A few weeks ago I went for a massage. Like all therapies, massage is considered an indulgence because it is a costly non-necessity. Actually, it is a way to heal and we all need to do as much of that as possible.
I sourced a Thai parlour in W3, not self-described as such but in need of re-branding should it wish to attract Smarties. Undeterred by the offer of an evening slot and the ghostly moans of gentlemen seeking help to accomplish an abridged version of Phileas Fogg’s travels, I booked.
Scaffolded outside and down-wind from Morrisons, the venue requires you to ‘think of your happy place’ to get in the mood. Once in the door, a Thai receptionista (who quite surely had not always had the ‘a’ on the end of her job description) greeted me with the waft of suspicion, as a brothel-keeper might Anthea Turner. It seemed the Gods hadn’t considered growing up in Acton with gender confusion to be sufficiently character-building, for I couldn’t help but notice she was blessed with an extra thumb.
‘What massage you here for?’ she asked.
‘Swedish,’ I replied. (not joking.)
‘What?’ she leaked, probably thinking her day was only getting weirder.
‘Sorry, I was thinking about something else. (Clocks?!) I mean a full body.’
Unconvinced, she asked me for the dough and I was in.
No waffley surveys asking about neck problems or Doctor’s surgery postcodes; no attempts even to sell waffle dressing gowns or Chai tea. Just get-your-kit-off: great.
Discombob ensued when I realised the non-Swedish Thai massage therapist was going to be the non-Thai Hungarian girl who had been polishing off a finger snack at Reception.
As I tried to do a mental risk analysis of Wotsit-infused massage oil (protein enrichment from the cheese flavouring vs. topically applied calories) I thought, ‘Hold on a Quavering minute!’
Because if you book a Thai massage, you expect a Thai to be doing it (extra digits are a Brucie bonus). Don’t you? Is that racist? Aren’t the people in the title of their skill the best at it, possessed of some sort of ancient, visceral wisdom? Or would Jamie Oliver be somehow less punchable as Nobu’s head chef?
This was never going to be a real-life conversation (‘Will you be able to do that walky up and down thing, with your gangly European limbs ‘n all?’) so face-down goes I, on goes Relaxation Tape 3 and bang! we’re touching skin.
Fifty nine minutes later (shrinks aside, no-one respects the second hand on a time machine quite like a masseuse) and there had been pain. There had been deep uncomfortableness and reserved wincing, punctuated only by drilling outside and the distant laughter of the receptionista on the phone to a friend- an Eastern Sybil Fawlty with some of Basil’s chromosomes thrown in.
I was bent, stretched, pummeled and punished in a fashion most expert…
Hungarian Thai massage in Acton: get one.