Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The Moonlighting Masseuse

Reading about the demise of Peter Dally (see previous post) set off a spiral of memories about life in my twenties. I was living in London and, having a short attention span combined with spasmodic trips to Westminster Hospital to be fattened up, I changed jobs at least once a year. You could in those days – work was easy to come by, and you didn't need qualifications. When I didn’t know what to do, I temped, and you could earn good money then.

Towards the end of the 1980s I didn’t have a boyfriend so I had no man problems (for once), my eating problems had settled down (thank God) and I found myself in a long term temp job working for a television news agency called Worldwide Television News, in Foley Street.

I worked on a programme called Roving Report, the staff of which which provided me with a sort of eccentric family – just what I needed at the time. We were all extremely unconventional and therefore regarded as bonkers by the rest of the company, but that never bothered us, and the highlight of the week was, having put the programme to bed, to play word games with Chambers Dictionary before going to the pub.

Mid week things got a bit boring for me – I was the secretary who transcribed tapes and typed up people’s scripts – and I’d developed an interest in massage, so I sloped off to do a bit of moonlighting. My editor was an understanding man, very keen for me to further my life in whatever way I wanted, so he didn’t bother about what I did on Tuesday afternoons when I wasn’t in the office.

I’d done a week long training course near Regents Park which was incredibly hard work and curbed my smoking (no, smoking and massage don’t usually go together). Having survived that, with furtive trips into the bushes for a quick cig, I then did some more training and met another masseuse who persuaded me to join her as a temporary masseuse at the RAC Club in Pall Mall.

Tuesdays was Ladies Day and, being an old fashioned club, they wouldn’t allow women to be massaged by men, thereby ruining most lady members’ Tuesdays. So we were employed – about ten of us would arrive late Tuesday mornings where we had the run of their very cut price canteen before we knuckled down to work. Knuckled being the operative word.

The treatment area seemed huge, as I remember, and was always hot and steamy with various curtained off cubicles for massage to take place, and in the main area was a hot plunge bath, a cold plunge bath and a sauna. There was also a beautiful very old swimming pool with ornate pillars and a gushing fountain – the sort of place where you expected to see Agatha Christie, or Miss Marple off duty. Us workers weren’t supposed to use the pool, but I did sometimes, wearing goggles and a swimming hat in disguise.

I did that job for a season but after a while I got sick of pummelling tubs of lard – that’s what they were known as in the trade. Spoilt fat rich women who came to have their lunchtime calories massaged away by someone else. They might not have been spoilt and rich, of course, but most of them were fat. It was one of my most exhausting jobs but extremely good for the circulation, and because of the steamy atmosphere from the sauna, I never got chilblains that winter.

But after three or four months at the RAC I decided I’d had enough. As an ex-anorexic, working with overweight women was like aversion therapy and I’d had my fill of therapy. But I’ll never forget those moonlighting afternoons, of being roused (more than once) because I’d fallen asleep, worn out, while my next client awaited.

One of my favourite treats is still a good massage. Though you can imagine my husband’s face when I first told him that.


Akelamalu said...

Nothing beats a good massage!

Flowerpot said...

I'm glad you agree. I've found someone here that gives a great back massage and that's my treat - you can feel all the knots disappear!

sallywrites said...

Funny about your boss!! I can understand why you gave it up though - and why you still like a good massage!

Elaine Denning said...

What I'd give for one of those now...