It’s the day after horse riding, my arse cheeks feel like hamburger, and if I’d thought I’d activated every muscle known to man in the last few days, apparently there are a few new riding relevant ones that are feeling the burn today.
The only place I feel comfortable is in the hammock and I’m mincing around like a de-Zimmered pensioner, so it’s time for that massage, methinks.
‘Are you sure you are up for it?’ asks the lovely, concerned Manager whilst my yoga teacher screws up her nose and bears her teeth in a most unnerving, off putting grimace, ‘Sadie is great but rather, well, vigorous…’
That may well be the case, but I like a proper hands on skin massage and the only other option is a man who does the Thai version, where I’m told, you get poked with a stick and I’m afraid anyone who did that to me today would be taking their life in their hands.
I’m under no illusion that this will be anything other than a painful 90 minutes, but I’m braced and ready.
‘Oh, you’re having a “Sadie” this afternoon Sista, aren’t you?’ coos one of the girls at me over lunch, ‘Lucky you, she’s really good, and not too firm at all! Well,’ she puffs her chest out in a pseudo butch fashion, ‘she wasn’t firm enough for me!’
I arrange my features in a feeble attempt at an amused rictus and nod weakly.
How lonely I feel amongst these ‘normals’; if I were with my real friends, I would be able to sound off about how, in some ways, I’d prefer Sadie to pick one of those prickly pears off that tree and slam it up my arse instead of pummel the crap out of me, because I’m so fucking sore, but am conscious that they think I’m a hypochondriac, so I keep schtum.
Sensing that, despite my faux enthusiastic grin, that I am less than keen to be Sadie’d, Ms Not-Firm-Enough-For-Me turns swiftly to the person next to her and irritates the shit out of her instead with her ‘I love everything’ bollocks.
When the allotted time comes, I limp down to the treatment suite and with great trepidation, knock on the door.
I am greeted by a tall, lean, Aussie version of Madge from ‘Benidorm’ with the bluest eyes I have ever seen.
‘Aw, hi there!’ she bawls in gravelly tones, breaking out a dazzling toothy smile, ‘you must be Sista! Well come on in, don’t be shy!’
I like her immediately so I shamble in and slowly sit down.
‘Ah you’re the one who gets migraines aintcha, thought you looked a bit crook! What else has bin goin’ on?’
Again, I don’t want to bore off about my conditions, but I give her a bit of a quick potted history on my physical ailments and she nods whilst simultaneously taking a deep drag on a rather dubious looking rollie, exhaling smoke out the window as she listens.
‘Mate, that’s no good is it? OK, let’s get ya kit off and on the couch, face down I think.’
For a moment, I don’t think she’s going to leave, then she starts, stubs her fag out, puts it into a little tin in her patchwork bag, and goes out of the room whilst I daintily disrobe, carefully clipping my hair atop of my head so I don’t get any oil in it, then ease myself painfully upon the couch.
This turns out to be a complete and total waste of time, as the minute she enters the room, she unclips my hair, quickly and firmly massages my scalp then mutters something, grabs a plastic bottle and the next minute I gasp in shock as she dashes what feels like about a cupful of Rosemary water/oil all over my bonce.
God, it stinks.
They say Rosemary is good for remembering stuff, well I’m going to start recalling past lives right back to Stone Age if she chucks anymore of this stuff on me.
That said, this was the calm before the storm.
The minute she starts work on me, I feel my muscles contract with pain.
I remain silent.
I will not be a whinging pom.
I would appreciate a rubber block to bite on though, and wonder if she’s got one in that little bag of tricks of hers.
‘Oh my Gawd!’ she suddenly bawls, ‘What is goin’ on here?’
I unclamp my jaw and reiterate my history of war wounds.
‘Yes babe, I know, but seriously, you are in bad shape! Everything is rock hard! This is not good, not good! How the hell did ya get like this?’
And suddenly, right there and then, I feel like I’m with a friend.
I don’t have to pretend that I’m OK!
Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t convince this woman that I’m not in pain. She knows just from palpating me that I’m not a hypochondriac, but a HSP with a history of serious physical ailments/injuries, a migraine sufferer, a teeth grinder and generally a big, gristly, sinewy ball of tension despite being on enough medication to stun a gorilla.
Suddenly her face appears at my shoulder, and like a blonde Little Bill to my knackered, oily Ned Logan, she solemnly tells me that she’s going to have to hurt me.
Not gentle like before.
But I’m determined to go with it, because I know it’s for my own good.
Suffice to say, Sadie is not prone to exaggeration; it fucking hurts, especially when she works on my head, neck and, especially my jaw.
‘OH MY GAWD!’ she shrieks, ‘This is TERRIBLE! How do you LIVE?!’
And somehow, through the pain, I actually manage to laugh at this, with relief, gratitude and genuine affection.
She, along with Aunty C, gets it.
Truly gets it.
‘Chick ya gotta let me in! Now take in deep breaths and when you let ‘em out, go ‘Ahh’ and let your tongue flop out.’
‘Tongue Sista, tongue!’
‘AL LLL, LLLL LLL, LLL…’
Jesus H C, I’ve never known pain like it.
‘AHH, LLLL, FUCK!!, LLL, LLL, LLL, AHH!’
‘Language Timothy’ she says rather randomly and we both giggle inanely.
‘Are you OK, well I can see you’re not? I’m sorry babe, do ya want me to keep goin’?’
Strangely enough I do. Because whilst I might have the audacity to moan about my pain and woes sometimes, I AM NO PUSSY.
So the next fifteen minutes consist of lots of ear splitting ‘AHHH’s’ and ‘OOHH’s’ and ‘OWWs’ ‘GAWD’s’ and ‘BLLL, LL, LL’s’ as my tongue alternately lolls and stiffens in agony like an unhappy cross between a Maori Warrior and Mylie Cyrus on speed.
God only knows what the people outside think is going on.
She ends the session with about ten minutes of soothing (well for her, anyway) effleurage and a ruffle of my hair as she leaves the room and waits for me to get up and get dressed.
I am absolutely exhausted, and think I’m in shock.
Sadies comes back into the room, blue eyes concerned, not altogether happy.
‘I haven’t gotten all the way in Sista, but I’ve made some headway? How ya feelin’? Is it any better?’
I tell her that it is and thank her, but I can’t actually tell as my nerve endings have made a mass exodus to a ‘happy place’ and don’t return for a good hour.
‘OK, but don’t stop now y’hear? Find someone good in London and get regular treatment as you are not in good shape babe. I know you left your job, but you’re still in knots and nothing is worth being in that kinda pain, ya hear?’
God I love this woman.
‘Thanks for nearly killing me and making me babble like a one year old!’
‘Jeez, don’t put that down in my visitors book, willya?’
We both laugh, she gives me a hug, and I shuffle back to the retreat, hit the hot tub (forgetting in my haste to take the requisite shower and I’m still smelling like a lamb roast, but FUCK IT, I don’t care), shower off and go for a snooze in my friend the hammock.
Later at dinner, I find myself sat across from, yes you’ve guessed it, the ever chirpy Ms NFEFM.
Next time I’m bringing in contraband booze as it’s the only way I can tolerate wankers like her without wanting to beat that Pollyanna shit out of them with my yoga belt.
‘How was your massage Sista?’ she asks, ‘Was it lovely, like mine?’ She looks around proudly to see if anyone is listening again.
No it wasn’t you dumb bitch, and neither was yours.
I have no intention of playing her pathetic macho game.
‘It hurt like fuck’ I reply, giving enough emphasis to that last word to make her choke on her onion bahji starter, ‘but she was brilliant.’
And I stare her out, daring her telepathically to roll her eyes at me one more time.
And the next day, whilst I wasn’t skipping up the path to the yoga shala, I was feeling a whole lot better.
So there you go.
So, for anyone who has ever thought that I have ever exaggerated, faked or pretended to have these ailments, I’m going to momentarily borrow Spike Milligan’s gravestone epitaph:
‘I told you I was ill’