Pain is so close to pleasure

A nice Thai massage is what you want, they said to me, that’ll sort you out. A bit of pampering is what you need to get rid of those aches and pains. Go on treat yourself.


A few hours later, a few hundred Bahts lighter, about to miss my plane and the owner of a recently acquired and complicated limp, I was pretty sure they were wrong

The old lady began by manoeuvring me into a series of head and leg locks. In the style of an amateur wrestler trying to entertain a rowdy Saturday afternoon crowd at Leeds Town Hall in the late 1970’s, she worked her way through her sadistic repertoire. Like being mugged in slow motion in slightly too small pyjamas I was bundled and bent like a pop up tent that wouldn’t fit back into its bag.



If, like me,  you are of the opinion that a massage is supposed to be relaxing, (I’ve been nudged awake by many a disgruntled masseuse to let me know they’ve finished, with only their word that they hadn’t sat and watched TV whilst I snored my way through the session) then you’ve never had a proper Thai massage. Don’t be fooled by the pan pipes, and candles and incense, it is brutal.


After an extended period of getting incredibly intimate with someone who to be fair should have been taking things a bit easier at her time of life, listening to which of us could grunt the loudest, and getting used to looking at the soles of my feet from over my shoulder, I began to worry that she’d taken on too much.


She sensed my weakness and took advantage of the opening in our battle of wits and muscles and managed to mangle me into a position that was quite possible illegal in several countries. It would certainly be a sending off offence on the rugby field, and as she clung to my neck, leaning back like a sailor fighting with the wind, she managed to expertly work her iron like toes into the edge of my scrotum. I tapped out, in fact I almost passed out. Victorious, she remained in position for a few seconds longer, before we both collapsed onto the mattress moaning and gasping for breath.

There is nothing quite like the feel of an old ladies’ toenails digging into your most sensitive parts to remind you that you are alive.


As the gunshot sounds of my spine cracking and popping like a piece of wet coal on a fire echoed through the departure gates of Bangkok airport I imagined that the other patrons behind the gossamer curtains at the massage parlour were feeling a bit disgruntled having been silent witnesses to an extended and incredibly vocal happy ending.

Sadly this was neither happy, nor the ending, and after a quick rub down with a wet cloth, she returned to the ring to finish me off.

The grand finale of a Thai Massage is the neck click, a favoured move of heroes in action movies as they dispatch their foe with a swift twist of the head. As Freddie once said “pain is so close to pleasure”, he’d clearly never found himself in the death lock of the old lady at Bangkok International Airport massage parlour. I close my eyes and wait for the end.



I wiggle my toes to make sure that my head is still connected to my body, and then worry that the toe wiggling sensation might just be a memory of what it is like to wiggle your toes so I have a look, in the dim candlelight I can see my toes moving.

I had survived, which is about as happy an ending as anyone could wish for.

We dust ourselves down and shake hands like two heavyweights at the end of the final round. She is sweating, I was clearly a bigger challenge than she’d anticipated.

As I limp my complicated limp to my distant departure gate I hear those dreaded words.

Bangkok Airways flight PG704 is calling passenger Cleef Lanstall, last call for passenger Lanstall.

Feck, how am I going to explain this.

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