The Boot Camp – Excerpt

Windy Hill Country House Hotel and Spa, Devon

 Dear Boot Camper,

 Are you ready? Because your life is about to change for the better!

You’ve heard it all before, right? You’ve bought the book, the T-shirt, the DVD, and the hypnotherapy tape too. There’ve been hi-tech gyms, old-school gyms, machines that vibrate your fat away. Juice fasts, meal replacements, colonic irrigation. A thousand pain-free, easy ways to a New You.

So how come the Old You is still hanging around like a bad smell?

At Windy Hill Boot Camp, we can make you a promise. If you do as we say for one week – that’s just one hundred and sixty-eight hours, or a measly ten thousand minutes – then the New You you’ve been longing for will finally make an appearance.

Don’t be afraid – you have nothing to lose but your muffin top tummies! We can’t wait to meet you and start you on your New You Journey. All we ask in return is one thousand per cent commitment. Oh, and that you bring enough sports bras. Prepare to get sweaty.

In return, we also promise delicious, nutritious food to support your body in its new adventure. Luxury accommodation (no bunk beds or latrines!). And plenty of holistic support and massage to keep your body and soul on track.

Ready? Steady! Boot Camp is GO!

 Love and good karma,

Edie Simmonds, Chief Executive & Holistic Leader, Windy Hill and Spa Boot Camp

‘The celebrities’ best kept booty secret’

Day 1: Sunday – The first day of the rest of your life

 How you’ll be feeling: excited, perhaps a little apprehensive. But don’t worry. You’ll love camp – and you’ll love your Staffs, too!

 14:00     Compulsory safety & logistics briefing. Please note: there will be no refreshments provided so eat beforehand. High protein recommended.

15:00     Fitness tests and weigh-in

17:30     Snack and recreation/unpacking time  

18:00     Visualisation session

19:00     Dinner: Chef’s Special Chilli sin Carne, Power Grains, Spicy Apple Surprise, Sleepyhead tea

Please note all activities and meals are subject to change due to circumstances beyond our control

Chapter 1


I can see them through the big bay window: two blokes in black army berets and camouflage gear, cross-armed and wide-legged, as though their balls are so big that they can’t stand comfortably any other way.


Through the speckled glass, they look almost friendly. OK. I’ll downgrade that to reasonable. Or perhaps firm but fair. Not the kind of guys who’d be too hard on a girl who’s had the misfortune to arrive for the Compulsory Safety and Logistics Briefing thirteen minutes late, through absolutely no fault of her own.

I raise my hand to rap the lion’s head knocker against the chipped black door, but my hands are shaking too much.

Bloody hell. I didn’t have that khaki rash when I left London. Stress, it must be. I need to breathe more.

‘. . . punctuality is NONNEGOTIABLE !

The window rattles as one of the soldiers suddenly turns up the volume. I shrink back.

I did everything possible to be on time. My own New You Journey was meant to start with a gentle awakening at seven, thanks to the Brighter Beginning Dawn Simulation Clock that my brothers clubbed together to buy me for Christmas.

Then I’d planned some gentle yoga stretches to loosen up my body ahead of the week’s exertions, followed by a breakfast of half a lemon squeezed into room-temperature (not refrigerated) Evian. I’d already set the sat nav to take me to boot camp via a designer shopping village where I planned to buy some knock-down exercise kit – an investment in the new me – before a final relaxed drive along the coast to arrive early at the Windy Hill Country House Hotel and Spa. Hey, I might even have managed a quick dip in the Jacuzzi.

I was so going to be Teacher’s Pet this time. To prove I can change, not just to Steve but also to myself (not to mention lose at least two stone before the Valentine’s Ball in thirty-three days’ time. But who’s counting?).

‘Self-discipline is NONNEGOTIABLE !

Like most disasters, today’s was caused by a chain of events. Despite knowing my tech-ineptitude, my brothers bought me the most complex alarm clock on the market, which failed to go off due to user error, so it was real daylight that woke me at a very un-crack-of-dawn-like quarter to ten.

I then downsized my yoga routine to the last three of the exercises on the Mail on Sunday’s ‘Shake Your Booty’ poster, but got locked in the Downwardly Mobile Dog and had to drive my car in a position that will henceforth be renamed as the Giraffe with Rigor Mortis.

When I got to the shopping village, it had been evacuated because the young offenders at the prison next door were rioting over the sub-zero temperatures in their single-glazed cells. The only other option my sat nav could offer was the Happy Valley Hypermarket, a chain so downmarket that in the retail trade we call it Crappy Valley. But what other choice did I have? Do seven days of workouts in kitten-heeled ankle boots and too-tight-even-before-Christmas size fourteen jeans?

‘Respect for yourself and others is NONNEGOTIABLE!

So instead of weather-proof designer workout gear, my kit for boot camp consists of twenty pairs of acrylic Homer Simpson socks, two underwired sports bras so vicious MI5 could use them to extract confessions, one pair of mud-brown trainers, and five Juicy Couture-style patterned tracksuits in different sizes and colours (I cleared the entire shelf). The one I tried on over my clothes had a khaki camouflage print, which might at least help me blend into the foliage on manoeuvres.


Ah. That’ll be the rash, then. I knew that fabric didn’t look colour-fast. At least I worked that out before asking the squaddies for emergency medical treatment.

‘If there’s one thing we hate, it’s SLACKERS! And MOANERS! And WHINGERS!’

Then the postcode I’d put into the sat nav took me to the wrong cliff. Sure, I had the perfect view of the whitewashed building from over there, but it took me another half hour to find a single soul to ask for directions, and then drive my protesting Panda up the impossibly steep single-track road.

Twelve-foot gates loomed ahead like the entrance to a Victorian gaol, and when I tried to unbolt them, my fingers froze on the rusted metal. There was a padlock and chain looped round one of the curlicues – maybe they’re going to lock us in later?

Close-up, the hotel’s whitewash is crumbling off like country house dandruff, and the sash windows rattle thanks to the wind and the parade-ground orders from the sergeant major.

Oh God. Maybe Steve is right. In life’s great journey, I’m more of a passenger than a pilot. Boot camp? Who am I kidding . . .

‘But if there’s one thing we hate above all others, it’s lazy, LARDY, good-for-nothing LATECOMERS!’

Shit. He’s seen me. Not the doe-eyed one, but the shorter one with the World War One moustache. The one who’s been doing all the shouting so far.

He’s walking towards the window. No, marching.

I should smile. Or run. Or something. But as I stare into the abyss behind his black eyes, my body is paralysed. That doesn’t bode well for ten hours a day of exercise.

‘GIRT YOUR . . . RATTLE . . . BODY . . . RATTLE . . . HERE.’

He’s so furious that I can only make out some of the words as he rants and raves. The paintwork is flaking off the window frames, like the Puff Pastry Cream Horns I was testing on Friday for our Granny Knows Best range.

Despite my fear, my tummy rumbles.

The soldier looks hungry, too. His lips are pulled back in an expression that makes me think of the dangerous dogs you see on the news. The glass has steamed up, inside and out. He’s unhinged.

No. It’s just an act, isn’t it? Professional women don’t pay good money to be abused and bullied. God knows, I can get that at work. The brochure said boot camp takes the positive bits of military discipline: teamwork, supporting one’s fellow woman, being the best . . .

The soldier’s eyes widen and I realise his doe-eyed sidekick has said something to him. Don’t headbutt the window, maybe?


Behind the two men, ten women are watching me with relieved expressions. As I head for the front door, I realise why, and my heart sinks even further.

They know the soldier has found his scapegoat. Which means they’re in the clear.