Hard Massage


I am being admitted to a health spa today at my friend’s insistence.


Health, there’s no word more offensive to my ear.

How people can faff about with cabbage soup, yogic meditation or whatever the hell else it is these fanatics get up to, I’ll never know. And why is it that ‘wellness’ gurus always look so ghastly ill? I suppose it’s their secret to long life: Death won’t find them if he mistakes them for a corpse.

It strikes me that fanatics of every stripe are sad or sexually repressed in some way, and wellness fanatics more than most. The mere mention of ‘wholesome grains’ seems to bring on in them something close to orgasm. The other day, a wellness influencer on Instagram gave some vomworthy piffle about being ‘loved’, ‘worthwhile’ and ‘in control’ of her life. But these inspirational words were betrayed by her eyes which looked like dams holding back a reservoir of tears. She has over 200k followers, I wonder if they actually buy into her counterfeit happiness or if, like me, they are expecting the dams to burst someday soon?

I try to avoid these people as much as possible – impossible in Chiswick. There are too many boutique groceries and artisan bakeries around here to which the health fanatics swarm like flies to dung. What a truly hideous sight some of them make: staggering the streets in a kind of lonely rage; their chicken necks webbed with veins and oiled with patchouli; their mouths like open gashes pooled with beetroot juice. If their bodies are temples, then please God let mine be a tomb.

It’s not as if I haven’t tried to improve my lifestyle. I‘ve cut out the fags (they are extortionate in Soho, and one never knows what’s in them these days). I do, however, draw the line at cutting out cigarettes.

Recently I saw a ghastly aphorism on TikTok: ‘Small steps make big changes.’ Yes, it draws bile to my throat too, but I can work with small steps and have been shuffling towards what I like to think of as a more ascetic way of life: I now take a multivitamin with my morning whisky, fresh air with my cigarettes, and, when braving the mirror, I see in it that good red glow that only broken blood vessels can cast.

Heaven knows what instruments and methods will be used against me at this spa. Its website volunteers little information. I can only find mentions of ‘detox’, ‘wellbeing’ and a bunch of other namby-pamby New Age crap.

Well, I shall soon find out.

My taxi driver has texted to say he’s five minutes away, which gives me enough time for another drink to salve my nerves. I don’t imagine it will be all that bad, really. Cucumber eye pads, Jacuzzis, that sort of thing.



Jesus-hell-Christ, I’ve just returned from the spa more desperate for drink than ever. The good news is that I don’t think they’ll be having me again. The bad news is that I’ll probably find myself on a sex register by morning. I don’t know quite what to make of it all, nor does my therapist friend, Jennifer. She said, through ill-disguised laughter, that my problems were beyond her expertise and asked if I’d considered moving to a non-extradition country.

The fact is, there was an incident in the spa involving a massage and a very unhappy ending.

I had seen a man in reception reading John Major’s autobiography – he must have either been a book reviewer or a masochist, I reasoned, before reasoning further that there’s no difference between the two. There was something subtly disturbing about Major’s smile on that book cover. It had a sly, almost mocking tone, and his eyes seemed to follow mine, along with my thoughts, to the massage room.

The massage was something like an exorcism with me being sopped in ritualistic oil and screaming as the woman pummelled my back to near-paralysation.

‘To relieve tension,’ she said.

Sadistic old sow.

To my surprise, the pain then turned to pleasure as she began stroking, caressing and patting the places she’d previously beaten. But just as the pain had turned to pleasure, so too did pleasure turn to panic …

The swells of pleasure I felt had caused me to feel something else swell too.

I hadn’t been looking forward to the health spa, but not even in my darkest imaginings did I imagine I’d end up on a massage bed with an erection between my legs and John sodding Major in my head.

Thinking pain might tame this tremendous beast (if you’ll grant me some creative licence), I asked the woman to start the pummelling again.

‘Are you sure this isn’t too hard?’ she asked.

‘Too hard? It’s nowhere near hard enough, woman! I can still feel the nerve endings!’

This business went on for half an hour. Me screaming, she fretting about her licence (which I took to mean that she didn’t have one), and the erection remaining obstinately firm. All the pain in the world was of no avail against it.

Eventually, the time came for her to utter the two words I’d been dreading. The two words that have now replaced ‘health’ at the top of my hated lexicon…

‘Turn over.’

James Bembridge is Deputy Editor of Country Squire Magazine.

If any of the issues in this article affect you, good luck to you. You can always contact Mr Bembridge on Twitter for erectile advice. In the meantime…