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?”

http://www.softsolesfootspa.co.uk/
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