Just when you think your week is heading for an insignificant end, something unexpected happens. Yesterday morning, fresh from my shave, though still feeling slightly light-headed from the wound my Mach-3 had inflicted on my jugular, I received a nice email of support from a totally unique quarter. And there were some wise words too. It was from my friend and fellow blogger, Chip Dale, who had written to suggest that half of my problems might be attributed to tension.
‘Come on Dick,’ wrote Chip, ‘why don’t you get yourself a massage, slip on a thong and sip champagne from Judy’s slipper?’
The dear man. Whenever heaven breaths a hush, I’m sure his name is mentioned. Consider. Here is a man handicapped by a terrible affliction. He bears more than a passing resemblance to Liberal Democrat M.P. Lembit Opik. He also makes his livelihood in the seedy world of Welsh stripping and lives for his thong collection and his slightly psychotic Romanian Cheeky Girl. Yet he can still take time out of his busy day to send me advice. It’s a shame that I had to email him back in order to tell him that two of his suggestions were out of the question from the off.
I just don’t wear thongs. If the truth be told, I actually wear very little. I hate the thought of being caught with VPL (or ‘visible panty line’ as it’s known in TV land) so I always ‘go commando’ unless it’s really cold and then I wear my long-johns. As for drinking from Judy’s slippers, they’re a bit ragged and have a hole where her big toe sticks through. I wouldn’t advise anybody to put them within arm’s length of their nose unless their arm is the length of the M11. I often tell her that she needs to buy a new pair but she says that Barry Manilow bought them for her before ‘he turned weird’ and that makes them ‘lucky’.
I suppose Chip would have good advice on that subject too. He was certainly right about my needing a massage. For the first time, I’m beginning to understand why some people still think that I’m Chip and that Chip is me. To Chip’s credit, he writes a good blog but it would take a staggering intellect to write both of them each day. After all, it takes a towering intellect to write mine alone.
‘Chip Dale says I need a massage,’ I told Judy as we sat down for breakfast.
‘Chip who?’ she asked.
‘Dale,’ I said, mopping up a sudden spurt of blood from my neck. ‘He’s a blogger.’
‘Oh,’ replied Judy, absent with her toast and the Radio Times. ‘I thought I recognised his name.’
‘Funny,’ I said, pressing a slice of white to my wound. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned him to you before.’
‘Oh,’ she said. ‘Perhaps the name just rings a bell.’
I looked at her with the Madeley brows in attack formation. ‘He’s a male stripper from Wales,’ I said.
Her masticating ceased. A crumb on her lip seem to pause, consider the canyon of her cleavage, and then jump into it head first. What a way to go!
‘A stripper?’ she asked.
I thought I detected a slight blush.
‘You surely don’t know him professionally?’ I asked, preparing to take careful note of her reply.
She returned to her toast and dipped it into her egg. ‘Perhaps I do,’ she said, apparently indifferent to the thought of being caught ogling men who reveal themselves for money. ‘Does he smell of pineapples?’
That was all the clues I needed. I’ve read Chip’s Diary enough to know that he does indeed smell of pineapples. Sometimes I think he smells of nothing else.
‘That’s it!’ I said, casting aside my bread bandage and snatching up the car keys.
‘You’ve been looking at naked men.’
‘I’ve seen you naked enough times,’ sniffed Judy.
‘That’s hardly significant.’
A look of hard undiluted spite narrowed in her eyes. ‘That’s what I thought too.’
If you know me at all, you know that I don’t take kindly to that sort of remark. It’s like the time she was always bringing up the subject of my vasectomy at the most inappropriate times. We once had a boy scout on the show, taking about his merit badge for knots, and asked him if he could tie a sheepshank in a short piece of string. Everybody knew what she meant except the poor boy who boasted that he thought a clove hitch would be better.
‘I’m going before I say something I regret,’ I told her. Already I was at the front door which I intended to slam. ‘I’m going for a massage and I don’t know when I’ll be back!’
Slam duly completed, I took the Range Rover and headed straight into the city, my mood gradually lightened by the CD of brass band music I always keep in the car for moments like that. As the miles passed by, the bounce of Colonel Bogey played by the Household Cavalry Band was beginning to work its magic on me. I knew that a massage would put an end to my worries and that I would return to Judy a much more tolerant man.
If you are wondering if I felt any shame about visiting a massage parlour, I should explain that massage parlours are much misunderstood. I happen know a well run little establishment which give full authentic Korean massages and is nothing like those other sorts of establishment you have to be so bloody careful to avoid when picking out a place for a good back rub. I’ve known friends to go in to those places to have their tennis elbows massaged only to come out with a Polish bride and a .45 slug in their kneecap.
‘Ah, Mr. Madeley,’ said Hector, who sits behind the counter at Hungs.
‘How are things, Hector?’ I asked. ‘Business good?’
‘Business is excellent,’ he said as he came around the desk to greet me. ‘We’re doing quite well.’
‘So I suppose that makes you quite well Hungs,’ I replied.
He looked at me like I was a vacant parking lot. He never laughs. ‘You want massage, Mr. Madeley?’
‘I do indeed, Hector. I want the most bruising back rub you have to offer. The tension in my shoulders is enough to make a walnut crack.’
‘Ah,’ he said, nodding. ‘Then you want to see Madam Hwang. She’s new in the country. Just arrived from Korea.’
‘That sounds excellent,’ I said. ‘I’m in the mood for the authentic massage techniques of the Republic of South Korea.’
He handed me my towel and guided me into the changing room. ‘Not South Korea,’ he said as I stepped inside. ‘North Korea. Madam Hwang is from the north.’ With that he closed the door and left me to the sound of my heartbeat.
I don’t know how long it should take for a man to change into a towel but it took me longer. Much longer. When I came out of the cubicle, Hector looked up at me as though he’d forgotten all about me.
‘Ah, Madam Hwang!’ he said, as if in reminder. He pointed to the stairs. ‘First door.’
The steps creaked, my bones cracked, and the sound of something sinewy being wrenched came from one of the other rooms. I looked back at Hwang. ‘Don’t you worry,’ he said. ‘That only man with tennis elbow. First room.’
I heard somebody laugh. It sounded faintly Polish. I didn’t wait around to hear if the elbow was going to be followed by a kneecapping. I tapped on the door.
It opened and I found myself facing a chest that could suckle a gorilla. Madam Hwang was not your average North Korean, who tend to be small people, of very delicate ways and a wonderfully warm demeanour despite the years of brutal hardship they’ve suffered under the bastard Kim Yong-il. Nor did she look like she’d suffered from years of oppressive anything. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if her escape to the West hadn’t been arranged at the highest level of the North Korean military keep to protect the rice harvest. I’ve known smaller sumo.
‘Richard!’ she gasped and slapped her hands together. ‘I know you! I see show! Come in, come in. You lie down. I will make you well. You got bad back? I can tell. Madam Hwang always can tell. You lie down. I fix you.’
I shivered in a way I haven’t shivered since a child about to undergo a school medical. I don’t know what it was; a failure of nerve or a sudden awareness of the distance from Judy and home. I just froze, standing there in the middle of the room wearing nothing but my towel.
Madam Hwang tutted. ‘Come on. No shy,’ she said. And with that, she grabbed the end of the towel and ripped it from me. I must have done a dozen turns before I stopped spinning. Dizzy, I didn’t know where I was until a pair of hands grabbed me by my thighs, turned me upside down and threw me onto the massage table.
How do I describe agony? Let me count the ways… Madame Hwang’s elbow did something to my spine that robbed the feeling from my legs. She then did something to my legs which robbed the feeling from my head. When she grabbed my neck, the light bulbs flickered. This went on for nearly an hour. There were oils rubbed into bones, fingers drilling into tissue. You’ve heard of bamboo shoots placed up men’s fingernails as a means of torture? Well this was worse. When I was in the most compromising position possible, she pulls out a proper length of bamboo, hollowed out into a tube.
‘What’s that,’ I said, through numb lips and with an even number tongue.
‘Colonic,’ she grinned, ‘the old fashioned way!’
I really find it hard to go on describing this. The woman had lungs on her that, I swear, could suck mud up a trombone. The whole thing lasted nearly two hours and by the time she’d finished, I must have been half a stone lighter and a considerable number of inches taller. I had to bow my head when going out of the room just to get through the door I’d early walked through with inches to spare.
When I got home, Judy looked up from her rowing machine and winced.
‘What happened to you?’ she asked, soft, warm, unsophisticated. Just like the Judy I love and cherish.
‘Chip Dale said I should have massage so I had a massage,’ I said as I slumped down in a chair. ‘North Korean masseur. Big hands. Bigger fingers.’
‘But you look so different,’ she said. ‘You seem taller. And much thinner. And what did she do to your hair?’
‘She did nothing to my hair,’ I said, running fingers through my pristine locks.
Her lips pursed in that way she has when she thinks she knows better.
I struggled to my feet and looked at myself in one of the many mirrors I keep dotted around the place in case of I need to do an emergency brush of my fringe.
‘My god,’ I wept as I saw myself. ‘What’s happened to my hair? It’s white.’
Judy just grabbed her oars and started to row. ‘It was only a matter of time, Richard,’ she said, as cruel as some barbarian slave at the oars of a Roman galleon. ‘You can’t keep living in the fast with your Korean massages and dreams of owning your own midget football team. I’ll get you some Grecian 2000 this afternoon and you might remember this the next time you accuse me of looking at other men.’ She tutted. ‘Chip Dale. He might be bigger, stronger, smoother, oilier, and Welsh, but you, my dear Richard, have him beat in other ways.’
‘And what are those?’ I asked, finally defeated.
I never did get an answer. I don’t know how she did it, but Judy began to row a little faster and she started to pull away. Soon she had turned the corner in the hallway and, with a final wave, she disappeared towards the back of the house where the kitchen meets open water.