Incense burnt slowly creating pockets of mist with the low lighting, which subtly invited us to relax among the various Asian artefacts. Acoustic versions of songs made famous by back-in-the-day crooners, merged into one in the background whilst we sat ticking boxes.
The check list was endless. Have you got verrucas, heart problems, breathing difficulties, pains, diabetes – an aversion to strangers? Lulled into a false sense of security and happily ticking away at the ‘no’ boxes, the final inquiry glared out from the questionnaire like a bar of Green and Blacks when you’re on a diet. What would you like to change about your body? What a clanger.
After 21 years of friendship we often find ourselves finishing off one another’s sentences or in this case speaking in unison; “thinner?” we queried. All this for a massage? Signing our lives away and absolving the spa from any responsibility should we experience a sudden velocity towards the floor.
The last time I had a massage was in India after five days trekking in the Himalayas and several near head-on collisions on the journey through Rajasthan. Two tiny Indian women with leathered faces and rough hands prepared the room. There was no preamble, no questionnaire.
A few minutes later I heard Jen’s voice from the other side of the curtain. “Have you got any clothes on?” she asked, a note of slight discomfort in her voice. “Well,” I replied, “she’s dressing me in a paper loin cloth, does that count?”
There is after all, something to be said for English conservatism and box ticking.