I have some spa vouchers given to me by my colleagues at work when I moved from one civil service department to another and had never gotten round to using. My partner's father had also given me some money to '...do something nice'. I thought if I added these together it would enable me to take someone with me to share the 'nice' experience I was determined to have. So I ask one of my lovely friends who very quickly takes up the offer and now I find myself looking for a spa that will take the vouchers. We are limited but eventually I find one that is in the Brighton Marina. Bit of an arse end of nowhere to get to on public transport, but if we sort out the timing well enough we can be in and out then off to enjoy a lovely leisurely lunch afterwards back in the bosom of the city centre with a few glasses of wine thrown in to get us all 'toxined' up again.
I book us in for a Thai massage which works with the amount of money that I have and sounds quite lovely and hands-on according to the 'menu' on the website. None of that light sweeping touch effleurage stuff for me. I want to be pummelled and prodded and chopped. Basically 'man-handled' in a nice 'massagey' way. I am asked whether for an extra £20 each we would like to use the hydra therapy pool beforehand. It again sounds delightful and I sign us up to the whole works. I then get a phone call from a friend and before the conversation ends I tell her my plans which she thinks are great. However she is just concerned about the hydrotherapy pool and is worried that I might be opening up myself to potential infection threats prior to starting such aggressive treatment. At first I think she is being overly cautious. But although I am crapping myself about starting this treatment and so wish I wasn't I have already worked out the treatment plan and how long it's going to take and I don't want anything to delay the end date. I call the spa back and cancel the hydrotherapy pool.
So the day arrives and we find ourselves off to the spa. I'm not quite sure what to expect as although the photos on the website looked gorgeous we all know that's no guarantee. However on this occasion it really was an amazing oasis of calm. Just what we both needed. Subtle atmospheric lightning, wonderfully evocative smells and fantastic sumptuous decor. I give our names to the receptionist. She looks confused and says there is no booking. She goes through her bookings sheet but our names do not appear. My feelings of calm and tranquility are starting to seep away and are quickly becoming replaced with anxiety and hysteria. I find my voice becoming high pitched and emotional. I haven't come to this beautiful oasis on two types of public transport to the pain-in-the-arse-to-get-to Marina. My 'Violet Beauregarde' of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame is riding to the surface. But it's not an ompah-lumpah I want and want NOW. It's my massage. I WANT IT AND I WANT IT NOW!!! I am short of saying to them the most ridiculous thing ever which is 'do you know how I am?' because quite clearly there is really no reason why on this earth they should know me. I don't even know who I am these days so why should I expect anyone else to know. Maybe subconsciously I'm looking for the answer, but trust me I wasn't being that philosophical and existentialist that day. I was just being a grumpy, hormonal mardy mare. Anyway it is quite clear from their booking sheet they haven't a fucking clue who I am!
I have decided that I will not be treated like this and in a hysterical torrent tell them that in no uncertain terms. Much of what I say is lost to them as English is not their first language, but they regardless of this are trying to placate me, but I am so caught up in my own melodrama that I start to descend into those murky depths that I vowed that I would never descend to - using my cancer for sympathy. I know not pretty or clever and am not proud, but all I could see was my imagined tranquil pre-treatment odyssey turning into a nightmare which in turn (in my illogical reasoning) did not bode well for the treatment ahead. If booking a simple massage was beyond me how the fuck would I cope with nine months of intensive treatment for which I needed to keep on top of in order to get through it.
Thankfully I choose to do this massage experience with a wonderful friend who admirably becomes the voice of reason possessing the skills of a expert negotiator navigating her way between two waring nations to establish foundations for peace talks in order to resolve this crisis. Firstly they have no appointments until 11am (it's now 10.00) but they will only be able to do one of us at that time and the next one at 12.30. "What the fuck..." I hear the words coming out of my mouth like a woman possessed. She quickly continues the negotiations at a pace hoping to cut me off before I start again. But not before I chip in that "we want to be together" or else it's prolonging our time in arse-end-of-nowhere territory. She takes this on board and tries to find a time when they can accommodate us but she getting nowhere fast. I can't bear this anymore. I know very dramatic, but all I wanted was a relaxing massage to alleviate some of this stress that's been building up over the last few weeks (sorry who am I kidding - I mean the last few months/years/decades not that one session would be enough to untie those knots that I have lovingly and painstakingly nurtured which crisscross my back and shoulders!) Still what is happening here is certainly not what I wanted or expected. I should be being pummelled, chopped and remoulded back into something quite lovely. All floppy, flexible, agile and supple. But I am not anywhere near that. I am still in this husk of a body that is aching, miserable, tense and diseased.
As I start to speak I see the receptionist usher someone over to deal with me as quite clearly she's had enough of my hysteronics. He is the manager and he explains that it appears I cancelled the booking. I explain as calmly as I can that I didn't. All I did was cancel our hydrotherapy pool session prior to the massages. I explain that I had booked appointments so that we could have the massages simultaneously as we had plans for the rest of the day. I keep my cool even surprising myself. However when he starts to say they can do one of us now and the other in two hours time I just lose the plot. I hear my voice raising and I am sure I see out of the corner of my eye the receptionist run for cover! "What do you not understand? WE WANT TO BE TOGETHER. How much clearer can I be? And if you can't do that then let's just forget." I can see my friend is mortified by that suggestion as she really wants this massage. She cranks up the negotiating skills into overdrive and ascertains that they can "do us together" in two hours time. Eureka! We have a break through. We are ushered out with reassurances that we will be have our request for togetherness fulfilled. Now the real challenge is to find what to do to fill two hours in the arse-end-of-nowhere...