Martin Rowson's cartoon of Laurie Taylor, Mar/Apr '10What time would you like your medical?” said the man behind the reception desk.

“I’m sorry?”

“Your medical examination. What time?”

I’d felt a faint shiver of concern as I’d walked underneath the engraved “Mens sana in corpore sano” sign which decorated the Gothic arch of Blogshott Towers Health Farm, but the news that I needed to be medically examined was even more disturbing.

“It’s compulsory?” I asked. “I’m only really here for a few days’ good rest.”

“We do advise it for someone like yourself who’s opted for the Gold Treatment Package.”

In truth I couldn’t remember opting for any particular treatment. I’d simply ticked “Gold Package” in much the way that I lazily nod my head when I’m asked if I want “Grande” in a Caffe Nero.

“I’ll skip it this time,” I said.

He nodded grudgingly and began a recitation of the regulations. During my stay at Blogshott Towers I’d be required to wear the white terry towelling robe and soft moccasin slippers whenever I left my room. I’d also be required to walk slowly at all times and keep my voice at a level which did not disturb the other guests.

So many rules. But the room did much to revive my spirits. It was warm and comfortable with a large double bed and a view of snow-covered fields through the picture window. I took out my unread novels and lined them up neatly next to the television. Then the phone rang.

“Your holistic therapy treatment is due in fifteen minutes,” said a soothing voice. “Room 59 in the Nirvana extension.”

It seemed churlish not to go. Why not get value for money? And anyway, “holistic” sounded reasonably promising. Who on earth would want “partial” or “bit and piece” therapy?

But it only took a few minutes with my stern young female therapist to realise that I was going to have to lose more than weight or stress if I hung around Blogshott Towers for too long. I would have to kiss goodbye to the sound mind advertised on its Gothic arch.

“You know about the importance of chakras?” she began. “Not really,” I admitted. “I see,” she said, looking rather like a waitress dealing with a diner who’d cursorily rejected the dish of the day. “But you’re familiar with the idea of energetic boundaries?” I told her I’d have to pass on that one as well.

“Auras?” she said. “Not really,” I told her. “Negative and positive energy?” “I’m so sorry.”

She ploughed on regardless. It was, I learned, important to get my chakras in alignment and once that had been achieved (I gathered I’d need several sessions) I’d find that my aura colours were beginning to glow more brightly.

I shuffled back to my room, lay down and began the first page of Wolf Hall. “Across the Narrow Sea. Putney, 1500.” And then the phone rang. “Mr Taylor. A treatment reminder. Your Reiki session begins in fifteen minutes in the Patience annexe.”

Reiki? I went to the brochure on the television table. It was not good news. Reiki turned out to mean the detection of life force energy by the laying on of hands. But there was worse to come. As I read the details of the Gold Package option I realised that I’d also signed up for Flotation Therapy in which I’d have to lie floating in a bath for two hours in order to reduce my “cortisol” level, and for Crystal Therapy, which among other treats involved wearing a large lump of amethyst around my neck so as “to ease my heartache”.

And then my mobile rang. It was my old friend, Victor. “So sorry but I can’t chat,” I told him. “But I’ve just checked into this health farm and they’re nagging me to go for another treatment. Can I ring you back?”

His voice was uncharacteristically tender. “Laurie,” he said slowly. “I’m not certain the best way to tell you this”

“Tell me what?”

“Tell you that it’s not a health farm. It’s a care home. There’s been a little deception. But frankly it was the only way to get you into an institution. Don’t worry though. We’ll all be coming to visit you when the weather is more seasonable and very soon Matron will be taking you for your walk.”

It was the last straw. As soon as I’d clicked the phone shut, I tore off my towelling gown and moccasin slippers, pulled on jeans and sweater and set off for the exit leaving a trail of shuffling crones in my noisy wake.

Once outside I started running as fast as I could down the side of the busy main road until finally I staggered, suitcase in hand, into the village of Blogshott and into the saloon bar of the Blogshott Arms.

“Pint of bitter,” I said.

“No need to shout,” said the amiable barman.

“Oh yes, there is,” I said, realising even as I spoke that suddenly my chakras were in perfect alignment.