Another in my 5 Random words series where I am given five words to incorporate into a short story.
The words are Walk, Banana, National, Naturist and Undercroft.
6.30 a.m. I was beginning to hate my alarm clock but was determined to stick to my new ‘Keep fit and healthy’ regime. Throwing off the duvet I donned running shorts, top and trainers and set off. At this time of the morning everywhere was quiet and peaceful, and for once the sun was out to lift my spirits. As it was Saturday I didn’t need to rush back for work, so I decided to try a new route. Instead of the usual left turn which took me in a circle back towards home, I turned right onto a narrow path I had never explored before.
After following it for nearly a mile I was beginning to regret my decision, and the stitch in my side had forced me to slow to a walk. A board on the wall next to a large wooden gate provided the perfect excuse to stop and read the information on the plaque.
‘Welcome to Groveille Abbey. Originally a monastery, and subsequently a country manor it was gifted to The National Trust in 1942 by the late Lord Farquar, for the enjoyment of nature in all its forms.’
Underneath was a notice giving details of opening hours and further information about the property and surrounding parkland. It looked interesting but for now I was tired, hungry and thirsty, and wanted to get home. I returned to my usual route and twenty minutes later, completely exhausted, I was opening my own front door.
For once I intended to forget my healthy breakfast of yogurt and a banana and started preparing a fry-up, undoing all the good work of my extended run. The following Saturday I retraced my steps, and spent a pleasant afternoon browsing round the Abbey and gardens. Although dusk was falling I decided to explore a bit further, and was just turning back when I noticed another ancient property hidden away at the back of the estate.
Surprisingly lights were blazing, and I watched as streams of people began arriving at the open gates. I had assumed it was a wedding reception venue and was still hovering, intrigued, when a couple stopped next to me.
‘Hello there,’ one of them called, ‘You must be a new member. Are you coming to the Undercroft Club?’
‘Er, well, I wasn’t intending to, I was just sort of passing,’ I replied, not even sure what the club was all about.
‘Come on, you’ll love it,’ the woman replied taking my arm and leading me up the long drive and then round to a side entrance. She rang a bell and almost immediately a grill in the door slid open.
‘Hi Gary,’ she called. ‘It’s Jenny and Jack. We’ve brought a guest with us.’
We were ushered in, and at first I could see nothing in the dim light except a flight of stairs leading downwards. I began to feel apprehensive but my new-found friends urged me on, and as my eyes adjusted I noticed old-fashioned gas lamps illuminating the steps. After the gloom of the descent, the light seemed dazzling when Jack opened a door at the bottom to reveal an enormous cellar area, which must have run the whole length and width of the house above.
In one corner I could see people playing badminton, in another a circle of chairs was apparently a literary group as they were all sitting discussing the same book. A tantalising smell wafted from one corner and I caught a glimpse of tables, chairs and sofas set around a cafe/restaurant area. There was even an indoor splash pool and spa section, and I was amazed at the number and diversity of the people using the club. Old, young, male, female, it seemed as if they only had one thing in common- They were all naked.
‘The changing rooms are over here,’ Jenny said. ‘You get stripped off and we’ll see you in a few minutes. We do all-sorts here, nature walks, seminars on diet and nutrition, film evenings, monthly dinner-dances and live music. I’m sure you’re going to love it. Welcome to our Naturist club.’
‘Oh well,’ I thought as I put my clothes in the locker and wrapped the key on the band around my wrist, ‘In for a penny, in for a pound. At least it will encourage me to keep in shape.’
© Voinks September 2017