Friday, 18 March 2011
Touching the void........
I had my Christmas facial this week. I had been given vouchers for Fresh, as a Christmas present, an excellent gift because:
a) I like Aveda stuff
b) I can stagger there from home, make-up free, within minutes
I'd been saving this up for a February treat.....as I have previously mentioned, February is my worst month.......but I forgot. Probably due to brain freeze from this excessive winter. Fortunately, March is proving to be equally horrid so it was equally rewarding. Being somewhat credit crunched last year it's been ages since I dipped my pedicure-free toes into the glorious, cocooned world-of-pamper. And I'd forgotten just how glorious it is. I was smoothed, exfoliated, massaged, steamed, wrapped and anointed with deliciously scented unguents. Utter bliss. Honestly, I really didn't want to come out and feel the harsh bite of bitter reality back on the soggy, gray high street.
The last time I went for a bit of pampering it was quite a different story. I was on holiday in Essaouira, Morocco, with a girlfriend who'd stepped in at the last minute because the boyfriend........well that's a whole other story.......anyway, both of us had been to Morocco before but neither of us had been to a hamam.....it had to be done. Now, we had seen all sorts of gorgeous hamams advertised around the city in various hotels but for some reason lost in the menopause of time, we chose to go to a local hamam............Why? We were sort of man-handled into a cold room and told, with the aid of pictures and hand gestures, to strip to our bikini bottoms by mean women who spoke no English, or French, and very little Moroccan. Then we went through into a wet, cold room with an overflowing trough of running water where we huddled on bench seats while some Italian women, who seemed to know the ropes, were chatting happily. The mean women seemed to know the Italian women and smilled at them. We felt a little better and waited our turn. Eventually, two women waring swimming costumes gestured to my friend and I. They pored buckets of water over us, grabbing at our bikini bottoms to ensure nothing within remained dry, then slathered us in something called 'gommage' and then told to lay on our backs on a narrow, marble slab. We did and they left the room. My skin began to burn and itch. Fearing I was having some horrid reaction to the 'gommage', I asked my friend how she felt.
'Burning and itchy,' she replied, 'it smells like Jiff.'
It did. Just when it truly felt unbearable the women returned to our hot, sweaty chamber ........their costumes now pulled down to their waists........and began throwing buckets of cold water over us while we clung on, like freshly landed halibut, to the slippery slabs......I swear I nearly hit the deck..... but oh such relief. Then we were given rough towels to dry ourselves and taken into another room where we were told to lay down again on our fronts. Then they gave us a massage with the famed Moroccan Argan oil......oil extracted from the shit of the olive-eating-tree-climbing goats, produced by women's collectives......who else is going to go out collecting goat shit? And to be honest, the gnarled, saggy-breasted women of the hamam were not much of an advert for the stuff. For all I knew they could be in their 30s.......But, the massage was good.....to start with. Then it began to get quite........ intimate. Perhaps this was local custom, I wondered? Common place in the hamam, I thought?
As we wandered through the dusty souk, dazed, dehydrated and desperate for some mint tea, I asked my friend how her massage had been, just exactly how much had she got massaged?
'Not that much,' she said, 'I think you've been assaulted.'
Top tip.......for slatterns: want the joy of clean sheets but just can't get it together to make a whole bed? Just change the pillow cases.