Secrets of the massage table

AS A general rule I’m not a big fan of massages. Quite apart from anything else I tend to fall asleep and miss most of the action. It’s not so much a fear of missing out as knowing I will miss out.

At the uber-luxurious Anantara Kihavah Villas in the Maldives, though, I discovered a foolproof method of staying awake. It’s not for everyone but it does work.

First, let’s set the scene. The spa (I refuse to use that jumped-up catch-all Johnny-come-lately word ‘wellness’) at Kihavah is reached by a wooden walkway over aquamarine waters in which pale baby reef sharks circle before they’re old enough to head out into deeper waters.

It’s stupidly, madly, insanely paradisiacal, this place – the main reception a beautifully appointed structure off which more walkways lead to individual spa rooms suspended over crystal clear waters. James Bond should be blowing stuff up here, it’s that beautiful.

The view from the rooms is blue, blue and more bloody blue and each massage table has a small window set in the floor beneath it so you can watch the underwater world go by whilst having the whorls ripped from your knotty back.

I change into my disposable black mesh budgie huggers, bang the little gong to let the masseuse (Weda from Bali) know I’m ready and settle on the table in readiness for my signature massage.

(I am unsure about this ‘signature’ lark. Everywhere I go these days there’s a signature this and a signature that. As far as I can make out a ‘signature’ massage is, um, a massage.)

But I digress … the secret to not falling asleep on the massage table is (a) have a stinking cold and (b) suddenly realise you have the urge to break wind.

This will result in desperate attempts not to drool snot onto your sub-aquatic window (facing downwards), not to drown in your own phlegm (facing upwards) and buttocks clenched so tight that Weda could swipe a credit card between them and buy a round of drinks.

It’s just general courtesy, really.

A few days later I am at the uber-luxurious Niyama private island and have been booked in for a ‘signature’ massage. When I get wind of this (sic) I ask nicely if it’s possible to have something else and finally decide to “align myself with the Hollywood A-list” via a non-signature facial intraceutical oxygen treatment. Madonna gets it done, it seems. A lot.

The treatment (‘rejuvenate anti-ageing”) starts with a questionnaire of sorts which asks about your skin concerns and wants you to rate them from 1-10. The first one is about premature ageing (bet they don’t ask Madonna THAT one). Is this a trick question? How does one answer that? Do you go for humility or cockiness? In the end I put 9, a number which for some reason shocks my masseuse.

“Nine?” she says, looking at me intently. “Why nine?”

“Because,” I reply, “I’m only 21.”

Luckily she has a sense of humour and gets the joke. Which is why I think she’s joking when she tells me that her name is Soso. My masseuse is so-so? This does not bode well.

The spa is a sprawling patchouli-flavoured Shangri-la in the middle of the island and we walk through lush gardens to reach the massage room which is, you guessed it, seaward-facing with views of … you get the idea; paradise paradise paradise luxurious beautiful stunning yadda yadda bing bong.

We enter the room. There is a massage table, and a machine that looks alarmingly like the incestuous offspring of a Dalek and R2D2 from Star Wars.

“Would you like me to wash your feet?” asks Soso.

Now, it’s been a while since I had a facial but I’m pretty sure feet weren’t involved. I decline and hop up onto the table where Soso makes me takes my shoes and socks off and washes my feet with a hot towel anyway.

This either says something untoward about my feet or Soso’s an unrepentant foot fetishist. Either way, it IS very soothing.

The facial itself consists of a whole host of unguents and salves and enzyme exfoliants and gels and cleansers followed by a period where Soso goes to work on the pores of my nose (they got a big fat nine on my questionnaire) with what feels like a miniature tongue scraper.

During this time she squeezes out blackheads, old Kouros after shave, sebum and accumulated gunk from, I think, as far back as 1971 (when I hit greasy puberty). This goes on for some time, during which she creates a pile of waxy nose pore detritus of the sort last seen being turned into a pot by Demi Moore in Ghost.

The R2D2 machine is brought into play at some point soon after. Soso explains that it uses lightly pressurized oxygen to aid delivery of some of the aforesaid unguents to the skin. According to the website the treatment is a “non-invasive treatment that targets the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and dramatically enhances overall hydration”.

Towards the end of the treatment I begin to think that Soso’s heart isn’t in when she starts snoring. I am rightly outraged until I realise that it’s me.

Do I look younger afterward? Are my fine lines and many wrinkles pumped up and hydrated? I look very lubricious, that’s for sure. My girlfriend, when I send her the before and after pics, says I look “Jewish”.

Jewish? That I was not expecting.

“Dewy, you idiot. Dewy.”

And it seems I can continue to look dewy if I fork over US$365 for the various embrocations used to perform this miracle of anti-ageing. Instead, I sip post-treatment ginger tea and bask in my new-found and most definitely short-lived dewy-ness.

Soso says it’s best to leave the various oils on my skin for a while to let them perform their alchemical wonders.

Little does she know that, at these prices, I’m never washing again.


Balmain Library Appearance

VERY pleased to have been invited by the Friends of Balmain Library to talk to them about reading, writing, libraries, bullying and anything else that pops up.

Date: Friday 24th July 2015
Location: Balmain Town Hall Small Meeting Room
Time: 7pm for 7.30pm
Cost (incl. light supper):
Non-members: $20.00
Members: $15.00

“Keith Austin, the renowned and popular author of Young Adult books Snow,White, Grymm and Jago will be FOBL’s guest speaker on July . Keith’s varied and adventurous life could itself be the subject of a novel. Come and listen to this brilliant British writer and journalist – who has chosen to make Australia his home – share his ideas about reading, writing for young people, the role of the local library in his childhood and his passions in life.

“For any adults reading Grymm for their own pleasure or to someone else, there is much fun to be had spotting references to other works, not just Grimm brothers fairy tales. For the target audience, there’s simply fun to be had.” -Theo Chapman, Sun Herald, Sydney.”



Frighteningly pleased to be in the chair at the Bendigo Writers’ Festival this year with Sean Williams and Keri Arthur talking about where all the weird stuff in our heads comes from …

“Some writers find inspiration in the darkest places and then apply imagination to transform the strange and supernatural into stories that resonate in the everyday.”

We’ll be at The Engine Room @ Old Fire Station on Saturday, August 8, from 10:45am-11:45am.

AND on Sunday, August 9 … MY WORD!

A place? A value? A verb? Rod Fyffe invites writers Keith Austin, Susan Butler, Anne Crawford and Celeste Liddle to nominate a word that inspires them, then leads a discussion about what word they’d most like to see as Australia’s motto.

Come see us on the Sunday (1:45pm-2:45pm) @ Bendigo Bank Theatre @ The Capital.

For more details of the festival visit