Sunday 27 February 2011


Tara Cain is the one who finally made me sign up to Twitter. I know it makes sense but I resisted. I know I will be addicted by the end of the week. I signed up in the pub, while waiting for my friend, The Bride. But right now I don't know how to tweet. I don't know how to follow. If you are reading this please be my twit friend! @Boat_Wife. xx

Silent Sunday


Silent Sunday

Saturday 26 February 2011

Great Expectations

When I was pregnant with my first child I was smugly confident that my experience and knowledge as a hypnotherapist would allow me to reap so many of the emotional and psychological benefits that hypnosis promises to mothers. I also expected to use self-hypnosis to manage pain during childbirth. I had a comfortable, relaxed and uncomplicated pregnancy. When people suggested that I must be experiencing the various expected difficulties of pregnancy, not to mention the obligatory terror of childbirth, I contradicted them and explained that self hypnosis kept me healthy and calm, and that during childbirth this would reduce the cycle of fear, tension and pain discussed in Grantly Dick Read's pioneering book, 'Childbirth Without Fear'. I made my own personalised self-hypnosis CDs for a healthy pregnancy and calm birth and recorded a script to practice glove anaesthesia. I used a birth preparation CD created by another hypnotherapist and with my husband, I attended an antenatal hypnosis course for couples. I also attended a two day professional workshop for practicing hypnotherapists, entitled 'Painless Childbirth'. The courses provided me with valuable information on the physiology of childbirth and practical techniques and ways of using hypnosis. Marie Mongan's book ‘Hypnobirthing’ was an informative, encouraging and comprehensive overview of her methods and suggested that comfortable childbirth was natural and achievable. Ina May Gaskin's 'Guide to Childbirth' provided me with inspiring and uplifting stories of positive, even orgasmic, birth experiences.

All of my hypnotic preparations and studies lead me to set my heart on an idealistic birth experience. The harsh reality, pain and exhaustion I experienced were a real shock to me, as was the perineum tearing, the swelling, the baby blues and slow postnatal recovery. I wondered if hypnotherapy had worked, or whether I had failed. I was stunned, traumatised and depressed about my childbirth experience. I felt that I had expected too much from hypnotherapy and that it had not fulfilled what I had hoped it would do.

I am not alone in my initial disappointment with the expectations that I had. I emailed the members of my NCT antenatal class to ask if any of them had any experiences of hypnosis that they'd like to share. From the brief, anecdotal (and therefore admittedly unscientific!) evidence I have gathered, women seem to agree that hypnosis definitely reduces fear and increases confidence during pregnancy.

However, they described that hypnosis did not meet all of their positive expectations and some had a feeling that they had 'failed' because their birth experience did not match descriptions such as this one found on the Hypnobirthing(R) website,

“Just imagine welcoming each surge! Feeling peaceful... relaxing... and even smiling as your baby comes closer to you!”

Most mothers I spoke to found childbirth far more challenging than that!

“After being told that eight hours of early labour and regular contractions had made zero impact the hypnosis stopped working.... I look back with a positive feeling and gratitude, still love the music, but would include something about accepting pain” (Mother who used a hypnotherapy CD).

“I unfortunately have to say that when I did go into labour EVERYTHING I'd learned i.e. hypno stuff, NCT breathing and stuff from books flew out the window and I was practically unable to breathe despite my husband’s best efforts to calm me down... After ten hours at home I was only 2.5cm and was desperate for the epidural...” (Mother who did a hypnosis for childbirth course, and ended up with an emergency C-section).

“My labour progressed really, really quickly... I had gas and air and an epidural... in the end I got quite tired and they used the ventouse.” (Mother who did a hypnosis for childbirth course and used some self-hypnosis CDs.)

So what are realistic expectations of hypnosis in childbirth?

The Hypnobirthing(R) website states, “We can't promise you a 'perfect' birth - no one can - but we can promise you a much, much more comfortable and relaxed birth than you would have had otherwise.”

After meeting other new mums and having a meeting with my midwives I learned that my own labour was shorter and more efficient than most. I required no interventions, pharmaceutical pain relief, or gas and air – I got by with just my hypnosis and a Tens machine. My labour notes repeatedly comment “excellent breathing technique” and my midwives said that I was very “in control”. I had a candlelit Frederic Leboyer (1) style homebirth, and my calm little baby didn't cry when she was born, took to the breast straight away and had an Apgar score of 10/10, (a measure of newborn health). I now realise that to have this cosy uncomplicated homebirth at the age of 35 I was very lucky. I have met many mothers who had interventions, caesareans and bad hospital experiences. In 2007-08 the UK national caesarean rate was 24.6 per cent and the number of instrumental deliveries was 12.1 per cent. More than a third of women (36.5 per cent) had an epidural, general or spinal anaesthetic during labour. (2)

I was shocked to find childbirth so exhausting and painful, but in comparison with other births, I now realise that my daughter's birth was a very natural one. My midwives were reportedly “on a high” after attending my childbirth and confirmed to me that hypnosis was a big factor in the success of my birth experience.

The measurable benefits of using hypnosis, shown by scientific research (3), have included a shorter labour and a reduced use of pain relief, medical and surgical intervention. There are also reports of shorter hospital stays, reduced instances of post natal depression and higher Apgar scores.

The emotional benefits of using hypnosis for childbirth are generally suggested to be;

A reduction in fear of childbirth and an increased confidence in the body's abilities to birth naturally. Hypnosis encourages expectant mothers to feel more calm, relaxed, prepared and in control. It can also provide increased pain management abilities during childbirth.

From my own childbirth experience I can thankfully tick most of the items on these lists of suggested benefits of hypnosis. However, it seemed to me that many women felt they had been given unrealistically high hopes. I now believe that it is important to be aware of the need to manage these expectations and balance them with the need to encourage a positive outlook.

In her book 'Life After Birth', Kate Figes writes,

“Christina McKenzie (midwife) believes that ‘the way back to the middle ground is to be absolutely honest with women about the outcomes. Women get bombarded with glowing views of motherhood. There’s a fear of scaring women and putting them off, but it’s patronizing to assume that they can’t cope with the full facts. I still hear discussions where people say that if you give women that much information, then you’ll just confuse them.’

It is well documented that hypnosis can provide anaesthesia during surgery and dentistry and that it produces many beneficial effects for pregnancy and a more comfortable birth. There are even anecdotal reports of pain free birth. However, such incidents are rare and not always related to the use of hypnosis. Myself and other pregnant women have placed great faith in these positive anecdotes. I believe that it is misleading to suggest that by using a particular method or technique that painless childbirth is achievable for all. However, there is still a real need to balance and challenge the ubiquitous childbirth horror stories with positive anecdotes from women who have had empowering and beautiful experiences. This kind of optimism will produce a more relaxed and enjoyable pregnancy. Hypnosis can provide a more comfortable, easier and natural birth experience, it also provides practical techniques for managing pain. However, I want to provide my clients with a realistic viewpoint so that if they do experience pain they aren't left wondering where it all went wrong.

What do you think?

Did you use hypnosis in childbirth? What were your expectations of hypnosis, childbirth and motherhood?

For further information about hypnotherapy go to

(1) 'Childbirth Without Violence', by Frederic Leboyer recommends a quiet, dimly lit environment for the child's gentle transition into the world.
(2) NHS Maternity Statistics, England: 2007-08 from the NHS Information Centre
(3) A summary of the scientific research supporting these points can be found at

This article was first published in The Hypnotherapist Journal, September 2009.
(c) Peggy Melmoth

CyberMummy 2011 Meet and Greet

Cyber-what? It's a conference for British Mummy Bloggers on 25th June. The venue is about ten minutes walk from our winter mooring and probably even closer to my childminders place, but by then it will be summer time and we will have cruised off into the sunset and will be lost on the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire somewhere. I'm really looking forward to meeting some of the other bloggers I've met in cyberspace, going to writing workshops and also learning cool things like how to make money from blogging, get more blog readers and my personal favourite "Effectively use social networking (without it taking over your life)".
Carly at Mummys Shoes is hosting a 'meet and greet' on her blog so that some of us can get to know each other before the big day. So, introducing...

Name: Peggy

Blog: The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife

Height: 5ft 2 (Can fit under most canal bridges without ducking.)

Hair: Long ish, straight ish, dark, dark brown.

Eyes: Dark brown and mysterious, good for intently gazing, and fortune telling ;-)

Likes: Rioja, Camembert, writing, blogging, narrowboating, travelling, woods and trees, the sea, the moon and the stars, India, candlelight, The Doctor, and my two tiny boat girls.

Dislikes: War, famine, disease, gongoozlers*, and the really annoying American bloke on the Muzzy advert, “Kids are open to languages...” aaargh.

*I don't really dislike gongoozlers they just make me feel self-conscious, especially when I am doing a lock. (A gongoozler is a person who enjoys watching boats and the such-like on the canals.)

Meet The Boaters

What makes someone decide to live aboard? Does having kids change that? Why do some families stay living aboard, and others decide that as their children grow older, it’s time to leave the waterways and live ashore? I’ve begun to interview some boaters and ex-boaters about life afloat.

Louise (39) is a nurse and lives aboard with her eight year old daughter. She has lived aboard for fourteen years and loves the pretty colours and the glistening of the sun on the water.

She bought her first boat because she needed somewhere to live and she felt that rent in London was “absurd!”

What is your current boat like?

“It’s a 42 foot narrowboat, with a wheelhouse, 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and living area and big hatch.”

What do you like about your boat?

“I love being able to steer from the inside, listening to the radio, watching the windscreen wiper when it's raining and I'm, warm and cosy inside and talking to my daughter the whole time and being able to keep an eye on her. I like pretty much everything!”

Is there anything you don’t like about boating?

“I dislike leaky windows but the tarpaulin does a mighty fine job keeping the blasted raindrops out.
The best things are a wonderful sense of community and belonging, looking after my neighbours and feeling looked after. Financial freedom, change of scene, great friends and canal family, lots of colourful characters and musical gatherings.”

And what are the worst things about the lifestyle?

“The worst things are running out of water, full toilet, when the engine will not start, and not having enough room on the back deck for my bike.”

Louise lived aboard for six years before having her daughter.

Did becoming a parent change your thoughts on living aboard?

“Yes, I enjoyed living on the boat even more when my daughter was born, because I spent a lot more time at home with her and enjoyed walking along the towpath whilst pushing her in her buggy. I knew a good few boat mums and felt quite connected. We travelled on the boat a lot as well before she started school, so it was a great adventure.”

What are the best and worst things for children living aboard?

“I'm not sure that it is that great for children to be honest, there’s limited space inside, no garden, and the water is so dangerous. We do so much off the boat, she is well loved on the canal. My daughter does like going up to Denham and being at the country park”.

Denham Country Park offers 69 acres of rambling walks and woodland footpaths. It is surrounded by the Grand Union Canal and the rivers Colne and Misbourne.

“Being on the boat, means that I get to spend more time with my daughter because I don't have to work like mad to pay rent or a mortgage and I like being there for her.
The worst things are that there are not many other children on the canal, parents are wary about their children visiting, there’s limited space, limited power, and she has to help or wait while I do the chores, like laundry etcetera.”

What do people usually ask you about living on a narrowboat?

“Is it cold in winter?”

What encourages you to stay living aboard a boat?

“What encourages me to stay? Being able to move into the catchment area for a great senior school when the time comes. Being able to live in bustling London or the green of Denham in the same week, canal family, fresh air, country walks around Denham at weekends, canal-side pubs and musical get togethers.

So would you ever leave the waterways and live on land?

“ If I did ever move ashore I think I would always keep my boat. It's quite refreshing to remember all the great things about boating.”

Friday 18 February 2011

City Road Lock

Old wharf building. I love.

Angel, Islington

Recently, Not A Notting Hill Mum commented that she'd like to see more pictures on my blog. This is a very good idea, as my life is very scenic and there's plenty to take pictures of, and I bet y'all want to see what it's like inside a narrowboat too! Generally, people on the towpath like to sneakily peer in to our windows if they can ;-)
So, this morning I took another leap into overcoming my techno-phobia and worked out how to send a picture directly from my mobile phone to my blog! How 21st century am I?! This is the Islington tunnel where we sometimes moor.
The next stage in me getting to grips with the digital age is going to be (gulp) joining Twitter. Yep, I don't even tweet yet. But British Mummy Bloggers tell me it's the thing to do.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Moving On

21st January

Mr Too-Friendly is always hanging out on his back deck waiting for someone to talk to. His back deck is outside my kitchen window. He told me he went to see Johnny Boater’s band play last night.
“They were quite good.”
I told him the nearest laundrette doesn’t do service washes and gave him directions to the one that does.
“I mean, for the price of a beer, you know, and then you don’t have to sit in a launderette for two hours.”
“I like your thinking,” he muses.
On the towpath I met The Sound Engineer. Years ago we worked together in a recording studio. I bought my first boat. He loved the idea, he said,
“I might get one of those one day.”
Now he’s moored down at The Narrowboat pub.
“We’ve been there a while, we like it round here. We were all at Vicky Park, loads of us. And they did a big clear out, gave everyone tickets and moved everyone on.”

The Narrowboat Pub


20th January

We were listening to ‘Gotta Get Away’ by The Rolling Stones. The baby held her arms up to be lifted and danced around the boat. Whenever Mick sang ‘Baby’, she laughed with recognition and delight and pointed at her chest. She said,
“Baby... I don’t want to live here no more.”
Mick was sitting on the back steps in the kitchen.
What a drag it is getting old,” he said sarcastically as I swallowed a pill with my coffee.
“Doctor please, some more of these.”
“It’s Citalopram Mick,” I reproached him. “Not Valium or barbiturates. It’s all different today.”
“We used to call them ‘Yellow Submarines’,” said Mick. “But the doctors call them Nembutals.”
“Well I don’t think serotonin reuptake inhibitors are the same thing.”
“I’m just saying, who’s driving your brain?” asked Mick, cheekily. “Are you in control or is it driving you insane?”
You don’t know what it’s like in my head, I thought to myself. A sofa here, a bean bag there, an Indian throw, maybe a floor cushion... These little white wonders make my brain a more comfortable place to live.
My imaginary friend had over stepped the mark a little. That day he had brought along his own imaginary friend.
“This is Ronnie,” said Mick. Ronnie was leaning against the kitchen sink.
“Pleased to meet you Ronnie,” I said grumpily. (Hope you guess my name.)
“Ronnie and his brothers were the first generation of his family to be born on land,” said Mick. “Water gypsies.”
“Really?” I feigned disinterest, but I was intrigued.
“Yeah,” said Ronnie, swigging from a bottle of Chivas Regal. “My mum and dad were born on barges in Paddington Basin. My dad’s family’s barge was called the Antelope, and my mum’s family was on the Orient tug, docked opposite St Mary’s Hospital.” He passed the bottle to Mick.
“But you were born on land?” I asked him. He nodded.
“I grew up in a little council house in Yiewsley, just down the canal from Uxbridge.”
“Ooh, I know some right characters on the Cut around Uxbridge and Cowley!” I smiled, to think of them. Ronnie nodded slowly.
“My granddad Sylvester Wood worked around that stretch of canal and down to London. He dressed like a Chigago gangster dandy: trilby, waistcoat, watch on a chain and a carnation in his lapel,” he grinned. “He had a tug, pulling barges of sand, and he had several wives. Apparently he kept a second family further up the Cut in Stratford-upon-Avon, and maybe a third one in Manchester. ...”
“She’s thinking of giving up boating,” said Mick, accusingly, nodding in my direction. I jumped to defend myself.
“Well, it’s so much harder when you’ve got kids, you know?”
Ronnie nodded again.
“I can imagine. My dad was one of eleven children and Mum was one of eight,” said Ronnie.
“My mum wore hand-me-downs, and had disfigured feet from her bad shoes. She would walk miles to school and back with my Nan, and they pushed the smaller kids in a wheelbarrow. It was a hard life back then.”
“Wow. At least I’ve got my double push-chair! I don’t think I could push my kids in a heavy wheelbarrow.”
“My mum was small, like you; about five foot tall. Someone said to her once, ‘Stand up, Mrs Wood,’ and she said, ‘I am.’”*
“So you’re looking for a house then?” said Mick.
“Yes Mick. This little Rolling Stone wants to gather moss. Can I have a bit of your Scotch Ronnie?” I asked. But they faded away. The baby looked at me, puzzled. I have got to stop talking to my imaginary friends. We were listening to ‘Not Fade Away’ by The Rolling Stones. The baby held her arms up to be lifted and danced around the boat.

“Well love is love and not fade away
Love, love is love and not fade away .”

(‘Not Fade Away’ - Petty/Hardin)

The ‘Not Fade Away’ lyrics are the property of the respective authors, artists and labels. If you like this song, please buy a CD or MP3 to support The Rolling Stones.

*This article refers to the autobiography ‘Ronnie’ by Ronnie Wood.

“Matey and conversational, it reads as if Ronnie is sharing a bottle of Chivas Regal with you” The Times

Friday 11 February 2011

This is me Boat Wife

This is the first time I have commissioned a piece of work direct from the artist. The artist is three years old and the negotiations went something like this;
"Would you like to draw a picture of me?"
"No, actually because I am just busy, colouring."
"Ok. Maybe after you have finished colouring, you could draw a picture of me and then I would give you a chocolate cup cake with a smartie on top."
She finishes colouring and does the quick scribble abstract piece you see here.
"Is that me? Is that what I look like?"
"Yes!" said the artist proudly. "It is you as a MONKEY!"
"Where are my eyes?" I asked. She grins and shrugs. "Monkeys don't have eyes. Can I have my cake now?"

This idea came from Sticky Fingers blog.

Ask your child - their age doesn't matter - to draw a picture of you.

Post it on your blog.

Let's call it the This is Me Meme

Pass it on to your friends if you want to. Have a look at the other pics, they are great! :-)

Monday 7 February 2011

House Hunting

Saturday December 18th

The whole family travelled to St Albans to look at a Victorian terraced cottage. I phoned ahead and checked with the agency that the landlord was happy to take tenants with children. We trudged through deep snow and blizzards; the TV gave severe weather warnings; the airports cancelled most flights. I viewed some lovely complimentary therapy practice rooms, to consider practicing hypnotherapy there. We told the agency we would like to take the house. We were delayed at St Albans station for more than an hour while train after train to London was cancelled due to the snow. We waited nervously for two days before the agency phoned.
“Unfortunately, the landlord has decided to go with another couple who didn’t have children.”

Thursday January 20th

The whole family travelled to St Albans to look at a Victorian terraced cottage. We were the first people to view the property. The current tenants clearly had children; there was a cot in the second bedroom and baby belongings everywhere. We told the agency we would like to take the house. We waited nervously for one day before the agency phoned.
“Unfortunately, the landlord has decided they would prefer a tenant who didn’t have children.”

Monday January 24th

A charming character cottage with feature fireplaces and wooden floorboards appeared on the internet on Saturday: “Viewings from Monday 24th.” I made an appointment to see the place at 10.30am on Monday. At 8.55 am on Monday myself and the baby had our coats on and were ready to leave the boat. The agency phoned and said they’d just taken a deposit from someone who had viewed the property at 8.45am!

Thursday 3 February 2011

A Dad's Tale: Ground Zero

If you've been following my story of the Mellow Mum you may like to follow this new blogger, the Mellow Dad...

A Dad's Tale: Ground Zero: "I never expected to be writing this. Up until around 12 weeks ago my life was pretty unremarkable. I was married to mellow mummy (forever im..."

The Coal Boat

15th January

I left the children watching kids TV and walked a few boat lengths up the towpath to the coal boat. The banner hung over the hold reads, ‘Coal, Diesel, Calor Gas, Logs, Kindling’.

They are triple moored; I crossed the back deck of a widebeam, then the counter deck of their motor boat, to knock on the cabin of their butty.
“Yep?” It’s Coal Lad.
“Are you up? I can come back later.”
“Yes I’m up.” He peeps a sleepy head out of the back doors, and grins. He’s dressed in his work clothes and a grey wooly hat.
“I just wanted to let you know I need a pump-out when you go. You said you were off at eight.”
“Yeah, I’m still waiting for him. He’s stuck on the A40, so I went back to sleep.”
“Well, no hurry anyway,” I smiled.
“And maybe one gas,”
“We haven’t got much gas.”
“That’s what Candlebridge said” (the other coal boat) “something to do with the ice.”
“Yeah. All the gas comes out of Essex. All that snow and bad weather before Christmas has set them right back. They run a tight schedule you see. No one’s got any gas. All these people up the Lee are ringing me and saying they’ve got no gas at all. They can’t cook and they’ve got no hot water. So if you’re not desperate we’re only selling it to the people who really need it.”
“Wow,” I said, “no I’m not desperate. We’ll be alright,” and I returned to my boat.
Then, as I was standing at the sink washing the dishes I watched a tree on the opposite bank get blown down by the wind. It fell in slow motion right across the cut, and almost reached the little GRP cruiser that is double moored next to us. Now the coal boat won’t get through! I lifted up my eldest daughter to see. But in minutes, a couple of rufty tufty boaters were over there and lifting it out of the cut. More manly boater blokes arrived with saws and a trolley and began to saw up said tree for firewood! Free fuel all round.

Not Perfect

3rd January 2011

“The statistics say that roughly 20 per cent of women suffer from some form of depression in the year after giving birth, but the true incidence is probably far higher, for postnatal depression is often missed or misdiagnosed since it can be provoked or compounded by unavoidable aspects of motherhood such as exhaustion, poor health and changes in marital relations. Women are often reluctant or simply too tired to consult doctors. Sometimes they do not know that they are depressed until they emerge from the fog and look back on those grey days.

Postnatal depression is not something that happens to a small group of unfortunate women at the very end of the spectrum who cannot cope. It is a sliding scale, starting with the ‘baby blues’ affecting 80 per cent of women, and ending with majority of women sit somewhere on this scale, and the extent to which a woman suffers depends on her individual psychology, her ability to tolerate stress and the amount of emotional support she enjoys.”

(Kate Figes, Life After Birth).

“Motherhood, for me, was a sort of compound fenced off from the rest of the world. I was forever plotting my escape from it. “ (Rachel Cusk, A Life’s Work, On Becoming a Mother)

In her introduction to Buddhism for Mothers, Sarah Napthali writes “Books about the inner lives of mothers tend to be depressing reports portraying us as victims suffering a lifestyle that nobody warned us about.”

What about when depression goes beyond the postnatal period? Perhaps you’re not depressed but you just have a feeling that you are somehow failing to live up to your own, or other people’s expectations? The website Netmums wants to lift the expectation of being a ‘perfect parent’ from our shoulders by starting the Real Parenting Revolution. Accept that you are ‘Good Enough’. The campaign urges us to be honest with other parents about the challenges we are facing, and be more accepting of each other’s different parenting choices.

For me, sharing the challenges and difficulties with other new mums over coffee helped me through post-natal depression. As a new mother I was confused by conflicting childcare manuals, doubted my own intuition and lost self confidence. I’ve had to learn to have more realistic expectations of myself.

The Real Parenting Revolution says get R.E.A.L

R Relax and trust yourself

E Enjoy being a parent

A Accept each other’s choices

L Look out for each other

I’m also interested by Linda Jones’s question, ‘Does depression contribute to a messy living environment (through not having the get up and go to get up and clean) or does a messy living environment add to depression?’ Find out soon when her article appears in One in Four magazine.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

We Fish You a Merry Christmas

29th December

My strangest Christmas present was a voucher to enjoy a natural pedicure method originating from Turkey. I went with my sister-in-law to experience a “unique skin treatment that massages your feet using Garra Rufa fish”. My sister-in-law does not usually like to have her feet touched, but is up for it anyway. We expected to find some kind of beauty parlour that perhaps offers traditional pedicure and other treatments. However, the foot spa is a high street shop with large windows on to the street, through which the general public can peer in and watch you receiving your treatment. The door is even propped open letting in cold air and stray shoppers who come inside to observe the spectacle more closely. There are about eight individual fish tanks grouped in a semi-circle around the room with stools positioned above them so that the client can sit and dangle their feet into the water. The walls are painted a calming aqua blue-green and hung with innocuous arty sculptures of an indistinct abstract theme. The relaxing ambience is somewhat ruined by the jolly fairground organ music of the carousel in the shopping precinct outside. Curious kids ride gold-gilded horses around in merry circles. We sit on the sofa in the middle of the room and sign a form that declares we have no serious medical conditions and will not hold them responsible for any adverse effects of the treatment. During a treatment the fish nibble away the dry skin from your feet, apparently leaving you with healthy, rejuvenated skin. The claim is that your feet will feel “amazing, refreshed and healthy”. However, they sold over eight hundred gift vouchers before Christmas so they have been incredibly busy today. As a result, all of the fish are full up and need a rest! When we arrived for our appointment we were the only customers there. While we wait for the fish to have their rest, we sit with our feet bubbling away in electric foot spa’s and wonder how the fish can actually stimulate acupuncture points, helping to regulate the nervous system, relax the body and release fatigue. The treatment is also said to increase blood circulation. I suspect that the fish mouths hit acupuncture points by accident rather than by design.

When the fish have rested enough we are allocated a ‘foot bath’ (fish tank) each and the perspex lid is removed from the top allowing us to paddle our feet in the warm water. Immediately the fish rush to congregate at the soles of our feet, their little mouths eagerly sucking and nibbling away. It tickles; we giggle, but inside I feel squeamish. Silvery-brown little parasites two or three inches long with bulging, yellow-ish, beady eyes are wriggling and feasting on my dead skin.

“The treatment can be a little tickly to start with, which is great, because we can all do with a laugh once in a while! You will feel a light tingling sensation and enjoy a relaxing foot massage.”

If I try not to look at the fish I can imagine that it’s just little bubbles, so after a while it just feels like a gentle Jacuzzi. Then I can look at the fish again, I’ve got used to the feeling, it’s not so bad. As the sensation is so light I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as a massage. The foot spa lady puts on a CD of relaxing ambient music but we can’t hear it over the merry sound of the carousel outside. She did ask us to say if we’d like the door shut but we are too English and polite to say yes. The water is sterilized five times an hour and filtered for hygiene and for customer health and safety. The fish cannot transfer any diseases to humans. An alarm bell rings to signal that our time is up and after towel drying our feet we are offered a choice of fruity foot lotions. Yes my soles are smoother and softer, although of course some hard skin remains. My feet do feel incredibly clean and refreshed.

My sister-in-law enjoyed it and thinks she will go again, but I’m not so sure.
“So do you think you’ll feel differently about people touching your feet now?” I ask her.
“Oh no. I wouldn’t like people touching my feet, you never know what they’re going to do, do you?”

Tuesday 1 February 2011

The Vacuum

19th December

I am as thrilled as a 1950’s house-wife with the new electric vacuum cleaner. It is a nifty little bright red upright model. The maxi-vac is small to store and light-weight to manoeuvre. How does it work? My husband simply lifts the steel deck-board to switch our 240v supply to the larger inverter. Then I vacuum the home with ease and style leaving my headscarf and bright red lipstick intact. The effect does not compare with what I could achieve with a dustpan and brush. It is marvellous darling, divine! My daughter loves it too and cannot wait for her ‘turn’! we have joined the modern age I tell you. I daresay this will catch on.

The second time I used the hoover the baby was terrified of the noise. She worked herself up into a frenzy of red-faced sobbing snot bubbles. Big Sister, traumatised by the baby’s distress is crying too. Their voices are in competition with the noise of the vacuum cleaner. I scoop her up for a cuddle but the baby is inconsolable. The domestic goddess struggles to achieve domestic bliss.

PS. That is not me in the picture above. Picture me more like Audrey Hepburn in a headscarf.