I had been working very hard for months. Although the project had been completed, my bodyset (as opposed to mindset) was still in clenched and hypervigilant mode.
I was staying near Tisbury, Wiltshire, with two beady friends, one 75, one 80. They advised me that, if she could fit me in, I should definitely see their marvellous local reflexologist.
‘But I haven’t got anything in particular wrong with me.’
‘Oh yes you have,’ they observed. ‘You haven’t relaxed yet – even though you’ve finished your work.’
Her treatment, they alleged, was keeping the two of them going. One of them is stuffed with drugs for his prostate condition; the other has chesty issues. Yet both have a spring in their step, thanks, they claimed, to their regular sessions.
Many people recoil from the idea of somebody tampering with their feet. Typically, they say, ‘No, I am ticklish and I don’t like my feet being touched!’ Or they believe their feet are too disgusting to be exposed.
However, just like conventional doctors, reflexologists are not lookist.
They see feet not in terms of their visual beauty but as tools to allow them to target their healing. Their therapy differs from foot massage, which focuses on the muscles and tendons. Instead, theirs focuses on the inner organs by using pressure on the feet to assess what is going on internally.
When they are good, they can tell if there may be a problem in there and, although they are professionally not allowed to make a diagnosis, they are allowed to suggest you ask a GP for tests.
You don’t have to get undressed. If you are, frankly, looking for someone to give you their full attention and make a fuss of you, then reflexology is considerably more affordable than other treatments.
So I agreed.
We all know about people being categorised, in a social context, as being either radiators or drains. The radiators cheer you up and the drains are like energy vampires.
Harriet Combes was more than a radiator. I found that, before she had even touched me, just being in the same room as her was enough to make me already feel younger and healthier.
As I lay back in one of those indoor lounger chairs in her quiet, sunny house near Tisbury, she positioned herself on a little stool by my feet and took them into her hands for about 45 minutes.
All I can say is that Harriet has healing hands. Her nimble handling was bliss, and the more lasting effect was that I felt renewed – perhaps five or six years younger. Spookily, just by touching my feet, she identified a weakness in one hip, the upshot of my falling into a pot-hole a year ago. An X-ray confirmed this.
A couple of weeks later, I was in a spa in Spain and booked a reflexology session. It was enjoyable and relaxing, but there was no therapeutic comparison.
So my advice to readers is: ask around and get personal recommendations. The word gets out when someone has the magic touch. Some oldies will remember the cult figure of the late ‘Joe the Toe’ or Joseph Corvo, who practised in Chelsea and had a waiting list around the block. His clients swore by him. In those days, it was known as ‘zone therapy’.
Harriet Combes has two interests. One is maintaining the health of oldies. Reflexology helps with balance and, as the Duke of Edinburgh believed, avoiding falls is key to life extension. It also improves blood flow and circulation and is good for arthritic pain.
Some 75 per cent of disease is estimated to be stress-related, and relaxation is necessary to promote the body’s self-healing abilities. If you can’t discipline yourself to relax, it would certainly not be self-indulgent to visit a reflexologist.
Harriet’s other interest is in reproductive reflexology. She has been trained by Barbara Scott in a school called Seren Natural Fertility. Seren therapists employ integrated medicine and work alongside consultants, urologists and andrologists. Specialist reproductive reflexology can make the relaxed female body a more receptive host.
Reproduction is not of much interest to oldies. But it is to our daughters and granddaughters, who can get very stressed when they fail to conceive.