Robert Has A Swedish Massage…

I have been on holiday in Mexico for over a week now, and the rigorous sessions of ping pong have been taking their toll. When you’re representing your country against Americans, Mexicans, Koreans and a short, Spanish kid with big teeth and over-hairy eyebrows, you have to work through the pain barrier. That doesn’t mean to say that you don’t suffer the next day. And, wow, was I suffering. I felt stiffer than a corpse’s pencil. I don’t know why a corpse would have a pencil, but let’s just go with it. Perhaps he was a writer?

Yesterday morning, I decided that some relaxation was in order. I booked myself in for a Swedish massage…

Now, I will be honest. Leading up to the massage, I had my fears – the main one being that my relaxing massage would be given by one of the following:

  1. A big, hairy man with tattoos on his knuckles; spelling out the words ‘bad ass muva’.
  2. A tourettes sufferer.
  3. An Abba tribute band. It might consist of them walking up and down my back for an hour singing the greatest hits of Abba. Painful – too painful!

I’m pleased to say that two of my fears were immediately allayed when I arrived at the massage suite. A quick look around re-assured me that there were no hairy masseuses and no people dressed in blonde wigs and 1970s retro gear.

I paid the receptionist some money and was handed a disclaimer form. I had to confirm that my death as a result of excess pain, suffocation with a towel or drowning in oil was at my choosing. After signing my name on the death sentence, I was taken into a little room by a small Mexican lady with smooth hands and a softly spoken voice. I felt like I would be taken care of – and not in a James Bond evil villain kind-of-way. I didn’t feel the need to check to see if she had a venom-laced blade in her shoe, or a knife-wielding dwarf in the cupboard. I felt safe.

After a short chat about oils, my masseuse advised me that she would leave the room for a minute to give me time to take off my clothes, do a little naked dance around the room (she didn’t actually mention that bit, I added it in for my own pleasure) and settle myself on to the couch, covering myself up with the towel. I hid myself well under that large towel. My inner child was hoping that she would walk back in, look around the room in a confused manner and say “Mr Hazell…? Where have you gone?”

She found me. Drat!

With everything in place, it was time to begin. The relaxing music started playing – it was Enya. I have to say that when it comes to background music, Enya is to massage what smooth jazz is to soft core pornography. It just sets the mood. It helps you drift off into another world; a better world where Abba doesn’t exist and death from towel suffocation is impossible.

The masseuse started on my feet. Now, I feel the need, at this point, to confess that I am slightly ticklish. So, I’m sure you can imagine the problem here. To stop myself from bursting out in fits of giggles, I desperately tried to take my mind off the sensations occurring in my tootsies…

‘Think of something non-ticklish, think of something non-ticklish…. feathers…. Bastard, I really hate my mind sometimes…’

Mercifully, the work on my feet lasted only a minute or so, and she began to work her way up my body. After massaging my back for a while, she whispered softly in my ear to turn over. We were half-way through already. I slowly wiped the dribble off my chin and turned myself over, like a beached whale trying to roll back towards the sea (but with less blubber). She moved some towels around a bit, and then placed one around my head. I reassured myself that although I had moved one step closer to suffocation, it was still fairly unlikely.

I settled onto my back, started to relax and was gently drifting off and then… ‘Oooooh no, not the feet again. Think of something non-ticklish, think of something non-ticklish…. feather duster… for Christ’s sake!!’

Again, thankfully, the torture was short-lived, as she put my feet down and moved on to my legs.

I must confess that from there onwards, I don’t remember an enormous amount. My mind drifted and my body relaxed, as Enya warbled gently in my ear.

And then that moment came. It was over, and it was time for me to depart. “Mr Hazell,” she said, “it’s time for me to finish now. If you would just like to take some time for yourself before dressing and meeting me outside.”

I wondered to myself, ‘how much time can I legitimately take? Would 7 hours seem excessive?’ I then raised myself from the couch, with a towel still wrapped roughly around my head, and prepared to get myself dressed. Now was definitely not the time to do another silly, naked dance around the room. It would be inappropriate. Oh, sod it…

I strolled out to meet my masseuse – walking a little bit like a spaceman who had just landed on the moon. She offered me some cold tea (it was supposed to be cold, they weren’t just lazy with their tea making) and I accepted. I then turned to her and said… “thank you for the massage… the words I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing. Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty?”

I have to say that I really enjoyed my massage. So much so, that, after looking through the list of other massages available, I’ve been tempted into trying another. My next massage is booked for tomorrow. The 80 minute Hot Stones Massage. Just leave my bloody feet alone!!

Hotel Breakfast Madness

The hotel breakfast experience can be an uncomfortable, tense affair – especially if you’re in a foreign country. Does this story ring true with you?

The hotel buffet breakfast

Bleary eyed, wearing your shirt back to front, and with your hair looking like you were assaulted by a troop of wig-stealing monkeys on your way in, you fumble your way through the door of the hotel’s breakfast room. It’s a buffet breakfast; all you can bloat. You chuckle to yourself as you imagine the fat American man you bumped into yesterday (the one with the enormous boobs) jumping up and down with joy at the potential calories on offer. Let’s hope he’s wearing his sports bra…

As the Maitre d’ greets you by the door, it becomes obvious that he speaks no English. So, you try to hint that you want a table for one without inadvertently giving him ‘the bird.’

Following a period of mis-communication, during which you seriously considered punching the Maitre d’ in the face, as he stood between your hungry stomach and the eggs and bacon, he sits you down at a table of his choice. Frustratingly, he’s chosen the table furthest away from the buffet, meaning that you have to undertake a small marathon to reach the food. The realisation passes through your mind that you will probably burn off more calories getting to and from the buffet area than are actually contained within the food. Oh, why can’t they supply golf carts?

The waiter walks over. He, at least, speaks a little more English…

Waiter: “Tea? Coffeeeee?”
You: “What… err, tea… yes, I’ll have tea. Thank you”

Then comes the list…

Waiter: “What tea you like? Engresh breekfast, caamomile, greeen tea, mint tea, eeerl grey…?”
You: “Err, I don’t know. Tea. Just tea. I don’t want help sleeping, I don’t have prostate issues… ordinary tea!”
Waiter: “Ah, ok………… juice, what juice you like?”

Finally, the waiter leaves… he’s gone to get your strawberry tea and asparagus and wheatgrass juice (you won’t have a problem with constipation today, that’s for sure!). As you sit at your table, staring blankly into the distance, your eyes focus for a brief second on a woman struggling back to her table, supporting an enormous mound of breakfast goodies with both arms. Her head is tilted to the side of her plate to see where she is going. Forget the golf carts, how about a forklift truck?

Now slumped over your table, struggling to wake yourself, you glance at your watch. It’s 10.29am. Breakfast finishes at 10.30am, so there’s little time to loose. You’re going to have to act like a contestant on the television gameshow, Supermarket Sweep – without the bright, very gay clothing and without the over-exaggerated enthusiasm. It’s too early for that. You jump up from your table, like a startled deer. Well, ok, more like a wounded wildebeest…

As you reach the food area, panting from your exhaustive journey, you notice several groups of people wandering around with their heads down and arms out, reminiscent of extras from an episode of the Walking Dead. It’s the hangover crowd. You decide it’s best to stay away from them incase they walk into you or, worse, projectile vomit over your shoulder as you inspect the pastries and cakes.

It’s time to make your first big decision: how to begin the breakfast debauchery? Being that it’s the morning, you really don’t want to have a guilt trip for the rest of the day about what you’ve eaten at breakfast. So, the best option is to start with something healthy; fruit. You pick up a piece of melon with your spoon and carefully place it on your plate… that’ll do. It’s amazing how this one piece of fruit, measuring approximately a square centimetre, can change your perspective and make you feel so much better about the mound of unhealthy eggs, bacon, sausages, toast, pastries and cakes that will inevitably follow. Afterall, your breakfast won’t have been *all* unhealthy, right?

And, let’s be honest, you are “health conscious.” Yesterday, you walked all the way up the hotel stairs to your room on the ninth floor… having taken the lift to the eighth floor first.

After devouring your fruit in three seconds, it’s time to move on to the cooked breakfast. Eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes and a mountain of toast. That brings us to one of the trickiest parts of the buffet breakfast…

The hotel breakfast toaster

Arriving at the toaster section, you’re confronted by a crowd of people with very perplexed faces, clutching pieces of bread. And they have every right to feel perplexed, for hotel toasters are always so incredibly over-complicated, with their vast array of buttons, dials and knobs (where-ever there’s a toaster, there’s always knobs). Moreover, the toasters always resemble torture devices with their mish-mash of metal spokes, prongs and cages. And why is there always one piece of ‘forgotten toast’ sitting on the exit tray; cold, getting in the way, but still optimistic of achieving fulfilment underneath a blanket of warm honey. It’s always perfectly toasted too – a miracle, in toasting terms. You can guarantee that your toast won’t turn out looking that good. ‘Hmm, you could just… no, it’s cold. Urgh.’

Having fought through the crowd, claiming to be the biggest toaster expert in the world, the torture device is finally revealed to you. Now, there’s an inevitability that the toaster will be one of two things:

  1. A time machine. Your bread will disappear for twenty minutes, only to re-appear looking exactly the same as it went in.
  2. A cremation furnace. You pop your bread in and, 10 seconds later, a pile of ash falls out onto the tray (the ash may or may not resemble the face of someone famous from history… possibly someone who was cremated)

Arriving back at your table with your mound of food, the waiter kindly presents you with a teapot of strawberry tea and a glass of asparagus and wheatgrass juice. Now, getting the tea from the little teapot into your cup should be easy. But, no, he’s given you the one teapot in the world with the dodgy lid and leaky spout. Consequently, when you go to pour it, the tea goes everywhere… everywhere except the cup, which remains as dry as an Arab’s flip flop. Seeing you in some distress, but clearly not understanding the gravitas of the situation, the waiter brings you a napkin. A single bloody napkin!

Although frustrated, part of you remains grateful that you’re not on board a boat with him. For, if it was to start taking on water he’d probably hand you a thimble to bail with…

At exactly 10.30am, events suddenly liven up. The lights in the buffet area are switched off, one by one. Breakfast is over… but the fight has only just begun. A mad scramble ensues, reminiscent of feeding time at the zoo. It’s a battle of wits between staff (starting to take things away) and people trying to desperately grab extra food for their breakfast. Everywhere you look, there’s chaos. Well, I say ‘everywhere’ – the fruit section remains incredibly peaceful.

You finish your breakfast and leave the restaurant. It’s all over. Behind you is a scene of carnage; bits of half-eaten food everywhere and tea-soaked table cloths as far as the eye can see. Although you arrived late, you feel contented that you aren’t the last to leave. That prize goes to a plump, married couple. There’s something not quite right though… the man has a strange muffin-shaped mound in his t-shirt and his wife is dragging a heavy handbag along the floor behind her. Forget the forklift truck – how about an articulated lorry?