'YOU'RE a lavenderish sort of person,' announced my aromatherapist, Amanda Jones, triumphantly. 'Yes, lavender. Definitely. With a touch of geranium and just a hint of ylang-ylang.'

'What's that?' I asked, as I slipped off my jacket.

'It's oil distilled from the ylang-ylang tree. Very good for stress. You're obviously very hyper.'

Miss Jones dimmed the overhead light and started to unscrew her phials of essential aromatic oils, 30 or so small blue bottles lined up like chess pieces on the Formica table.

'This the geranium,' she said, shaking three drops of a shining oil into a white ceramic mortar. 'It's brilliant for waking up a sluggish system.'

'How can I be sluggish and hyper at the same time?' Miss Jones gave me an indulgent smile as she began to combine the oils in a white ceramic pestle. 'It's a question of the balance of yin and yang in your body,' she explained, 'the relationship between the dynamic and the passive. You're clearly short on yin, and the geranium oil will boost it.'

'But my main problem is headaches. That's why I've come,' I said.

'The cranial massage will take care of that,' she replied. My confidence began to rise. Cranial massage. That sounded hopeful. Maybe my trip to Miss Jones was going to be worth it, even at pounds 40.

'So do you think you can cure me then?' I asked, as I started to undress.

'Cure?' A small corrugation appeared on Miss Jones's brow. 'Now that's a very emotive word. A very big word. I'm afraid I don't really allow words like that in here.'

'Well, will I feel better then?'

''Yes, she replied, briskly. 'If you want to, you will. The best thing is to have a course of six sessions - there's a 10 per cent discount by the way. Please leave your knickers on.'

I clambered on to the black vinyl padded massage table. I closed my eyes, trying to ignore the clamour inside my skull, and felt two warm oily hands slither over my naked back; then the sharp, peppery smell of geranium wafted up.

'Just inhaling the fragrance has a profound effect,' said Miss Jones as she gently kneaded my shoulders. 'Does that hurt?' She was now pressing her finger tips, hard, into the top of my head.

'No,' I said, 'I like it.'

Her hands were travelling down towards the backs of my knees. In the distance I could hear the drone of the evening traffic. I realised that I had already been lying prone for at least 45 minutes.

'What sort of problems do people come to you with?' I enquired.

'Everything. Stress, backache, headaches. How's yours by the way?'

'Agony,' I replied. She was now massaging my feet. 'Your kidneys are in a terrible state,' she declared.

'How can you tell?'

'The feet are the mirror for your whole body. There's an absolutely huge knot here. You're obviously not drinking enough.'

By this time, an hour and a half in, I was much too tired to care. My session finally over, I climbed stiffly off the table. I felt refreshed but slippery as I dressed and wrote out my cheque. 'Now, would you like to make another booking?' she asked.

'I'd like to think about that,' I said. 'I'm not really sure. But it was certainly a pleasant experience.' I wandered out into the night air, fragrant and relaxed. Then I went home and took two extra-strength paracetamol for my head.

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