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Massage in a brothel. It’s not what you think.

June 21, 2013

This, as you might say, is going to be a quickie. but let me first advise you to spend a couple of minutes with the splendid Crumbs and Pegs, where you will find that pampering yourself is not all it’s cracked up to be: Massages – a whole lot of stress.

As often happens, I see one word, and my thoughts go off in their own direction, without guidance, purpose or conclusion. (As my friend Craig pointed out to me this week, the trouble with the mind is that it has a mind of its own.) In this case the word was “massage”, and I immediately thought about the Police, and their 1979 hit Message in a Bottle.

The reason for the association is perhaps flawed, but clear. No doubt at that time I was really a little old for this kind of humour, but it did not take much imagination for the title of this song to morph in the mouths of schoolboys to Massage in a Brothel. We had campaigned at school for a common room for our year group, and we were granted the privilege of one of our classrooms being opened during lunchtime, and the right to play music of our choice on a record player that we clubbed together to buy. Massage in a Brothel was one of the songs with which we used to try and scandalise the grownups as they walked past; this was a plausible aim, because words even acknowledging the existence of intimacy outside marriage were certain to offend one or two of our teachers. Looking back on it, I see now that the main purpose of the common room was for the illicit smokers among us to congregate, with some persuadable classmate watching the corridors for patrolling staff or prefects. This also gave us the time to adjust the words we were singing as necessary.

A particular target was a teacher (now beyond the reach of unkind teenage jibes) who gave me some of the little classical education I have retained. A tall, heavy, scholarly man, half Italian-Swiss; slow-moving and deaf in one ear which led him to progress ponderously with his head at a permanent tilt of about 30 degrees from the vertical. He was a gentle person, and I am glad that before he had finished teaching me I had grown out of the tendency to tease him. But to the point – his first name was Eric, and that was all that 15-16 year olds needed as ammunition.

A hit around that time was a novelty punk song Jilted John, by Jilted John. It’s a tragic story, about John, who – you’re ahead of me – is jilted by Julie in favour of Gordon. John expresses his desolation most powerfully in the line “Gordon is a moron” repeated several times. So if our classroom sentry alerted us that Eric was in the vicinity, we had time to get the record cued up and begin singing along, with the simple lyrical adjustment of substituting “Eric” for “Gordon”. You’ll agree that it was inspired: the devastating wit of a downsized crowd mentality.

He showed great dignity, when he told us to play the record again so that he could hear it properly, in saying nothing harsher than “That wasn’t what you were singing”. It’s his handling of that which enables me to look back on it with amusement rather than embarrassment.

So, that’s it – a quick memory and no more. I’m very sorry to anyone coaxed into reading this far by the illusory prospect of some salacious revelations; and doubly sorry if you are a first-time visitor to this blog who searched for “brothel” or “massage” or both. I hope you can contain your disappointment, and wish you luck in your further quest.

This image is utterly irrelevant.

Plan of a Pompeii Brothel.
This image, which I found on a University of Texas web-page, is utterly irrelevant.


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  1. Thanks for the mention. You’re going to get lots of hits for this for all the wrong reasons – nice one!

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