On the bench


Osteopaths are amazing people. The other day I woke up and I could not move my neck. I was like a cat being held perpetually by the scruff of its neck. Normally I would just procure vast amounts of Voltarol, a tennis ball and some Ibuprofen and stick it out; but in this particular instance, having just begun a job, I am actually under the obligation to be able to move. Like a dutiful dancer, I don’t waste a moment and am soon sat sheepishly opposite Nicky Ellis, anatomical wonder woman and employer of renowned elbow-in-butt method.

She nods and scribbles on a form as I relay the history of my neck as far back as I can remember. I astonish myself with the amount of deathly boring detail I can go into. ‘I did once get a funny compressing feeling between my right ribs,’ I’m saying distractedly, ‘and I’ve always had quite a tense jaw…‘ She seems to assimilate these garbled fragments instantly. ‘Have you ever been slapped in the face?’ she asks. I crease between the eyebrows. ‘Dropped on your bum?’ ’No’. On the bench, she rolls me deftly over onto one side and with a quick bounce sends cracking noises like bubble wrap up my spine. ‘I think this might be an emotional thing’ she says. Crack. I have to agree.

My arms braced across my chest, the weight of a fully grown woman on me, I attempt to consider this prospect further, but to no avail. I feel absurdly unaware of how I even arrived on this bench, let alone what my emotional landscape looks like. Predictably, I start to cry. ‘I’m just going to carry on’, she says, and I nod; or rather allow her to continue bracing, squeezing and bouncing all tension out of me, like a grateful, blubbing doll. ’Will you be OK if I crack your neck?’ she asks gently. I have no idea what that entails but am physically so resigned to her faculties I don’t see the point of refusing. ’OK,’ I say, letting out a little whiny noise I haven’t made since I was about seven. She takes my chin in one hand and my forehead in the other. Afterwards, I can nod. I can even look a little further to the right, like the owl embroidered on my jumper.

Taking Nicky’s advice, I take a walk in Hyde park, clinging onto a skinny latte as if it might hold the key to all my locked up emotions. I look at all the normal people moving their necks around and briefly wonder if being a dancer wasn’t a terrible idea. The decision, as I recall, was made rather hotly, sat in my bedroom age sixteen, amid piles of glossy ballet magazines. They don’t print many pictures of stocky contemporary dancers, swollen-eyed and being snap-crackle-and-popped in small white rooms. Maybe if they did I would have done it anyway. I’m a bit sick like that.