be the death of me as I slipped and skidded more than once in the oozy mud, picking up barbs and thorns from the wild vegetation as we passed. When we finally limped into our neighbor’s gate, we must have looked an utter mess, but they invited us in for a welcomed cup of coffee, while a tractor was commandeered to pull our car out.
It was time to go home, and back in Johannesburg, we saw that there was a carpet of green leaves under every tree. “It’s been hailing here!” I said. When we got home, we were regaled with lots of stories of “what happened when the hail struck,”but I must confess that it was our story that rolled them in the aisles.
Mud baths at Warmbaths? You can keep them!
— Shirley Friedman
Shirley Friedman, author of the memoir Flies in the Milk, loved reading Erma Bombeck’s humorous pieces and writing about her own about her life. She’s an actress, singer, writer and artist who lives in the United Kingdom.