Thirty years ago in June 1984, I qualified as a reflexologist through the International Institute of Reflexology based in Harlow, Essex. The year before I’d been attending evening classes on the then new alternative therapies. Demonstrations of Iridology, the Alexander Technique, Reiki, Hypnotherapy,
Etc proved fascinating but didn’t prove as compelling as Reflexology.
When I practised as a reflexologist I had reached a point in my life when it didn’t feel enough to call myself a writer. I knew I needed to develop another
skill and that maybe that lay in the healing professions. Conventional medicine was not for me. But why of all the alternatives did I choose reflexology. Feet used to be a constant butt of silly jokes and puerile remarks. Back then did I unconsciously decide on work that was open to ridicule or admiration? ( I recall a jobs advisor, at a Job Centre, looking highly skeptical when I said I wanted to ‘work on feet’.)
So what did prompt my therapeutic interest in feet? Here are ten ‘good’ reasons.
(1) As a young boy, in Liverpool, I watched my father, exhausted from his job
as a road sweeper, light up his pipe as he soaked his unwashed and lopsided feet in a bowl of hot water laced with pine Radox salts.
(2) My mother would hobble round the house in badly fitting shoes; complaining of her bunions and her insufferably long wait for an NHS appointment with a chiropodist.
(3) The exercising of my feet on the pedals of my bicycle. (That all came to a
temporary end the day the left pedal fell off and I fell into a hole in Kilburn high road. My bruised foot healed leaving me wary of cycling near building site chasms).
(4) Aged 23 and paddling my feet in the Meditaranean close to the Lido by Venice and very frustrated that I couldn’t swim.
(5) Aged 24 and learning to swim. Letting my feet be liberated as they pushed against the chlorine doused water of the swimming pool.
(6) Attending Sunday school at the local church and doing a crayon drawing of a big footed Jesus walking on the sea. Even aged 10 I was highly doubtful that his Messianic feet could do such miraculous tricks. I tore up the picture and gave up religious instruction for the kiddies.
(7) Having a narcissistic fixation with my ‘good looking feet’ Though this attraction never slid into foot fetishism and a drooling over shiny shoes.
(8) Reading stories about Achilees being shot, by a poisoned arrow in his heel,
by Paris. I loved reading the Greek myths and imagined pulling out an arrow from my foot, laughing out loud and declaring my invulnerability to any street
kid version of Paris, who might be hiding, bow in hand, in an alleyway or up in a tree in the park.
(9) That the Biblical story of Jesus having his feet washed and dried by a woman’s hair was a further nail in the coffin of believing in the son of God.
Fancy letting a woman do that for him. God should have employed some angel with nothing to do.
(10) Wlliam Blake’s lines, ‘And did those feet in ancient times walk on England’s green and pleasant land.” Well I think the cockney Blake’s feet did do that in a gloriously irreverent and holy, to Blake, sweaty way; probably many times on Primrose Hill, very near to where I now live.