Health Thai Massage, Chippenham; a review

I’m sure I’m not the only person to have walked past the new Thai Massage place on Station Hill in Chippenham and made certain sniggery presumptions about seedy and stereotypical ‘happy endings’.

This isn’t that sort of place at all, and those in need of sexual relief would be best advised to walk on by.   What goes on here is authentic Thai and oil massage, delivered in a clean, safe, and comfortable environment by professional masseuses Nui, the proprietor, and Kadek, her experienced colleague.

Massage is a fascinating and intimate thing to photograph.

I would describe Sue as an advanced customer.  She’d been to yoga before coming in and is very flexible.  I watch in awe as Nui, the proprietor, bends her into shapes I didn’t know were possible, throws her around, treads all over her, pummels her, and pulls her about.  ‘It’s all about energy’ says Nui, ‘I give my energy to her’.  I watch Nui’s face as she thoughtfully considers her next move, feeling her way on Sue’s body with feet, hands, and elbows, rolling on her and pressing on particular points (‘Who does that?’ says Sue, her face a picture of radiant delight as Nui finds just the right place on her inner arm to apply pressure).

Whilst the acrobatics are interesting to watch, it’s the hands that get me.  The hands and the feet and the head.  Knots and pools of tension we don’t realise we have released from places we are rarely touched.  It’s so moving watching the effect that the massage has on Sue, and how she responds to Nui’s alternately firm and gentle manipulations.

‘Oooo!’ says Sue, as yet again Nui hits the spot, ‘Ah’ and ‘Mmm’ and ‘Oh!’.

The massage lasts an hour, during which time Sue, who had been bendy and cheerful enough when she came in, is reduced to a profoundly relaxed and blissed out jelly.

As she is leaving a Mum comes in with her little girl, and Nui agrees a half an hour session with her, and twenty minutes with her daughter.  Not everyone is as used to long vigorous massage as Sue is, and Nui will be careful to ask about health conditions and take it gently with novice customers.   They had a lady of eighty in the other day, men are booking their partners in for sessions, and couples can be booked in at the same time.

Word is clearly getting around that Thai Massage Chippenham is not just for men.

When you have a Thai massage you keep your clothes on, and when you have the oil massage, in which only pure coconut oils are used, the body is covered with towels to preserve modesty should that be required.

Security cameras are installed on the premises for everyone’s safety.

This isn’t a whore house.

Nor is it Champneys.

It’s a respectable no frills establishment in the centre of Chippenham where you can go and get a deep and powerful, or soft and sensuous (that’s sensuous, not sexual), Thai massage and know that you are in good hands.

What a wonderful thing to photograph.

Look at Sue’s face!

Health Thai Massage Chippenham.

Give it a go.

© Gail Foster 16th February 2019

(click on this link for more information)

 

Martha and the Doll

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It’s a particularly dull day for photographs.  The light is poor and there is an irritating drizzle in the air.  Folk have stayed at home or are venturing, with heavy reluctance, only as far as their shopping needs dictate.  It’s February; a month of meagre pickings, low in inspiration, high in desperation, and one winter month more than most folk can stand.  These are days for antidepressants and undertakers, days of whining and blocked noses, days to be slept through, suffered, survived.  It’s a beige and grey sort of day, in which colours struggle to vibrate and not much contrasts much with anything, the sort of day when litter looks interesting in a desert of gloom.  February.  Not a month for images to amaze the eye.

Martha treads the dreary ways of town with quiet and humble feet.  She wears her sorrows round her shoulders in black bedraggled imitation fur, and between her naked sandalled toes in grimy crevices.  Old and free, of teeth, of obligation, she shuffles the streets, as she used to do when she did not have a home, as she has always done.  Martha likes to think outside the box.  Indoors she is unhappy, restless, lonely; a fish out of water, deprived of life.  Walls stifle and depress her.  Surfaces demand cleaning.  People want to come round and mend things.  Windows blur the beauty of the sky.  There is no air, and worrying things in envelopes insist themselves, clattering, through her door.  Martha’s sorrows, the tales of which are for another time, or maybe never, are more than many folk could bear, yet still she walks, as if there were somewhere to go, somewhere perhaps where there may still be joy to be found.

What Martha likes, more than ordinary things, more than money or appearances, what Martha cares about the most, is animals.  She sends money to donkeys in distant lands, and prays for them.  She goes to church at Christmas to see the Nativity donkey, and strokes him with the same gentleness and innocence that children show to little things.  You will see her standing by the bridge sometimes, watching the ducks, peering through the chicken wire at the merry hens running free in the field by the graveyard.  Sometimes there are horses there, and honking geese.  Many chilly hours will pass as Martha stands observing the animals and the chattering, flapping, friendly birds, wondering if they have enough to eat, wondering whether they are warm enough.  The ghost of her faithful, long dead, long-suffering dog walks along with her wherever she wanders, adhered to her ankles for always.  Stay, she had said, and so he did.

She is sitting on the top of the litter bin without a coat, her little toes all rosy in the air, dressed for summer in tomboy tee shirt and trousers.  Her eyes are blue and her lips are pink.  She has mischievous strands of blonde escaping messily from her long pigtails.  She’s pretty, and poignant, and lost.  The photographer, grateful for the surprise of an interesting subject, stops at this oasis of visual delight to drink.  Snap, click, one with the doll and the bin and the bars of the Shambles gate, one close up, one further away, one portrait shot and three for luck, quickly, before some crying child returns to snatch up the doll and cuddle her close.  The photographer was never one for toys, or plastic, or cute things.  This doll, though, she’s kind of special.  There is some glint of humour in her almost human expression and the hint of a smile on her mouth.  Across her chubby pink cheeks flicks the nuance of a personality.  She has a lovely face.  Someone will miss her, thinks the photographer, putting her satisfied camera in her pocket.  After a brief moment of hesitation, during which she contemplates adoption, she leaves the little doll on the litter bin to be found.

There is not much left to do in town.  What scant light exists within this ordinary day is dimming fast.   The photographer wanders aimlessly for a while, buying cigarettes and lipstick and cleaning things that she will never use.  She looks forward to going home and playing with the photos of the doll on her computer.  Perhaps I will post a picture on the internet, she thinks, and see if anyone knows who the doll belongs to, thereby satisfying my own ego and the purposes of altruism in one artistic act.  Not that I’m pretentious or anything.  Much.  Mostly.  Maybe.  But then what use would my picture be if the doll has gone?  She wished that she had picked her up now, and handed her in to the police station or the library.  Someone might just throw the little doll away.  Or she might get hypothermia from sitting on the bin all night.  Or someone really mean might take her home.  The delight she gleaned from capturing the image of the doll fades as she ruminates, and she regrets deciding against rescuing the doll.  She feels guilty, as she did when she was young and less than kind to teddies.  She wanders in to Smiths to see if the purchase of an unnecessary object will afford any comfort from her nagging conscience.

“Oh,” she says, smiling “you picked her up then!”  For there, by the magazines, is Martha, and there, in Martha’s gentle hands, is the doll.  “What do you mean?” says Martha, looking worried as if she might be in some sort of trouble.  “The little doll, I’ve just taken some pictures of her.”  “Have you, can I look?”  The photographer shows her the pictures in her camera.  Martha looks at them with fascination, as if they were magic.  “Such a shame,” says Martha “someone just left her there, all by herself.”  She shows the photographer the doll’s tiny bare toes, stroking them to warm them up.  “And she has no shoes on, all on her own in the cold with no shoes or coat, not nice for her at all.”  “Someone must have lost her.” “No, I don’t think so, she’s been in a sale.” She points out a paper tag in the doll’s dishevelled hair, on which ‘£3’ is faintly scrawled.  “She has alopecia” remarks the photographer, flippantly, regretting the comment immediately. “She’s got what?” says Martha, whose wisdom does not lie in words.  “It means that she has a bit of hair loss.  What are you going to do with her?” “I’m going to take her home and look after her.  Poor little thing, all lost and lonely and cold.  It’s not fair, it’s not fair at all.  She needs to be in the warm, all warm and safe, with new clothes and shoes and her hair brushed.  She’s a lovely little thing.  It’s not fair on her.  Fancy someone just leaving her like that.  On a bin, like rubbish.  It’s not right, not right at all.”  “What are you going to call her?”  Martha thinks carefully.  “I don’t know.”  She holds the doll tight to her chest.  It doesn’t seem to mind the bedraggled coat at all.  It even seems, although it must be a trick of the artificial light, to smile.  “I hope she’ll be happy with you, Martha” says the photographer, and goes down the aisle in search of superfluous pens.  From the end of the shop she can hear Martha talking to the shop assistant “Have you got a carrier bag that I can put her in, no, not that one, that’s too small, she won’t be comfortable, do you have a bigger one, yes, that will do, she’ll fit nicely in that one, thank you, thank you very much.”

It is a week or two before the photographer sees Martha again.  Hours spent trying to edit the photographs had not been well spent.  Somehow, with all the tweaking of contrast and clarity possible, she had not been able to do the doll justice with her editing programme.  The image sits in her computer, waiting patiently to be perfected.  Martha is in Smiths again, without the doll but with cheerful bright eyes, freshly washed hair and her best earrings on.  “How are you, Martha, and how is the doll?”  “Oh, she’s very well,” says Martha, smiling, “she’s sitting on the settee at home.  She’s warmer now, poor pretty little thing, it wasn’t right you know.”  “I’m glad,” says the photographer “I wanted to ask you, I wonder if you would mind if I wrote about it, you know, you and the doll, just a little piece to go with the photograph, I can change your name if you like?”  Martha looked thoughtful.  “And what would you do with it?”  “I don’t know yet, I haven’t decided, but I thought it would be a nice thing to write about.  Such a lovely doll.”  “Yes,” said Martha “you write what you like.  Poor little thing.  No shoes on.  Left out in the cold.  Not fair.  Not fair at all.”  And off walks Martha, with a spring in her step and the faithful ghost of her dog at her ankles, finally and unexpectedly finding herself with a good reason to go home.

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© Gail Foster 2016 

 

The Solstice Door

The light is coming… and I wish you well

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The Solstice Door

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Behind the running, running man the land

Lies silent, fallow, haunted by the cry

Of one lone mourning rook who flies alone

Inscribing solemn circles in the sky

There is no time to take a backward look

Just running, running, running, running blind

He leaves the flowered garlands that she wove

With ribbons bright, with summer’s love, behind

He runs with only hope in empty hands

All faint of heart, with life blood running cold

The chill of winter earth beneath his feet

All water turned to ice in frozen fold

All out of breath with minutes yet to live

He runs, through elder grove and stand of yew

Runs, seeking for the ancient Solstice door

Described in tales the bards and ancients knew

 ‘Till suddenly he stumbles on a glade

All silent where no wild bird wheels or calls

And in the glade there stands a single stone

And on the ground a moon dark shadow falls

And there, within the shadow’s light he sees

That which before him other men have found

A stairway leading down in to the earth

A dark descending path in to the ground

No way but down now, this the only way

He gathers one last breath, and full of fear

Goes down the old and foot worn ancient steps

That lead towards the portal of the year

How dark the endless steps of winter’s stair

That shadow down, down to the Solstice door

To where, beneath the door a chink of light

Hints soft and bright across the cold stone floor

He sits upon the bottom step to rest

Reflect, and contemplate the year behind

And lo, she comes, bedecked in leaves and fruit

And dancing, dancing, through his weary mind

Forget me not, she sings; I am still here

I wait for you, for life to shift and stir

And through the keyhole and the chink there blows

A fragrant waft of birch and silver fir

Reviving, blessing, soft upon his face

The promise of new life upon her breath

Touched by her grace he weeps upon the step

For she has saved him with her love from death

Another year dies, another lives

He sits and waits; she watches from afar

And as he waits the light in darkness shifts

And creaks the ancient Solstice Door ajar…

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by Gail