‘Honestly’, she berated me, pushing her plate away, ‘Lewes is the best place in the country to be ill. Apart from Brighton.’ She whipped the Viva Lewes handbook out of her bag, and said impatiently, ‘Haven’t you tried any of these?’
Stone the crows, there was a whole section at the back called ‘Health & Wellbeing’. I’d always skipped past it as though it was the sports pages.
‘I don’t know where to start’, I wheezed, finishing her baguette.
‘Acupuncture does it for me every time’, she replied, which was how, two days later, I came to be lying on a jumped-up trestle table in a Lewes back-street, as covered in needles as a Fred Goodwin voodoo doll. It wasn’t particularly painful, apart from, ow! those ones in my feet, but the coughing fit I had on the way home was so intense I briefly blacked out and suddenly remembered an episode of Marine Boy from 1974.
When I rang Cycle Girl she said it would get worse before it got better, what with the toxins pouring out of my chakras. I might have got that bit wrong as I was browsing for Marine Boy DVDs on Amazon.
Next day Decaf Man put the case for Reiki. I’d barely brewed the Nescafe (not decaffeinated, as I like to mess with his head), when he too produced the Viva handbook and circled three ads for Reiki practitioners. ‘Swear by it’, he said, bouncing off the walls as the drug kicked in.
So next day I was once again prone on a trestle table, as a charming young man silently moved his hands a few inches above my body. ‘I don’t mind you touching me’, I said hopefully, I mean helpfully, but he replied, ‘I use the non-touching technique’, and smiled enigmatically. ‘You may feel a warm tingling sensation in the area I am treating’, he added softly, his hands hovering over my bosom, and do you know, I did?
I was hitting my stride now in alternative land, so that when Absent-Minded Girl mentioned Bowen Technique I was already dialling the number. She’d forgotten to carry the Viva handbook at all times, but no matter – I’d stapled the crucial pages to my sleeve.
The Bowen therapist touched me – if only she’d looked like Reiki man - and it was a nice, gentle kind of massage, though the subsequent coughing fit took me right back to Andy Pandy, the one where Teddy locks Looby-Loo in a cupboard.
I met Grange Girl this morning, joining her on day three of her sleeping-bag vigil waiting for the Grange Café to open. She whacked me about the head with her handbook, and said, ‘Did you not think of going to a doctor?’
‘In Lewes?’ I retorted. ‘When there are so many other choices?’
Beth Miller, 7th April 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com