First off, Merry Christmas everyone! That’s about as Christmassy as this edition of Scarlett is going to get BUT it is a story about a massage (eventually) and that word works really well when combined with Christmas, so in order to remind you that this is in fact a Christmassage miracle I’m going to drop in stills from some of my favourite Christmas movies throughout the essay for no other reason. You’re welcome. No, really you are very welcome.
Just like this glorious picture of Will Ferrel as Elf in the movie ‘Elf’ eating spaghetti with maple syrup, I was off to a good start on Saturday morning. Body Part Art (still not a taxidermist) is finally starting to make a bit of cash and I am no longer on a diet of super noodles, nay I am eating all manner of tasty delights including fresh vegetables, and fresh meat for that matter. As long as I live I will never again try ‘own brand’ tinned chicken curry. Am I ashamed that I have? No. Am I ashamed that I set up a little blind taste test with Jake of five different own brand tinned chicken curries just for fun? Maybe. Am I ashamed that the blind taste test turned into ‘how quickly can Scarlett eat all five tins of curry blindfolded’? Yes. I wish hadn’t told you that. Moving on!
So I am a fully fledged Happy Saturday (Monday would have worked better but who has a hen do on a Monday? No one that’s who). I’ve found a seat on the tube, and I’m settling in ready to go Tazmanian devil on my Pret cinnamon swirl and skip to the ‘guilty pleasures’ section of yesterday’s Metro then hate myself. We’re about two stops in and the train begins to accelerate to the point that all the people standing up are leaning back slowly like a flash mime mob I’m absently aware of when suddenly the train breaks hard. The sudden movement of a woman stumbling catches my eye and I turn too quickly to see what’s happening. Just as she’s caught in the nick of time by a neighbouring gentleman, the pain in my neck explodes and I’m stuck! I can’t move my bloody neck more than half a centimetre either way. Oh God it hurts like an absolute mother f***er. This isn’t happening, not today,. We’ve got twenty hens from Bradford coming in and I look like I’m posing for a Classical Greek sculpture. Maybe it’ll be fine. These things loosen up right? I just need to keep the muscles mov- OWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWOW!! Okay too much, baby steps Scarlett. Baby steps. Damn me and my morbid curiosity, my rubber neck has been replaced with shitty broken wooden one. I miss my rubber neck!
Rubber necking? Get it? Disastrous and hilarious turkey scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?! Whatever. So I get to work and I spend the afternoon handing out glitter and glow-in-the-dark paint to a group of ladies who are, with every pop of another Prosecco cork, making the inevitable descent into drunken artistic anarchy. I feel like a primary school teacher doing rainy day activities with a bunch of four year olds hyped up on Haribo. Obviously I wouldn’t get the four year olds to paint knob shaped pottery, that would be considered inappropriate particularly without the obligatory fizz. Sorry, I’m disappearing down a self destructive hole of madness. Getting back to my actual job (thank goodness it isn’t teaching primary) I do actually enjoy hosting these parties normally but my neck is not letting up and the ladies have noticed. Someone’s put on Technologic by Daft Punk:
and they are now doing robot impressions of me. I can’t help it! I can’t move my neck more than two millimeters either side (yes it’s gotten worse and no I’m not being a Drama Queen MUM) or bend down for fuck’s sake! I’ve been attempting to stretch it out ‘discreetly’ in pseudo yoga poses I’ve been getting off youtube for the last two hours. I smile gamely through the group’s hysterical laughter that makes me think of a David Attenborough documentary I saw once about the mating rites of the spotted hyena. Then something beautiful happens, all on their own, they actually decide to finally, finally leave but not before attaching a dildo shaped hair band to my head and playing a round of ring-a-pole.
Jake peeps his head round the door as I’m cleaning up Dresden and kindly offers to watch the shop so I can go to the local A & E. I’m so grateful I could weep but I don’t because I’m too busy trying to get to the hospital faster than the speed of light, which is difficult. Obviously. Anyway, by some miracle I’m seen within about half an hour of arriving- turns out 4pm on a Saturday is not prime time at an A & E, who’d have thunk it! The doctor, a small Indian man in his forties appears and ushers me into his office. I consider him for second and concur that he’s very attractive – think Asian Bradley Cooper, but a bit old and fat, kind of. I realise at this point the pain in my neck might be causing mild hallucinations. The standard knee jerk reaction occurs and I check for a wedding ring, because that’s what single people above the age of twenty six do, we can’t help it. As I say, knee jerk, and of course he’s got a wedding ring! Hey ho, I remind myself that I’m here for pain relief not sexual healing, put it away Scarlett!
He sits me down and I explain everything from the moment I took the first bite of my cinnamon swirl right up to the moment I whipped my head round to see a woman stumble and fall because I want to give a sense of place and dramatic tension. It’s obvious the Doctor is RAPT. Unless that’s actually impatience, so I stop when I realise he doesn’t need to hear about the dancing robot impressions that probably won’t scar me for life. He remains poker faced but with the slight frown of the ‘concerned MD’ and then before I know it he walks over and starts touching my neck, gently pressing certain areas asking where the pain is and so forth in a soft ingratiating, calming tone. I’m in heaven. He starts massaging the painful area and I close my eyes – I can’t help it, this is the first pain relief I’ve had all day! Okay fine, it’s not just that, it’s the first human contact I’ve had in a lot of weeks. I feel like I’ve been living in space all this time. I think I’m falling in love with this man. God this is dreams. And then in the same soft authoritative voice, he says, “Does that feel better?” I can just about manage a breathless, “Yes.” And just as if it really were a dream and I was waking, he immediately stops, goes back to his chair and says in much more matter of fact, “Right Ms Tate, I don’t think you need prescription pain killers, or a brace but I do recommend you take some ibuprofen to relieve the pain, keep moving your neck and consider getting a massage from a trained professional of course.” “A massage by a trained professional?” “Yes.” “Like, you?” Oh God, I probably shouldn’t try and sweeten the deal with a tip. “No, I’m a Doctor not a masseuse. We’re in London, there are a lot of places to choose from. So is there anything else?” I can’t look him in the eye. “No that’s everything, thanks.” Why am I so bright red? It’s not like I asked for a happy ending! I say thank you and shake his hand for absolutely no apparent reason then leave. This one’s for you Doc because Love, Actually, Is, All Around… Apparently…
Determined to get a massage but also aware I’m supposed to be meeting Trish in China Town for dim sum at half six, I go to Soho with the hope of getting a massage at one of the little boutique parlours around there (no not that kind, thank you gutter thinkers) beforehand. I reckon I can get a half hour neck rub no problems and with enough Neurofen to sink a small battle ship, I’m off.
The Walk In Back Rub place I had my hopes pinned on is inexplicably closed. This is a word from me to shop managers everywhere – putting a smiley face at the end of note in the door saying ‘We’re closed today sorry!’ Just looks a little insincere frankly, more of a smug wince than an apologetic face, okay? Just something to think about when you’re letting me down.
I’m wandering the streets of Soho now getting more panicked by the minute. It’s 5:45 but by sheer luck of not knowing where the fuck I am I find myself on Rupert Street. And there it is, like the grail, a mani-pedi place that is also advertising fifteen minute massages. I look inside cautiously but it’s all good, the place is pristine. In fact it’s so white and sanitary it looks like something from Logan’s Run. There are rows of women getting their nails done by Oriental women in white tunics and plimsols, so I walk in, bathing in white light like a futuristic heaven, I’m Quantum fricking Leap! I’m brought out of my reverie by a small, old Chinese lady who suddenly shouts to me, “Manicure or Pedicure!” I smile happily and say, “I’d actually like a massage please.” Oh God. Suddenly I’m not in 2001 A Space Odyssey anymore, and have found myself – much like Quantum Leap – thrown into a different time space or rather genre that resembles a period called The Spaghetti Western. More specifically, the moment Clint Eastwood walks into the bar as the hero from out of town. The reassuring sound of ten women getting their nails filed stops. Hands are held frozen above the soaking solution, all ten heads simultaneously turn toward me, twenty including the beauticians holding the files. A great and terrible silence occurs, what have I done?!
I don’t need to reference the above but yes that is Home Alone. And currently, I feel very alone. The old woman, who I shall now call Madam, pauses for a moment then nods sternly and gestures to a set of stairs I didn’t see before. I didn’t see them before because of course they’re hidden at the back of the shop and yes, of course they lead to the basement. I can’t believe what’s happening, and neither can everyone else in the joint but I’m too dumbstruck and polite to just walk out of the shop! I’m in a politeness void! I know I should leave but my neck is killing me guys so I try to walk with a knowledgeable grace but just as I’m getting to the stairs I nearly fall down them when Madam shouts, “You take your shoes off!” Pointing to a shoe rack, “You leave here!” I can’t help but notice there are only two other pairs of shoes, notably men’s. There is a wave of hushed whispers and the odd giggle as I descent the stairs wondering how the fuck it is I got here and how the fuck it is I’m going to get out.
As you can see John MacClane would understand, as he’s also in a tight spot, in Die Hard. Naturally.
Madam ushers me down a rouge corridor until we get to a door ajar and she roughly points me through it. I find myself standing in the middle of a bright pink room, no I am actually not bullshitting you, it is bright pink, with one bedside lamp in the corner. The only reason I didn’t turn and walk away there and then apart from the afore mentioned politeness issue, is that there in the centre of the room is an actual massage table. I decide to ignore the single bed situated on the other side of the room as Madam says, “Okay you take off your top and bra now! Fifteen minute or half hour?” I shout back “Fifteen minute!” I say shout, it was more of a crying plea of I’ll do anything! She stands expectantly as I take of my jumper. Seemingly satisfied I’m not going to do a runner she says, “Bra as well!’ Before giving me another very professional (and by professional I mean commandant level authoritative) nod before shutting the door firmly behind her, leaving me alone in the pink room in my bra. Needless to say I am not feeling very relaxed at this point.
I take in the surroundings, so okay we’ve got a bed but we also have a massage table. We have a red coloured lamp but then we also have, wait, we also have a PVC sailor’s hat and matching jacket hung on a hook YET I AM STILL REMOVING MY BRA AND CUPPING MY TITS! This room smells of plastic, cheap scented candles, and sadness. At this point I hear a noise and realise I am not alone, that in fact there is another door to an anteroom. Before I can get my bra back on, an Oriental woman, who from now on will be referred to as Lady, comes out of said anteroom wearing a sailor dress and stiletto heels. When I say sailor dress I mean if you were watching a nautical pornographic Manga film and the lead character was a sailor’s mistress then this may well be what she’d be wearing. She gives me the biggest, warmest, strangely glamorous greeting, “Heeeeeello Dhhaaaaaarrrrlling, come lie on table yes yes lie on table” And I do because what the hell else can I do readers?! I’m in too deep and Lady’s telling me to. So I go with it, ignoring the fact that maybe for a masseuse she has inappropriately long nails. They’re not even nails anymore they’re talons. Immaculate, red, diamante studded talons are going to be in my neck.
“Are you a trained professional?” I ask, simultaneously realising what I’ve just said. Thank God she ignores me as she pours the oil on my back. “You so tense,” She says as she begins to move her thumbs up my spine. I laugh nervously, and then hysterically when she hits a knot. “I’m very ticklish,” I say, suddenly hoping she doesn’t think I’m flirting, but then she breathes, “You relax now.” And I let go because the room is so warm and the plastic smell is making me dizzy and Jesus this feels absolutely fucking amazing. She carries on moving her fingers delicately, and firmly all the way to my neck and I begin to float away as the pain ebbs and almost disappears altogether.
Barring a slightly awkward turn when she tried to pull my trousers down, which I firmly stopped, that was genuinely the greatest massage of my life. Fuck it, actually that was possibly the greatest fifteen minutes of my life. Alright maybe not but it definitely has to be in the top ten. It was akin to the after glow of an orgasm mixed with that heady second glass of mulled wine by a pub fire. I feel so relaxed and so grateful at this moment that I think maybe Lady isn’t a prostitute, maybe she’s a fucking wizard. I look at her dress as she walks to the table and you know what? Maybe this just the fashion, Soho Style – a short pleated dress with a reeeeaaalllyy low neck line that shows your bra a bit. Right? I don’t know! Then Lady bends over to adjust the massage table and I can see the whole of her arse. The whole of her bum clad in see-through black knickers. Wearing only my bra, I hug her anyway. Yep, you read it right, I’m so grateful and so unequipped to be in this situation that when I say thank you to Lady, I launch myself at her and we really hug, or rather I really hug. Knowing that I want her to come home with me and massage me forever, I whisper, “Merry Christmas,” just as Madam bursts in and shouts, “You pay extra for that!”
Merry Christmas and thank you loyal Scarlett fans old and new for reading and sharing my absolute nonsense! If you like this story please do share the Christmassage cheer, and thanks again in advance 🙂 Here is a still from my favourite Christmas film, which is so inappropriate now but I had to get a Happy Ending in here somehow…