Street Life: Your Very Good Health

1948 saw the launch of the NHS, but the concept of free medicine took a little time to get into the nation’s psyche. In the 1950s, ‘prevention’ continued to be the household watchword. Cod Liver Oil was common, but thankfully the custom of basting children in goose grease before sewing them into their vest for the winter had become obsolete.

Patent medicine manufacturers were relentless in their advertising of nostrums, which at best were little more than a placebo, and at worst contained some highly questionable ingredients. Nevertheless, they remained popular, even when prescription drugs came free.Grandad was asthmatic, so we knew all about ‘bad chests’ in our house. He accepted his NHS inhaler gratefully, but he continued to wear Thermogene next to the skin for luck. Pink in colour, Thermogene’s texture most resembled modern roof insulation, with a smell that was redolent of a chemical weapons establishment. But for those who were put off by its pong, there were always Do-do tablets. Also known as Chesteze, they contained caffeine and ephedrine to relieve breathlessness, wheezing and other symptoms of asthma.

Children have always caused alarm to parents with the onset of sudden and inexplicable symptoms. In our house, liquid Fever Cure, or Cooling Powders (both made by Fennings) were administered for a high temperature. And until a positive diagnosis was made, spots were painted with Calamine lotion. The cardboard ointment box of Fullers Earth came out for rashes, and drawing ointment (magnesium sulphate) was applied to splinters, boils or infected cuts. The preparation and application of Kaolin poultices was still being taught to St. John’s Ambulance cadets when I joined in 1959.

Back then, even the tiniest corner shop would find wall space for a display of small bottles and packets of patent remedies attached by elastic to a card. Cephos and Beechams powders or Little Liver Pills had their brand names in bold lettering, while the mysterious composition of the products was something a customer had to take on trust.Aspro were sold in a distinctive cellophane strip (the inspiration for bubble packs perhaps?). Many regarded them as superior, purely because of the brand name, but their ingredients were actually the same as generic aspirin tablets.

There were almost as many prudish euphemisms for constipation as there were for the WC. But whatever we called ‘it’, laxatives played a significant part in many people’s lives – especially those who had a dark, frosty yard to cross for a visit to the lav. The switch from brimstone and treacle or turkey rhubarb (Rheum Palmatum) to preparations freely available at corner shops began in the 19th century.

In the fifties, astute manufacturers used advertising to persuade modern mothers they should abandon the old fashioned Syrup of Figs for children’s weekly ‘dosing’. It was replaced by such products as Feen-a-mint which looked and tasted like Beech Nut chewing gum, and Ex-lax that might be passed off as chocolate to the gullible.

Some adults loyally stuck with their old-fashioned Senna pods, Cascara or Epsom salts to ensure ‘regularity’. The more susceptible to brand names transferred to Sedlitz powders, Shure Shield tablets or Beechams Pills – worth a guinea a box, according to the advert…

And then there were Bile Beans! Originally marketed as a cure for ‘biliousness’, they contained cascara, rhubarb, liquorice and menthol, rolled in powdered charcoal and coated in gelatine. Soon this apparently universal panacea was also claiming to cure headaches, piles and female weakness.Advertising drives would see men blitzing a neighbourhood with Bile Bean flyers containing testimonials from satisfied customers. One of the most extreme was from a mother who claimed she had been preparing her daughter’s grave clothes, just prior to said daughter’s recovery, due entirely to Bile beans!

The manufacturers also produced ‘give-aways’ of cookery and puzzle books, as well as sheet music for the Bile Bean March. In spite of their foul smell and questionable efficacy, Bile Beans continued to be sold until the mid-1980s.

A number of us have managed more than our allotted span of three score years and ten, despite the smearing, dosing and poulticing with medieval sounding concoctions we had to endure. Perhaps there is something to be said for the ‘old magic’ after all.

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Reflexology? What’s all that about?

My friend, Theresa Thompson, has moved to a new treatment room above hair@bespoke on Foxdenton Lane, Chadderton and I’ve booked in for a reflexology treatment.

She meets me just inside the door and leads the way upstairs. It’s the first time I’ve been here and I like it already. The room has a nice aroma, plenty of natural light and a warm cosy feeling.

Before long I’m nestled under a fleecy blanket in a comfy chair, feet wrapped in a soft towel ready for some much needed ‘me time’. I don’t often get the chance to chill out and we chat a little, while she gets organised.After cleansing, Theresa starts to work through a routine that involves applying pressure to my feet, ultimately concentrating on the areas that will bring me the most benefit.

As I settle down, my mind turns to the sounds outside and floating up from the salon below. They seem distant. There’s some background music playing; barely a whisper.

“Is it my feet that are cold or are your hands warm?” I ask her. “No” she says, “I’ve got naturally warm hands. Don’t know why, they just are.”

Before long my mind drifts off again. Now and then I can feel when she’s concentrating on a key pressure point but it’s oddly relaxing. The hour passes in a half dream and before long my feet are wrapped up again in a warm towel and I sit there while she tidies up.

As I slip my shoes on she tell me she’s done “a sweep of your lymphatic system, so drink plenty of water.” I’m baffled but promise to anyway.

So, just what is reflexology? The Association of Reflexology (AOR) define it as:

A complementary therapy based on the theory that different points of the body (not just on the feet but also hands, face and ears) correspond with different areas of the body and …working these points or areas aids relaxation and helps improve wellbeing.Since gaining her initial level 5 diploma, Theresa’s continued to attend further courses to expand her knowledge and expertise.

I’m interested in why she chose this career path. She’s ex-RAF and spent over 20 years in the aviation industry; so it’s very different from anything she’s done before.

“I just started reading about it and was completely fascinated” she tells me. “I like helping people. Getting feedback from clients and realising that I’ve been able to improve someone’s life is the best feeling ever. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.” She’s on a roll

“We concern ourselves so much with looking better on the outside that we don’t attach enough importance to how we are on the inside. Our inner wellbeing needs attention too.”

She’s clear that a good reflexologist will never diagnose or claim to cure. Reflexology is a complementary therapy that works very well alongside conventional medicine and should not be used in place of seeking medical advice. If she can help you though, she’ll try. Take it from me; you’ll be in safe hands.

That’s my foot in the photo. In recent years, she’s helped me personally to ease the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, improve sleep quality and reduce back pain.

Theresa also volunteers at The Christie Hospital in Oldham where she treats patients and their family members to some Hand Therapy to aid relaxation and sometimes, more importantly, provide a listening ear.

To find out more visit Theresa’s website. It lists the different types of reflexology she practises, how much it costs and how to contact her. Or, you can follow her on Facebook.

And, don’t just take my word for it, click here for testimonials from past clients.

Sleeping Beauty at North West Theatre Arts Company

Don’t know about you but I’ve had withdrawal symptoms since ‘…Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ finished.

It’s panto season though and where better to go in this wet and windy weather but our very own local theatre on Lightbowne Road, Moston.

North West Theatre Arts Company (NWTAC) don’t do anything by halves, they put their hearts and souls into making your theatre experience one to remember. Last year’s panto was brilliant but does this year’s measure up?

Here’s what to expect.

Pantomime, notwithstanding adult ‘double entendres’, is essentially for children, so the bar sells non-alcoholic and hot drinks plus a range of savouries and sweets. There’s also a variety of souvenir toys on offer. I was tempted to buy one but passed on a psychedelic flashing wand and settled instead for a hot chocolate.

As we filtered in and took up our seats you could sense the excitement of the children. It was infectious and added to the air of expectation.

Curtain up and, in turn, each of the main characters bounced onto the stage and introduced themselves. Straight off Maleficent was magnificent; as scary as the evil witch from Walt Disney’s Snow White (and she scares the wits out of me). Everything about her was awesome from the spooky, gravelly voice to her dark swirling gown and black horns.

Prab Singh, at least they said it was Prab but I’m sure he sported a beard the last time I saw him, played the bauble bedecked Dame, just as funny as. Fairies always have wonderful dresses too. The Lilac Fairy’s was no exception. She delivered her pretty musical prose in feather light tones and in perfect contrast to Maleficent’s raucous groans.

The Dame’s supporting, and may I say dextrous, comedy trio consisted of Trumpy, Pumpy and Silly Billy and had us rolling about in our seats.

At the interval I picked up a conversation between two mums on the row behind that started “I haven’t laughed this much since….”. Unfortunately, I missed the end bit as the usherette came by and I never pass up the chance of an ice-cream.

The courtiers danced their hearts out while Sleeping Beauty and her charming prince sang beautifully. They brought gasps of delight from the little ones in the audience. It warmed my heart and I loved it.

NWTAC’s talent extends to include stunningly bright lavish costumes together with quality props and sets to enhance the visual story telling. Panto is the perfect opportunity for the script writers to bring their own adaptations into the mix and opportunities for audience participation don’t get missed. I won’t spoil the surprises; ad-libs mean every performance is different anyway.

I left feeling happy inside and in the right mood for Christmas. Suffice to say the gap in my life, now that ‘celebrity jungle’ has ended, has been well and truly filled.

Does this year’s panto measure up? Don’t ask me. Buy a ticket and see for yourself.

The show continues on Friday 20th December and twice a day Saturday 21st, Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th. Tickets are available through Groupon or by calling the box office on 0161 207 1617.

For full details of this and future shows click here for NWTAC’s website or follow them on Facebook.

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