Standing in a room in a basement in Shepherd’s Bush this week stripping in front of a stranger, I thought “Hmm, I wouldn’t have done this before I went to China”.
It’s not that I have fallen down on my luck or chosen to supplement my income.
It was all in the name of finding a good massage.
I lamented with an NLE (Never Left England) friend recently that you cannot find a decent, good value massage parlour in London and he stared blankly at me, before his jaw sank and he wore the ‘You’ve changed’ expression that is becoming familiar.
“At one point I looked behind to see that my guy with his elbow in my shoulder blade had a mobile phone in his hand that he was straining to look at”
But the fact is that cushy expat lifestyles in China revolve around pampering and massage.
I’m not ashamed to say I went for a massage most weeks and once on a particularly stressful day went for a foot massage in my lunch break. I’ve been slathered in oil and cupped. I’ve been covered in seaweed, sanded down and massaged by a blind man. But generally, I was put in a pair of oriental pyjamas so I looked like something from The Mikado, and then pushed and prodded all over for an hour. A full body Chinese massage cost £8.
One of the few low points came when my friend and I found that our favourite place was full and we dashed to another, untested establishment looking for a hit. The smell of sandalwood and jasmine made us hopeful, the soothing pipe music even more so. But a short while after we lay down side by side and two young guys walked in, we heard them discussing our bodies to each other in Mandarin. At one point I looked behind to see that my guy with his elbow in my shoulder blade had a mobile phone in his hand that he was straining to look at.
But over time, I became hooked on massages.
And to cope with life back in London after four years in Shanghai I need to find somewhere I can go to re-up.
Ideally I’m looking for a Chinese lady who isn’t afraid to use her elbow on my spine and doesn’t shy away from cracking my neck – the one, two, three, jerk move that looks like it might be used to kill a turkey but releases a rush of endorphins.
I need someone who can dig her thumbs into the back of my head, will hit me on the head with the bottom of a clenched fist and forcibly separate my vertebrae. And hell, I’ll take an eyebrow stroke and earlobe tickle for good measure if it’s going. Is it really too much to ask?