Friday, 6 April 2012

China to Italy and back again.

Bereft of funds, I've taken a weeks holiday and decided to immerse myself in a few creative projects, making the best use of my imagination to picture that my kitchen in North London is actually somewhere blissful, like a yoga retreat in Spain, or a remote island in Fiji.

I was sure that if I stretched my creative limits far enough, I could feel the warm sun on my back and the cool breeze in my hair, and that the pizza I bought from Budgens would taste as though it had been freshly baked in a wood-fired oven in, oo, Verona.

Not all great plans come to fruition. For a start, last weeks blazing sunshine and midsummer temperatures have faded in to grey skies and freezing cold winds. Added to this, my flatmate not only works from home, but this week has been struck down with flu and on her own admission is transforming the atmosphere of the flat in to that of an old people's home. An old people's home for the very elderly. And the very sick.

So what better action to take than to get out of the house, abandon my creative projects, and head in to town for a relaxing massage? What could be better than an hour of having my knots gently eased out whilst dozing face down on a plump treatment couch, surrounded by candles, low lights, soft towels and gentle music, with the scent of aromatic oils teasing me in to a stupor?

I found a deal through KGBDeals, offering the choice of an hour's reflexology session with a ten minute foot bath, or an hour's relaxing aromatherapy massage followed by a ten minute hot cupping session. I booked the appointment. Game On.

Half an hour before I was due to leave the house, I searched for the exact location on Google maps. And I found a single solitary review of the salon. Let's just say that it wasn't a very positive review. Something about finding a pubic hair on the towel, and the place being very grotty. And the massage being rubbish. I read the name of the salon again. It was a Chinese Medicine shop.

And all of a sudden I knew exactly what I was letting myself in for. This wasn't going to be the relaxing experience I had in my mind when I bought the deal.

Then again..... as an exercise reminiscent of my travelling days, it might just be perfect. I caught the train.

I arrived 20 minutes early and decided to take a look around. Next door I discovered an Italian Gelato shop called Scoop. They also did coffee, so I ordered a latte and sat down to drink it, jokingly chastising a guy sitting at the table next to me with his laptop, who wasn't drinking any coffee or eating any ice cream.

"I make the ice cream" he said.

Now this sounds like my kind of man. Not only did he make the ice cream, he also owned three shops full of ice cream. And the latte I was drinking was so incredibly creamy - was there ice cream in this too? Surely this was a million calorie latte?

We chatted for a while. I promised to return for ice cream. If it tasted anything like the latte (he assured me that his Gelato would hold its own in Italy) then I would be a fool not to.

I went next door for my appointment. I filled out the registration form, hesitating at the question "What symptoms do you have that has brought you here?"

I only wanted a relaxing massage.

I decided to tell them that I had a bit of back pain. Well, who doesn't.

"You need a treatment massage. It cost £10 extra."
"Thanks, but that's okay. I only want the relaxing massage today"
"Okay, but with treatment massage, you feel better"

Well, actually, sunshine, I've had numerous treatment massages and they leave bruises. Instantly I was transported back to my trip in South East Asia, where the masseurs spoke very little English and didn't seem to be able to either hear or understand the word "OWWWWWW!" no matter how loudly you said it. One young woman carried out Reflexology on my foot using a wooden dowel, and when I cried in pain she said "Yes, hurt now, feel better later!"

Well how about I feel better now, and don't hurt at all for the rest of the week?

When the form was completed and I had agreed on a Relaxing Massage Thank You, a very small Chinese woman took me downstairs and using her hands and raised eyebrows only, gestured that I should remove my clothes whilst she was out of the room. She spoke no English.

The room was a very bare treatment room. I was back in Laos. Except colder.

She returned when I had gingerly clambered on to the treatment couch. I say 'treatment couch' - it was actually more of a fortified pasting table, with an oval cut in one end for my face. Fearing that the damn thing might collapse at any minute, I tried not to neither breathe nor move.

And it turned out, she did speak a little English.

"You need treatment massage. You pay ten pound. Relaxing massage no good for you. You pay ten pound, you get treatment massage, you feel better".


After 5 minutes of holding my ground without making any sudden movements lest I end up on the floor (and required a whole different type of treatment), she relented and started to massage my back with Johnson's Baby Oil, using firm thumb strokes to pick out every knot along my back, and sighing as she twanged each one.

It wasn't the most relaxing of massages, it has to be said. At some point I realised that she thought that my spine ought to be located in the front of my body. But I comforted myself with the prospect of Italian Gelato and tried not to panic when she needlessly knelt on the side of the pasting table, making it creak and groan rather loudly. I also tried to ignore it when she sneezed.

After the massage I was lucky enough to receive a free consultation where I was told which vertebrae were out of alignment, and which of the treatments would fix them. They were trying to help. I wasn't asking for help. I was asking for a relaxing massage.

An hour and twenty minutes after entering Laos, I returned to Italy, and bought a waffle cone filled with the best tasting ice cream I have ever had.

If any of you were around Covent Garden yesterday afternoon, and saw a white woman with a sore back eating ice cream and making sex noises all the way to Leicester Square.. that was me.

Thank heavens I was on holiday - I would never do this in my own country....


  1. I thought I was the only one who makes sex noises over ice cream...
    Enjoy Pasach!

    1. Hi e! LOL - No, you are not on your own on that one!
      Chag Sameach to you too! xx

  2. Really enjoyed your blog......long time no hear.
    Ice cream sounds good right about now. x