Since posting my last bulletin, the following developments have taken place.
On the Saturday following its first appearance, the irritation and swelling in my left eye spread to my right and by the evening, both cheekbones were also slightly swollen. On Sunday, the swelling had subsided in all areas except my left eye and I was optimistic that I was ‘on the mend’.
On Monday morning, the signs of improvement were still there so I went off to my morning class. I have started a course in Creative Writing on the basis of the adage: If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well; and I figured that if I was going to continue writing on my blog, I should learn to do it properly.
I had some errands to run after class and didn’t return home until mid afternoon; and that’s when I first felt the stiffness in my neck again, getting progressively worse throughout the afternoon and evening.
On Tuesday morning I decided that I’d had enough of this and headed off to the Thai massage parlour, just two blocks away from where I live. For a place dedicated to relieving the suffering of those with muscle pain, the sliding door was remarkably stiff, difficult to open and even more difficult to close. I approached the young woman at the reception desk, explained my problem (my neck problem, that is, not my whole life story) to her and asked her what treatment she recommended. She asked me if I’d like it hard or soft; and avoiding the obvious response, I thought back to the massage I’d endured just a few days earlier in another parlour and elected to have the soft option. The young woman smiled sweetly and invited me to enter a curtained cubicle, only a little larger than the massage table it accommodated.
I don’t know if the masseuse was actually Thai but she was small, slender, very soft-spoken, barely audible in fact, above the burbling of the water feature playing in the corner of the reception area. When she emerged from behind the desk I could see that she was wearing a variation of the Thai national costume with, for reasons that will become clear as the story unfolds, culottes substituted for the customary sarong-like skirt. She asked me to take my shirt off and lie face down on the massage table then departed, presumably to fetch her oils and unguents; and once settled, I allowed myself to be transported by the hypnotic tintinnabulation of the world music that drifted through the air on a melody that was repetitious but in a strangely soothing rather than irritating way. I was so distracted by the music in fact, that I barely heard the tiny voice of the masseuse outside the curtain, asking if she could come in; and resisting the temptation to point out that she would probably not be able to do me much good from where she was standing, I simply replied: “Of course”.
She began by rearranging my feat, rolling them outwards, then made her way up each of my legs in turn performing a similar adjustment. I could barely feel her hands touching me. “So far, so good,” I thought. Then the reason for the culottes became apparent when she jumped up on the table with me, straddling my legs with hers, her calves pressing against my thighs, her hands working my lower back; and after that optimistic start, the session descended into a dozen kinds of torture. I was so glad that I had opted for the soft option.
At the end of thirty minutes, and a grand finale of chopping and slapping (her doing it to me, that is), my tiny torturer invited me to get dressed and asked if I’d like some tea. I said yes and, emerging from the curtained sanctuary, I was given a small porcelain cup that was almost too hot to handle and invited to sit in a large leather armchair. Once cool enough to drink, the tea was delicious: rich, smooth, thick and sweet. I let its vapours seep into my nostrils as I allowed my thoughts to drift with the music, cheered by the burbling of the water feature, back to the first moments of the session, before the torture began.
I could have stayed in that soothing ambiance much longer but when I’d finished my tea, I prised myself out of the armchair and handed the cup back to the masseuse at the reception desk. She took it with both hands and bowed slightly, allowing her gaze to drop and her head to rock slowly forward once. I took one of her business cards in return and slipped it carefully into my pocket, then saying goodbye and thank you, I turned and braced myself for an altercation with the sliding door.
I was hoping to return to the fray of Flickr this week but life is a trickster. Just when you think that you’re on top of everything, it all starts to unravel and fall apart. Then, when you find yourself in the depths of despair (okay, that’s a gross exaggeration, but it sounds good), something happens to lift you right up again.
This week, I stumbled upon an image that Nathan (nlwirth) had dedicated to me. At first, I looked disbelievingly at his upload before the reality sank in. I have not met Nathan, except through his photography and a few emails that we have exchanged about writing. And I was amazed and touched that one would be so kind.
And then, as if that wasn’t enough, I got an email from a Flickr friend John, (johngpt) who is a physical therapist in the US; and when I replied to him, explaining the problem I was having, he contacted a colleague in Japan to ask if he knew any physiotherapists in Sydney, Australia who might be able to help me. Now how totally cool is that?
I know that I struggle sometimes with my photography: trying to understand what it all means, agonising over why one image works and another doesn’t, battling my self-doubt, striving to reach a goal that seems as elusive as a butterfly; but what I enjoy about Flickr, even more than the wonderful photography, is the feeling of being part of a community.
So, thank you to Nathan, John and everyone else who has given me their support. I hope to be back. I hope it will be soon. My very best wishes to you all.
 I just heard a child crying outside, went to the window to investigate and saw a butterfly darting among the flowers. Writing in real-time!