Tuesday 23 February 2010


How often do we nourish ourselves? I thought about that word for quite a while. At first I wrote ‘pamper’ but I think it’s been downgraded somehow nowadays. All that ‘because I’m worth it’ sold to us by perfect actresses/models. I work from home and so basically there is no down-time – ever. After I pack James off to school I start work – I’m usually at my desk by 8am at the latest. I snatch twenty minutes for lunch and, if my eyes are falling out or my bum has become square from sitting, I don’t have a water cooler moment or hang out by the coffee machine – I bung a load of washing in the machine or race out and do a bit of weeding. I’m not moaning – I wouldn’t go back to working in an office – but, like many women who juggle work and family, I don’t really have down-time.
So, I surprised myself the other day when I agreed to go up to London for the day. Not for a feature, but for me. For some nourishing.
I pottered around the shops in Marylebone High Street and wondered if I could justify treating myself to a Diptique Baies candle. Decided sadly not. Then I met my agent, the lovely Judy, for a spot of very late lunch and several coffees. We talked a bit about work but mainly about life, and books, and general ‘stuff’. After hugging her goodbye I walked down towards Oxford Street for my next appointment – with Annee de Mamiel at Home House. Ever have those cases of synchronicity when you feel the universe (your subconscious or whatever) is nudging you towards something? Well, that’s how it was with Annee. I’d had an email enthusing about her brand of facial acupuncture and aromatherapy. Then, while researching a feature on the plus and minus sides of the whole pampering industry, her name came up again.

I’d asked dear friend and uber health journalist, Sarah Stacey, co-author of the fabulous Beauty Bible series, for her top ‘must-see’ therapists, the ones who are really worth the shedloads of money they charge. She voted for – yup – Annee.
As I reached Home House, a private members’ club just behind Oxford Street, I wondered if I’d made a mistake. It’s one of those places where you tug hopelessly at the wrong door, feeling like an idiot and then go flying through into a lobby where the staff make you feel about an inch high. The Method Spa is located in the vaulted basements and you could easily get lost in the maze of corridors which have, it has to be said, the feel of an old school or run-down hospital (with freezing cold floors).

The women in the changing room were all about six feet tall and size 6 and I felt like a whale in my towelling robe. So far, so not nourishing. But then I met Annee and the surroundings didn’t matter. She was as slim and gorgeous as the clients, wearing a neat black shift dress and pumps but just radiated warmth.
‘Come on in to my room,’ she said in her soft Australian accent. ‘Let’s have a chat.’ She asked me a series of questions, gently, encouragingly. It felt safe and nonjudgmental, as if she were really interested, not just going through the motions. She took my pulses, looked at my tongue and then sighed.
‘Oh you poor blossom,’ she said. I nearly burst into tears. It felt like she was the first person to notice me, really truly notice me – in years.
She covered me up in a cashmere blanket on her couch. Slotted acupuncture needles in my feet, legs, arms and hands to help balance my badly misaligned energy. Then popped a batch of them around my face – mainly on the jaw and forehead.
‘I need to relax some muscles and activate others with the needles. By the third treatment you really notice lines smoothing out and skin feeling thicker, plumper and firmer.’
I wanted to take notes but she gently discouraged me. ‘This is time for you. Let go of what you don’t need and take a step on a journey to look after you, to take care of you.’

It sounds a bit woolly written down but truly it isn’t. She creates a cocoon of safety and warmth and it really does feel as if she sees into your soul and smiles. Time became fluid as Annee talked me through a visualisation/ meditation and then, having taken out the needles, worked on my face using her own blended aromatherapy oils. It felt delicious, as if her fingers were talking to my face, teasing out the tension. Down went her fingers into my neck and shoulders, down deep into the rigid fascia.

She feels very strongly that women are way too tough on themselves. ‘They strive for perfection but I think real beauty is imperfect. What the Japanese call wasi sabi – the art of imperfect beauty. For example, if a bowl is cracked, it lets through the light. It’s about confidence. If you feel okay about yourself on the inside, you’ll look better on the outside.’
Some people say that facial acupuncture is a real alternative to Botox but can that really be the case? ‘Yes, very much so,’ she insists. ‘It takes longer but lasts longer. It got to me that women are so into freezing themselves; it frightened me. We need to nurture ourselves, not punish ourselves. It’s sad but here, on my couch, might be the only time women stop.’

I’m a rotten old sceptic when it comes to expensive beauty treatments, I really am. This one costs a hefty £150 for 90 minutes (but you do leave with a specially blended facial oil and a medicinal tea).  However (and I surprise myself here) if you can afford it, it really is worth it.  Funds allowing (which sadly, they're not) I would have it on a regular basis without question. I walked out not giving a toss about the snitty girls on the skyscraper heels and the self-important businessmen on their iPhones. I walked straight into a snowstorm and laughed. Two weeks later I can still see and feel the benefits – not just on my skin, but deep inside, in my heart.

If you want to try the Annee magic, check out her website at http://www.demamiel.com/


Annette Piper said...

What you've described certainly does sound nourishing - both for your skin and your soul. How wonderful that you're still feeling the effects - obviously a very worthwhile expense.

Genevieve Graham said...

Do you suppose she might make a wee trip across the pond to Nova Scotia? She could stay at my house ...

I loved your opening - about staying at home, but having no down time. I'm so grateful my hubby no longer asks "So, what did you do today?" because I'd have very little to say, though I'd done so much.

I also loved ... if abowl is cracked, it lets the light through. So pretty. Wonder if I can use that somewhere ...

Frances said...

Hello Jane,

That treatment does sound interesting. A little scary (those needles) but interesting! Glad that you are still feeling the benefits.

Now, here's something for you. Every time I see a photo of actress Carey Mulligan, I keep thinking how much she looks like you.


Quinn said...

I also work from my home, but I've learned to make "down time." It's not impossible, or even difficult - just takes a bit of discipline at first. Even taking 10 or 15 minutes to step outside or do a few stretches - and really breathe and let the tension drain from muscles - can be very nourishing and invigorating. Adding such breaks to your schedule reinforces the truth that you are, indeed, "worth it" - worth nourishing, that is!

DD's Diary said...

Sounds utterly gorgeous - I think we home workers shd get these treatments on the NHS. Glad you had a lovely time x

ArtSparker said...

Thee are splits here for me - that is, "Deserving " anything is not to the point )since we are no longer seven years old), but avoiding self-care can be avoiding a certain responsibility. Beyond that, some nourishment is genuinely nourishing, and some is entertainment.

Right now, I'm feeling a little envious! But, good for you.

Maggie Christie said...

I feel nourished just reading about that treatment. Her website looks fabulous too. I'll have to start saving up...

Not From Lapland said...

it sounds divine. Glad you had a great time

Kate said...

Wow - I want one of those!
By the way, I've tagged you over at my blog.

Exmoorjane said...

Huge thanks for the comments. Truly she is wonderful or I wouldn't be recommending her...Would be interested to know what other facial acupuncturists are like.. This was my first experience.

Fire Byrd said...

This sounds as benificial as my one and only Jo Malone facial. Not by her she was ill at the time but by somemone she had personally trained. I had it just as I was getting over all my ops for the same illness.
To be wrapped in cashmere and led into a candlelit room and have the facial from heaven,plus arms hands legs and feet massaged when the two face masks were doing there thing was an event I will never forget. It made me feel sane again after a winter of hell.
Glad you enjoyed yours.
Good toknow your feeling better BTW.

Tattieweasle said...

Gosh it sounds heavenly and I agree with Dulwich Divorcee it should def be available on the NHS or if not that then allowable against tax! Good to hear you had such a wonderful time...

geekymummy said...

Hello, can't believe it has taken me this long to find your blog, your writing is wonderful, really stands out.

I love the sound of facial accupuncture. My face could certainly use something.

CAMILLA said...

Hello Jane,

That treatment sounds wonderful, great to hear you are still feeling good since having it done.

Used to shop down the Marylebone Road a lot years ago when I lived nearby, interesting to know if it was the same shop that I used to buy candles from, also worked there for a bit at weekends.